While Malacañang has its hands full on the deaths of 44 Special Action Force or SAF commandos in Mamasapano, the government should not also neglect ordinary Filipinos who are fighting their own battles of joblessness and poverty on a daily basis, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, a National People’s Coalition or NPC member, expressed alarm over the latest Social Weather Station survey, which showed unemployment surging by 27 percent during the last quarter of 2014 from 22.9 percent in the previous quarter.
This translates to a whopping 12.4 million Filipinos who are currently jobless and have no prospects of getting employed in the next three months.
“There is urgency for the government to address the unemployment for the millions of Filipinos who struggle daily despite the country’s 6.1-percent economic growth,” said Gatchalian, a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila development and a majority member of the trade and industry committee.
SWS joblessness is based on two traditional qualifications: without a job at present and looking for a job. Those not working, without a job but not looking for one, such as housewives and students, are excluded.
The SWS pointed out that 2014 and 2013 joblessness, which a major challenge apart from poverty, numbers coincided with the slow down in gross domestic product growth, which slowed to 6.1 percent in 2014 from 7.2 percent in 2013 based on official data.
The poll was taken from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 among 1,800 adults. The poll had sampling error margins of ±2 percent for national percentages; ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, and Mindanao; and ±3 percent for the Visayas.
“Our country’s leaders should not forget to address the economic plagues of people at the grassroots level. The benefits of the country’s full-year economic growth, which according to reports is next to China’s among Asian countries, should translate into an increase of quality jobs,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The lawmaker maintained that joblessness, which readily translates to poverty, is one of the main reasons why people who are not gainfully employed turn to criminal activities, such as petty theft and robbery-holdup just to survive.
“It is this very apathy to the plight of the poor that pushes some people to the wall. Some are left with no choice but to turn to crime to survive, while some join rebellious movements meant to destabilize the current government in hopes that a new regime will bring them a better future,” Gatchalian explained.
The administration lawmaker said that lack of economic development and lack of employment opportunities in most areas in Muslim Mindanao is also a major factor why secessionist groups like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were successful in recruiting followers to their cause.
The MILF is currently engaged in peace talks with the Aquino administration which is geared at creating a Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which has yet to be approved by Congress.
The peace process hit a snag with the slaying of 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by MILF rebels as well as its breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Gatchalian is pushing for the creation of an independent body that will investigate the botched SAF operation in Mamasapano, to be patterned after the Davide Commission created by the administration of President Corazon Aquino to probe the series of coup attempts from 1986 to 1989. (R. Burgos)