“GMA’s incompetence as a leader stunted the growth of our children,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said during a press conference entitled ‘State of Nation’s Children Address organized by the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns today. “She deprived 29 million children in the Philippines their basic rights to life, survival and development as enshrined both in the Constitution and the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.”

According to Ilagan, Arroyo’s anti-people policies forced a large number of people below 18 years of age to work. A lot of children from poor farming and fishing communities are employed as factory workers, construction workers and domestic helpers in the cities and some girls are trafficked to become prostitutes in other countries such as Japan, China and Taiwan.

“During her first SONA in 2001, she promised three kids from Payatas to improve the quality of life in the Philippines by providing every Filipino access to quality education. Seven years have passed but statistics show that 1 out of 10 school age children is unable to go to school, two to three students have to share a textbook and 60 to 75 students have a mango tree as their classroom. Is this her definition of quality education and better life?” asked the former professor from Davao.

In 2007, Arroyo claimed that her government invested more for education than the previous years, but a consolidated report submitted to the Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child noted that the education sector’s share in social services actually declined. A report by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research also revealed that national government spending on education fell by 22% over the period of 2001-2006.

For 2008, the budget allocated for education is just slightly over P2000 per person or 14% less than in 1998. She also cut the budget and is pushing for the privatization of public schools, moving education further away from many poor Filipinos’ reach.

“The future of our children remains bleak because we still have GMA as our president,” Ilagan said.


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