Last Monday, militant groups waged a strike, protesting the rise in oil prices. Groups led by Bayan muna, and the jeepney transport association, Piston, have long argued that the Oil Deregulation law is flawed, and that oil companies have been colluding. Government, and largely private citizens have asserted that the strike was nothing more than a nuisance.
There is without doubt that the rise in oil prices, and the government’s aggressive effort to collect taxes in just about any place has generated the perception of rising inflation. The year-to-date non-food headline inflation stands at 4.6. Non-food headline inflation for August and July has been steady at 5.0.
The thing with Militant Madness is that they are driving at the wrong tree. The same old line that may have worked in the 1980s or the 1990s doesn’t work in the 21st century. The assertion that government can control for example the price of oil is a pipe dream. It is not a sustainable strategy long term. The price of oil is driven by the global market, of which, the Philippines has no say, and at best a very minuscule impact on.
The price of oil is up everywhere in the world. The reasons of course is political, and economical. The argument that just because the Philippines is a third world country, it should get preferential pricing is a joke. Put it simply, regulating the market by the government subsidizing oil is a losing short term strategy because it is simply covering up the problem, and not solving it. In Filipino, it is what people call, “Pinagtakapan ang butas”.
No amount of strikes, or putting people on the street is going to change Oil pricing or oil deregulation.
What the strikes have done is simply to annoy and ruin normal people’s day. The people that these Militant groups say, they are protecting and doing this strike for. At worst, how is this any different from every other fringe group using terror or threats? At best, what exactly has happened is that Militant groups are acting like spoiled children throwing a tantrum. And that is why they don’t get much traction in the first place.
How can you not question the motives of Militant groups, when there doesn’t seem any rhyme or rhythm to their beat? How many times have militant groups executed the same failed strategy to convince people and government that their argument is correct? Isn’t insanity doing the same thing over, and over again, expecting different results?
That said, one can sympathize with the percularities of the Militant left. The prices of goods and services, i.e. inflation is such that it is hurting ordinary Filipinos. The fact is, cost of goods and services are on the rise. Toll ways have increased payment, and taxes are soon to be imposed on it. The government argues that taxes on toll ways will mark limited impact on current prices, and that may be true, but perception is different. In the same way that Gloria Arroyo declared that the Philippines is on target for economic growth, and even noting several quarters of GDP growth as proof. There is an aphorism that Numbers don’t lie, but the common Filipino is puzzled, with rising growth, where is my fair share?
The Militant Madness on the one hand has this childish notion that oil and business shouldn’t be there to make money. There is a certain entitlement that comes with Militant Madness. They are promoting a culture that simply want to have money at the expense of others. The prices of anything– oil or other-wise is derived from many factors. Transportation, cost of power, and water, and labor, and other elements affect prices of any good or service, and an Oil Company is no different in that respect. It is a business, and businesses need to make a profit.
Even social enterprises need to make a profit. Profits are good because they make companies grow. What seems to be in the philosophy of Militant Madness is the same idea that making a profit is evil. Fat cats are evil. Least we all forget even China is a market economy based on private ownership.
What irks people is that Militant Madness is more about a cry for attention, than anything else. It doesn’t hurt the oil companies or government if militants stop driving in the streets. It only ticked people— the riding public off. It doesn’t advance any new study, or finding that indeed oil companies have been colluding. Evidence isn’t being presented as to how to strengthen the oil deregulation law, have congress look into it.
The lack of coherent push in Congress by Bayan, which coincidently is a seating party-list group shows two things. That it is without power or ability to convince fellow Congressmen to back its legislative agenda. So they have not gathered support in Congress, or have simply been unable to do their homework. Second, doesn’t it make a good argument why the party list system is flawed to begin with?
Militant groups seem to have their agenda stuck in 1980s strategy and tactics. No amount of noise in social media or in the street is going to change that unless what they have to say is gaming changing and not the same tired old language used. They will continuously be branded as nuisance by the public. The tone, and the language simply has to change. It has to be reasonable, it has to be an adult discussion, and not merely empty words, and used up slogans, and motherhood statements that were old even before I was born.
No one disputes that the prices on goods and services, and the tax burden continue to grow. As much as it is painful to pay taxes, it is a lot easier to pay taxes knowing the current regime is a degree less corrupt than the previous one. When it comes to oil, electricity and others— it is still a free market economy. Oil, and others is the cost of doing business. At the end of Aquino’s term in office is judgement day, and as much as he will be judged whether corruption is reduced or not, he will be judged too whether his economic policies have had any effect with the poor. That will be a different kind of reckoning.