Aquino’s Sona report: Conveniently selected; eluding realities

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres Aquino for failing to address the workers' needs

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres. Aquino for failing to address the workers’ plight

GOODBYE P-Noy. Enjoy your retirement from the presidency.

But how about the workers and the vast majority of citizens you will leave behind who remain excluded from the much vaunted economic growth that your administration has supposedly achieved after almost six years in power? How about the proposed bills for various social programs – especially the Security of Tenure (SOT) and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bills – that would ensure the rights of the underprivileged as well as strengthen government transparency and accountability, but which Malacañang and Congress have continued to ignore?

Your economic team has trumpeted that your government has posted the highest five-year average hike in the gross domestic product during the past four decades, when the mean annual growth rate of 6.3 percent was registered from 2010 to 2014, one of the biggest in Asia. If the economy grows to at least 7 percent this year, it would also be the fastest six-year GDP average since the 1950s. Likewise, under your helm the Philippines has been granted recognitions by local and international pro-business institutions for its rising “growth” and “competitiveness,” including the much coveted global investment ratings.

However, reality from the ground attests that poverty is still pervasive if not worsening despite the “growths” and the cosmetic solutions to it, like the conditional cash transfer (CCT) dole-out under the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). The enormous wealth of the few top richest Filipinos included in the Forbes’ super rich list as well as the top Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed firms and the country’s Top 1000 corporations have further soared to hundreds of billions and tens of trillions of pesos – amid the hand-to-mouth existence of many Filipino families and the starvation wages of millions of Filipino workers. In fact, the mandated minimum wages are practically miserable to sustain a decent life; for instance, the NCR’s basic daily pay, the nation’s highest, has actually rose (real value) by a mere P17 or less than 5 percent since the start of Aquino’s term. We’re still not talking here of the yet rampant non-compliance of minimum wages and other labor standards.

Likewise, even the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an international forecasting and advisory body to business groups, admitted that in spite of the rapid economic growth in the Philippines in the past years, the poverty rate would remain high due to the unabated and sharp income divide between the few rich and the majority poor, thus the country “will remain one of Southeast Asia’s poorest economies, with a lower level of GDP per head (merely $2,843 at market exchange rates) than the majority of the region’s other major economies.”

Your labor, economic and statistics team has boasted that the unemployment rate last year has substantially dropped to 6.8 percent, purportedly the lowest in 10 years. Really? But what’s the real score here? This preposterous claim has to be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, 66 percent of the jobs generated in 2013 to 2014 are either self-employed or own-account workers (38 percent) or working without pay in own family-operated business or farm (28 percent). Underutilized workers, on the other hand, or the unemployed and underemployed have been cut by only by over 149,000 and thus remain a high of 27 percent of the labor force. These are hardly “decent” jobs at all or those with fair wages and benefits and with security of tenure.

An independent research institution also disclosed that last year the ranks of jobless Filipinos have likely risen by at least 100,000, the underemployed by at least a million, and part-time workers by at least 1.5 million. In 2014 there were no less than 4.3 million unemployed and 7.9 million underemployed or a total of 12.2 million people without jobs or with precarious jobs, which mirrors the deteriorating job insecurity and contractualization.

These facts and figures revolve only in the income and employment areas that were heavily tampered with by Aquino and his speechwriters in his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) yesterday. But these areas effectively spell the present adversities and the bleak future being faced by the Filipino people – as long as neoliberal economic programs remain imposed in the country, and as long as the elites and their minions continue to rule and rob us.

Carry On Admin Hans! Your Way is the Right Way!

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

An Affirmation of Support to POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfill its mandate to protect our OFWs through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies

We, migrant workers, CSOs, trade unions and migrants rights advocates, in the country and overseas, reiterate our firm support to Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfil its mandate to uphold and protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies and deployment of our OFWs.

We recall how we advocated for 12 long years for the repeal of the deregulation provisions of RA8042, namely Sections 29 and 30 if only to emphasize the important role of POEA as a regulatory body that will ensure protection for our migrant workers at the point of recruitment and deployment. The Philippine Congress heeded our call and enacted RA 9422 amending RA 8042 in January 2007.

RA 9422 effectively strengthens the regulatory functions of the POEA. Section 1 of RA9422 states that the POEA “shall regulate private sector participation in the recruitment and overseas placement of workers by setting up a licensing and registration system. It shall formulate and implement, in coordination with appropriate entities concerned, when necessary, a system for promoting and monitoring the overseas employment of Filipino workers, taking into consideration their welfare and the domestic manpower requirements.”

cacdac

POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac

POEA, under the able leadership of Administrator Cacdac, fulfills its mandate to the letter, with due diligence but also with respect to due process, with the end in view of ensuring protection and promotion of the rights of Filipino migrant workers, particularly the more vulnerable amongst them –the migrant domestic workers and other low-skilled workers.

Some of the positive developments in the POEA under his watch include the following:

  • OFW-friendly front line service personnel that includes Admin Hans himself taking his turn to sit at the POEA information desk on the ground floor and in one of the counters at the Balik Manggagawa Division of the POEA.
  • Simplifying documentation processes and securing OECs for OFWs by setting up online systems
  • Fast and real-time verification of status of recruitment agencies through the POEA website
  • Indefatigable efforts to forge MOAs with LGUs for collective efforts to undertake pre-departure information and education campaigns at the community level, prioritizing communities far from city centers;
  • Enhanced visibility of POEA to the public through effective media engagements
  • Ensuring the consultative platforms with stakeholders are working like the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Councils and various bilateral forums as well; making readily available and accessible the POEA directorate no less for purposes of dialogue and consultations;
  • Conversely, making himself accessible and personally available to OFWs and families through social media and twitter
  • Reviewing POEA Rules and Regulations for overseas employment to make it more relevant to the needs of the times and how best to serve the interests of the OFWs and families
  • Promoting ethical recruitment and now re-opening debates on the Private Recruitment Agency Convention, ILO Convention 181, with the slant to ratification of the Convention
  • Implementing and monitoring more effectively POEA rules and regulations on private sector recruitment activities
  • Engaging more actively and effectively, with other agencies of government, in the campaign against illegal recruitment and in combatting human trafficking
  • Ensuring faster resolution of administrative cases at the POEA with firm resolve and meting out appropriate sanctions and penalties against erring recruiters and other violations
  • More visibility in carrying out on-the-spot inspections of recruitment offices and crackdowns against unscrupulous agencies
  • Improved facilities at the POEA from the elevators to the toilets, and general welcoming attitude and atmosphere at the POEA
  • Successfully chairing the ILO Committee that deliberated on the provisions of the landmark ILO Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers that sets the universally-accepted minimum standards of protection for all domestic workers–local and overseas– and is now recognized as work

Very seldom that we see such example of a public servant as Admin Hans with all sincerity and passion to serve the people. Very rare that we witness a selfless public servant who does not mind being the target of unscrupulous elements simply because he is doing the right thing.

His efforts may not be enough to shake up the system. Maybe even his days at the POEA are numbered until the end of President P-Noy’s term, but to see him doing what he should and must do to ensure protection to OFWs and their families, that for us, is enough.

Carry on Admin Hans!
You are on the right track. The POEA way, under your watch, is the Right Way!

Signatories:

26 individuals including 3 government officials; 20 migrant organizations, 11 women and other organizations, 10 trade unions, federations and internationals from 11 countries

Walden F. Bello, former chair of House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs
Angelina Ludovice-Katoh, Congress Representative, Akbayan Party List
Imelda Nicolas, Cabinet Secretary/ Chairperson, Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Atty. Raymond DC Mendoza, Congress Representative, TUCP Party List
Leah Pacquiz, Congress Representative, Ang NARS Party List
Center for Migrant Advocacy
Ateneo De Manila Political Science Department Working Group on Migration
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK)
Migrant Forum in Asia
Patnubay Online- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Hail, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Jizan, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Kuwait
Patnubay Online – Qatar
Patnubay Online – United Arab Emirates
Patnubay Online – Manila, Philippines
Apostleship of the Sea Manila
Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiatives, Inc (Atikha)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
World March of Women Pilipinas
Building and Woodworkers International (BWI)
PS Link
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
VisMin Active Migrants Association Hong Kong
Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Center
WomanHealth Philippines
Akbayan Citizens Action Party
Samaritana Transformation Ministries
Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF)
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Alliance of Progressive Labor Hong Kong
Domestic Workers Union Hong Kong
Deo Volente Hong Kong
United Workers for Mutual Advancement and Development (UniMAD) Malaysia
Women’s Crisis Center (WCC)
Women and Gender Institute (WAGI)
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
Pagtinabangay Foundation
WomanHealth Philippines Leyte
Business and Professional Women Ormoc
Coalition for Ormoc Women
Textile Clothing Footwear Ormoc
Filipino Migrants In Nigeria
SALIGAN
Public Services International (PSI)
Marlon Quesada, migrants rights advocate
Eunice Eunice Barbara Novio, Thailand
Mike Bolos, Jr., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ronnie Abeto, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
Joseph Henry Espiritu, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Rex Varona, Migrants rights advocate
Carlo Vargas, Migrants rights’ advocate
Sabrina Gacad, Migrants rights’ advocate
Mariquit Kit Melgar, Migrants rights’ advocate
Josua Mata, Secretary General, Sentro
Lolita Farmer, OAM Global Filipinos Australia
Edwin Bustillos, Representative, National Anti Poverty Commission Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sector
Terence AG Osorio, Migrants rights advocate
Alex Veloso Bello, President, OFW Congress Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ellaine Fuentes, Migrants Rights Advocate
Eden See, Migrants Rights Advocate
Maria Elizabeth Embry, Migrants Rights Advocate, Alaska
Benjamin Nadado, Migrants Rights Advocate, Nigeria
Ronald Concha, Chair, Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Joanne Barriga Quintana, Migrants Rights Advocate
Leila Rispens-Noel, WIMLER Foundation Philippines
Norman Dondi Grecia, Migrants Rights Advocate

[See complete list of signatories on CMA facebook page

Delivery workers’ plight: One of many vulnerabilities of fast food workers

WHAT happened to the hapless Jollibee rider who was tricked by someone who made it appear that the food delivery was late – to avail of the P200 gift certificate and pay only a small amount to cover the balance in the bill – shows how vulnerable the fast food workers are, but not so much from callous customers but from the many anti-worker practices in the fast food industry.

This was stressed by the Respect the Fast Food Workers Alliance (RESPECT!) following that incident that was revealed and boasted by the culprit himself on Facebook under the name of “Jay Bee,” which became viral and earned the ire of the netizens.

One main concern of those who took pity on the rider was that the gift certificate (GC) will be deducted from his salary, which RESPECT described as an added burden for him amid the serious and widespread problems of “cheap wage and contractualization” and other related policies in the fast food industry.

While Jollibee issued a statement denying that the GCs are charged against the riders’ salaries, RESPECT has documented cases where riders from several Jollibee branches, mostly in Quezon City, have been subjected to salary deductions or “on-the-spot payment” of GCs for failure to deliver on time the food ordered by customers – even because of unavoidable circumstances like heavy traffic and bad weather.

RESPECT observed that the other common denominator for these riders is almost all are non-regular workers and were hired through employment agencies, which reflect the rampant “use and abuse” of contractual labor who are easily terminated from work or with no security of tenure, have lower wages and benefits, and not allowed to join a union.

However, RESPECT noted that these problems are not exclusive to the riders and to Jollibee but also affect the vast majority of fast food workers, majority are in their youth, who suffer from the indiscriminate “endo” (end of contract) or precarious jobs, “charity work” or free work rendered by the workers from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day, zero hour contracts, among others.

These anti-worker and anti-union practices, whether official or unofficial, have one underlying capitalist goal: to amass greater profits and thus referred to by RESPECT and the trade unions as “wage theft” – or the fruits of labor that are “stolen” from the workers.

RESPECT is a member of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the Geneva-based IUF or the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

P-Noy’s CARP/ER Legacy: Rural unrest, unfinished agrarian reform, land grabbing and landlord impunity— multisectoral groups

parctopnoy

focusweb.org photo

June 9, Quezon City – On the eve of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s 27th anniversary, around 450 farmers, women, labor, youth, and agrarian reform activists converged at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to collectively exact accountability from the Aquino administration mangling of the nationwide agrarian reform program. With chants loud and signs high, protesters from the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), Kaisahan ng Maliliit na Magsasaka (KMM), KATARUNGAN, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP), PARAGOS-Pilipinas, Pambansang Kongreso ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Alliance of Progressive Labor-SENTRO, World March of Women, Ateneans for Agrarian Reform Movement (AFARM), Foodfirst Information and Action Network-Philippines (FIAN), Laban ng mga Iskolar para sa Repormang Agraryo (UP LIKHA), Peoples’ Development Institute, and Focus on the Global South ensured that their critical messages were heard outside the DAR office:

“TULOY ANG LABAN SA REPORMANG AGRARYO, KAHIT PINALPAK NG GOBYERNO!”

“PALAWAKIN ANG MGA LABAN PARA SA HUSTISYA SA LUPA!”

“KAUNLARAN NG SAKA!” “REPORMANG AGRARYO, LABAN NG BAYAN!”

Wearing white as if in a funeral, the group symbolically padlocked the inutile Department of Agrarian Reform while holding a program in front of it. Farmers from Porac and Mabalacat, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, and Hacienda Matias, Quezon –considered as agrarian hotspots in the country— lamented the systematic harassments, violations of human rights, and extrajudicial killings of farmers fighting for their lands in the face of the government’s failure to protect the farmers’ rights. With the Philippines’ anti-agriculture and anti-small farm development policies, landlords, agribusiness and corporations in collusion with corrupt DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies’ officials exploited the loopholes in CARP/ER to serve the formers’ interests.

According to the groups, incidences of land grabbing, landlord impunity, and circumventions of the law marked the 27 years of existence of CARP/ER. Wherever and whenever CARP worked, it was because of the incremental efforts, critical engagement and rights-claiming of farmer groups from below in tandem with support from other sectors from above to effectively implement the program, the protestors argued.

The groups also condemn the deliberate counter-reform tactics of the Visayan bloc, a group of landlords at the House of Representatives, that inserted anti-farmer and anti-agrarian reform provisions in House Bill 4296, which aims to extend the issuance of notices of coverage or NOCs, the initiatory step for the land acquisition and distribution process. Such provisions include exemptions of rainfed or non-irrigable lands close to national highways, increasing the retention limits for landlords and their heirs, and changing the reckoning date for retention rights of legal heirs of deceased landowners over aggregate individual landholdings from June 10, 1988 to January 1, 2015 instead.

Clearly, the landed elites in the House of Representatives are protecting their own interests—another roadblock in the full implementation of CARP. Another barrier to rural development. Another obstruction of social justice.

Enough is enough!

The future of CARP/ER appears grim: substantial headway towards the full completion of the Philippine agrarian reform program has yet to take place, five years after it was extended and reformed by the CARPER Act. This fact has been firmly borne out by how the CARP record of the Aquino government’s DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies has remained at dismal and depressing levels. That reality, as has been the outgrowth of a sustained neglect and incompetence of the current administration, an indecisive and technicality-oriented DAR leadership, an inhospitable neoliberal policy environment, and a President who cannot go beyond his class interests.

But the groups vowed to continue and intensify the fight for agrarian reform and social justice.

The movement for agrarian reform and rural development will continue to grow – as farmers, workers, women, and the youth look for other alternative avenues in the fight for equity and justice. Among them include:

  • a CARPER Audit that would assess the performance of DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies in the last five years and would validate it on the ground
  • sustained struggles to secure of land tenure for small, landless farmers, farmworkers and rural women amid land grabbing, cancellation of land titles or Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), illegal reclassification and land use conversions;
  • promotion of alternative models of agricultural production for small farmers and food producers, of food sovereignty and sustainability of the environment;
  • protection of the rights of workers in the food industry, commercial farms, and plantations;
  • campaigns for social protection, rural development, and rural industrialization; and
  • national youth alliance for agrarian reform and rural development and “balik-farm programs”.

The groups stressed that defending and protecting agricultural lands will not only secure the land rights and lives of farmers and food producers, it will secure the nation’s food needs. Agrarian reform is everyone’s fight.