“Panahon na ng paniningil.”
Two years after his election, Rodrigo Duterte continues to demonstrate his inability to deliver the promises of change and progress he sold to the Filipino people. The list of his transgressions against the working class is growing: failure to end contractualization, wanton loss of lives thru the war on drugs, more tax burdens via to TRAIN, high prices as inflation rise to new heights, low wages and wholesale destruction of jobs from PUJ phase out, the closure of Boracay and now the possible forced repatriation of 260,000 migrant Filipino workers from Kuwait.
It is time to hold Mr. Duterte to account! It is time to express our indignation and reiterate our demands!
Today, workers under the banner of SENTRO will pour out into the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao and General Santos to join the nationwide indignation rallies led by NAGKAISA and KMU.
It would be a remiss not to highlight that organized labor’s attempts at public and constructive engagement with the Duterte regime was met with disappointment at nearly every step of the way. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has already disillusioned us when Labor Secretary Bello issued Department Order No. 174 which legitimized labor contracting even more. Since then, SENTRO, together with NAGKAISA and KMU have been negotiating the issuance of an executive order (E.O.) that would correct DO 174 and realign DOLE policies as well as ‘guide’ the Legislative Branch towards amending the Labor Code to make direct hiring as the norm.
Acknowledging the need for reciprocity, the workers’ draft E.O. has moved “from total prohibition of contractualization to a framework of prohibition of contractualization that would allow certain exemptions for contracting out of work, but subject to the decision of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council”. And yet, despite promises to review the draft since February 2018, nothing has been settled to this very day—while Secretary Bello, President Duterte himself and their mouthpieces continue to paint the working peoples’ organizations as “selfish hardliners.” Clearly, the Duterte regime is negotiating with organized labor in bad faith.
SENTRO, together with the whole of NAGKAISA, is unequivocal in this: never in the history of employment relationship in the country has workers enjoying regular employment and implementation of strict rules in labor contracting been detrimental to the economy and job generation.
The only consolation we have, right now, is that House Bill No. 6908, the Security of Tenure Bill, was finally passed at the House of Representatives — the farthest it has reached since the post-EDSA period.
And yet, Filipino society still have very little to take comfort with. The past year has been a continuous string of disappointments and embarrassments not even the worst of our previous presidents will be caught doing red-handed. This has not only compromised the standing of the Philippine government as an institution, it is also starting to diminish the country’s standing as a member of the international community.
SENTRO is gravely concerned over the continuous creeping of authoritarianism in nearly all aspects of our country’s political life. Any semblance of “separation and balance of powers” as designed by the 1987 Constitution has been steadily eroded—with the persistence of a “rubber-stamp” Congress under the leadership of Pantaleon Alvarez and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. The unconstitutional ouster attempt against Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is clearly aided and abetted by her own fellow Associate Justices—not out of visible judicial independence, but clear marching orders from Malacañang. This is once again eroding the credibility of the highest court in the land, something that it has already tried to claw out of the past five years.
Our basic constitutional rights to freedom of organization, freedom of expression and freedom of information are also denied and quashed without a second thought. The harassment of long-standing mass media institutions such as ABS-CBN, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and even independent journalist outfits like Rappler continue unabated and unquestioned. Not only is the Duterte regime not willing to respect the social mandate of the Fourth Estate—it even dares to fabricate its own subservient propaganda machine to an extent not even dreamt of during the Marcos years.
No civil society organization, independent government body or religious organization, as long as they dare to oppose the Duterte regime, is safe. The continued harassment and killing of labor sector, agrarian reform and indigenous tribal leaders, the indignities pilloried against the Commission on Human Rights and the investigations of the International Criminal Court, the deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, and the assassination of Fr. Mark Ventura of Cagayan are likely only to be the first of many more crimes against the people that the Duterte regime will visit upon us.
And yet, even these pale in comparison with the high cost of human life the carelessness of the Duterte administration has wrought over the past two years. The human casualty of his bogus War on Drugs continues to balloon to the twenty thousands. It remains a bona-fide war on the poor, the helpless and those denied due process. The ruins and bakwits of Marawi continue as a mute-yet-loud testament to the failure not only of the leadership of our armed forces to resolve the threat of terrorism and extremism efficiently, but also the dismantling and disillusion of hope for recapturing peace in Mindanao. All of this, under the first Mindanaoan president.
All of our problems have only grown, with their toll becoming only more real and inhuman by the day. It would require not only the efficiency and empathy of our own government, but also the help and good-will of our international neighbors and trade partners. Yet under Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine state has only built walls, killed without second thought, and destroyed the lives of our countrymen. It embraced not the international community of solidarity, dignity, and freedom, but the Axis of conquest, dominion, authoritarianism and lies, emblematized by imperialist China, the United States, North Korea and Russia.
SENTRO, together with other organizations of the working peoples all over the country, as well as the rest of our country men tired with the bogus and failed promises of a small-town bully, reiterate what we said last year. Workers’ and trade union rights cannot genuinely exist if human and democratic rights are compromised and thrown to the gutter.
As such, SENTRO will march today to demand that Mr. Duterte live up to his promise to end contractualization by issuing labor’s version of the E.O. and certify as urgent a security of tenure bill that would make direct hiring as the norm.
Today we march for human rights – political, economic and socio-cultural! We demand an end to extra judicial killings; a just transition program for all those affected by the phase out of PUJs and the closure of Boracay Island; and, a comprehensive reintegration program for all migrant workers. We demand the strict implementation of “no relocation, no demolition” policy and the prioritization of People’s Plans to resolve the housing crisis. We demand an end to misogyny and the advancement of the protection of women’s rights and welfare, including the passage of the Extended Maternity Leave.
Today, we march as one – a unified labor movement!