Left with a Lone Dissenter, the SC reminds The Filipino People of Marcosian Court

Statement of Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa

The decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, as government response to armed conflict that escalated in the city of Marawi, is not the triumph of law, but of authoritarian rule. We are outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision, which could now pave the way for the setting up of authoritarian rule in the whole country.

Worse than the SC division of votes on the critical issue of the dictator’s burial at the Cemetery for Heroes, the SC ruling shows that the third branch of government has become a political pawn. This is not without precedent, as the politicization of what should be independent branches, including the legislature, and institutions, such as the military and police force, was precisely one of the legacies of the 20-year authoritarian Marcos regime.

Before the SC’s decision, we have already witnessed how Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, has disregarded its constitutional duty to call for a session and discuss the legality of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Owing merely to political loyalties, its members led by the Davao Congressman, Pantaleon Alvarez, sidetracked other legislators’ views by not calling for a session. In his trademark style as bully, Pantaleon even threatened to impeach or ignore the justices if the latter dissented from Congress.  

Martial Law in Mindanao is now on its sixth week since the fateful day of Tuesday, May 23, 2017, which would now belong to the darkest days in the history of Mindanao similar to what happened in the time of Marcos. Marawi City, the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur, has been ravaged badly. Moro sisters and brothers tell us that they are reminded of the burning of Jolo in 1974.

As of June 21, at least 230,000 have fled Marawi and 40,000 crowd and make-do evacuation centers, where at least 59 have died of dehydration and diseases. The death toll in the month-long clashes between government forces and the Maute Group has risen to 422, at least 50 of them civilians (according to MindaNews). This would be higher given eyewitnesses’ accounts. 

Aerial bombings continue, which claim the lives of more civilians. Local leaders have been calling for the President to dialogue with Meranao leaders for the latter to help in dealing with the Maute Group but without success, as he would rather have war and allow people to suffer He has even blamed the Meranaos for what is happening in Marawi. All these amount to yet another big blow to the decades-long attempts to find lasting peace in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.

The votes of the 14 in the SC cause great dismay in the face of evidences presented by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Lanao del Sur of “wanton disregard of sanctity of domicile, the right against deprivation of property without due process of law, the right to be secure in one’s person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures,” especially in Marawi. All of these are in direct violation of the Bill of Rights accorded to all Filipino citizens under Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The persistence of Martial Law in Mindanao is clearly superfluous to military operations and has trampled on civilian liberties and affected the livelihood of the people. 

On its first year, the Duterte regime has already bared its despotic fangs and with this decision of the Supreme Court, the people are being further shoved to the corner without recourse to law, government institutions whose constitutional duty is to protect them, and their duly recognized rights. If this is not authoritarian rule in the making, or plainly authoritarian rule, then clearly we haven’t really learned from our history as a people. We are threatened to having our rights violated, suppressed, and worst, we are threatened to more violence and resulting deaths.

We in Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa, a growing assembly of social movements, call on the people to defend our constitutional rights and to fight the impending authoritarian regime under Duterte.  We have members – sisters and brothers – in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao. We cannot allow the continuing loss of life and this government’s choice to resort to violence than to the resolution of the roots of conflict and social problem. As we stand in solidarity and bring continuing support, by material, moral, political means, to our brothers and sisters in Marawi and Mindanao, we stand indignant of the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the Martial Law declaration in the island.

 The situation demands of us who are grassroots-based, to educate and push for a counter-narrative to the authoritarian government’s justification of Martial Law and intensification of armed operations in Mindanao and the country at-large.

 Justice, peace and democracy in Mindanao! Stop the Bombings! 

 

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Bagong Kamalayan
Baywatch Foundation
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Kilos Maralita (KM)
LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
Partido Manggawa (PM)
Sentro ng Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) – Ateneo
World March of Women (WMW)
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)

Isang Bigong Taon: A failed one year for Digong – labor groups

Contractualization did not stop; wages remained low and regionalized; the unemployment and underemployment problems continue to weigh down on a large number of Filipino workers. “In sum, it was “Isang B(D)igong Taon” on the labor front for President Duterte’s first year in office,” stated various labor groups in their one year assessment of the President’s performance.

It can be recalled that the President made a campaign pledge that contractualization will stop the moment he becomes the President. He also vowed to raise wages and abolish the system of provincial rates.

“We tried to rate the President’s performance as objective as we can, but the outcomes for labor over his first 365 days have been generally wanting, have given us false expectations and given us many unfulfilled promises,” said the workers groups in a joint statement distributed to media during a demonstration held at the Boy Scout Circle in Timog Quezon City, Friday.

The mass action was organized by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Federation of Labor Unions (Naflu) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea). Members of the World March of Women and Ateneo University’s Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) also joined the rally.

No end yet to endo

In a meeting on Labor Day, President Duterte asked labor groups to draft an Executive Order that would use prohibition of all forms of contractualization as a framework. This was after the unanimous rejection of labor groups of Department Order 174 issued by Labor and Employment Sec. Silvestre Bello III sometime in March. He also instructed the labor department to resolve with dispatch the years of dispute between PAL and PALEA on the issue of contractualization.

In response the labor groups submitted a unified draft together with the formal labor sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. But almost two months from its submission, the President has done no executive action to address the rampant contractualization.

“We have always advocated for a prohibition of all forms of contractualization and a stop to the abusive operations of manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives. The President himself at his assumption to power and in his first meeting with labor groups early this year openly expressed disgust over these as they ‘abused workers,’ using his words,” said the groups.

According to labor groups, DO 174 continues to permit contractualization and allows manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives to take a cut from workers’ salaries each payday.

There was also no certification issued by the President on pending anti-endo bills filed before the Congress. The PAL-PALEA dispute is not yet resolved.

The only token victory they got on this respect, the groups said, is the planned deputization of trade unionists as labor inspectors, the first batch of which are now undergoing training at the labor department.

Freedom of Association is also one of the areas where the President has a failing mark from the groups as organizing remains extremely difficult particularly in Economic Zones as workers get harassed and get fired for trying to organize unions.

Wages, power, employment, OFW fees, new taxes

With the regional wage setting mechanism still in place, discrimination in terms of wages still persists across the country. The President said he was for a national minimum wage, but such policy pronouncement has not translated even to a working paper from DOLE that they can discuss with workers.

“In the meantime the real value of wages continues to drop, power rates and prices of basic goods and services continue to climb, making it more burdensome for the working class. Meanwhile, the collection of exorbitant placement and other fees for OFW have not been addressed sufficiently if at all,” added the group.

In addition, the planned imposition of excise taxes on oil and the expansion of VAT coverage on goods and services under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the group feared, will lead to further erosion of workers purchasing power especially those earning the minimum wage and below.

ILO Convention 151 ratification, the saving grace

The President, however, got a passing mark for being the first chief executive to endorse for Senate concurrence International Labor Convention 151 on Labor Relations in the Public Sector. The treaty, once ratified by the Senate, would guarantee the right to organize of public sector workers and allow them to bargain for better working conditions, among others.

Wrong war

Asked why the President failed to satisfy workers’ clamor for change during the last 365 days, the labor groups said, “It is expected when a leader quickly descends into a wrong war that only resulted to thousands of unsolved killings. While surveys have consistently showed that inflation, wages, and employment remain the top concerns of every Filipino.”

On Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Package 1

NTRC graph image

Labor coalition welcomes lower tax on personal income but rejects regressive impact of excise taxes.

Workers have long been demanding for higher tax exemptions, hence, the approval by the House of Representatives of Package 1 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) is a welcome relief.

Under the TRAIN, income lower than P250,000 per year will be tax free while higher income brackets, except for those who earn more than P5 million, will be charged a lowered tax rate of 25% from the current high of 32%.

This is surely a welcome development. But for the labor coalition Nagkaisa, the workers’ gain in Personal Income Tax (PIT) will be offset in a regressive manner by the imposition of excise taxes on fuel products and the lifting of VAT exemptions in the sale of specific goods and services.

“Everyone knows, not just workers, that it will increase prices of goods and services that would affect mostly the poor and those at the lower income brackets,” said Nagkaisa spokesman Renato Magtubo.

Magtubo said the TRAIN’s objective of shifting the tax burden from the poor to the rich, “Seems to be scheming if not tricky as forgone revenue on the side of the government, which is equivalent to individual savings derived from lower PIT of specific income group, shall be recovered in a universal manner through excise taxes and expanded VAT.”

The group explained further that the tax base can never be expanded through exemptions in PIT and corporate income, making indirect taxation through excise taxes and VAT expansion the main strategy in generating new and more revenue. “Otherwise, nobody is going to pay for the lost revenue,” added Magtubo.

Under TRAIN’s package 1, a P3.00-P6.00 excise taxes will be imposed per liter on fuel and P10 for locally produced sugary products while several VAT-exempt products and services will be lifted, including cooperative income exceeding the P3 million thresholds. Likewise, sale of real estate for socialized housing will now be covered by VAT.

According to the group, even the simulations made by staffs of the finance department showed the inevitable impact of increase in VAT payments by decile group – 43% for the richest 10% and 35% for the bottom 80%. Increase for the second richest 10% is 22%.

“An increase of 43 and 22 per cent respectively may mean nothing for the richest 20% who got significant savings from PIT exemptions. But a 35% increase is surely a burden for the bottom 80% who includes the majority in the formal and informal sector, employed and unemployed, of the working class. In the same manner everyone will be paying for the direct and indirect impact of excise taxes on fuel,” explained Magtubo.

The labor leader added that those living in SPUG areas which rely on diesel as their single source of power will be absorbing a “minimal” impact, according to DOF. But that would mean additional P84 for those who consume 100 kWh per month and P106 for those who consume 300 kWh.

“These are the immediate impact that will hit everyone while the poor wait for the promised transfers contained in the proposed expenditure programs of the government,” said Magtubo.

The group said it will intervene in the continuing deliberation of the tax package in Congress especially on the proposed lowering of income taxes for corporations from 30% to 25%.

“Our main question for this is why a tax rate on corporate income, which is supposed to be a tax on profit, is being lowered down to the same level of personal income which is a tax on labor? A uniform rate on business and personal income can never be considered progressive taxation,” concludes Magtubo.”

PRESS RELEASE
NAGKAISA
13 June 2017

Workers group sees danger in unqualified declaration of martial law for entire Mindanao

 

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition on Labor Day 2017

The Philippine Constitution under Article 7 Section 18 granted the President the power to declare a state of martial law. But such a declaration should meet certain requirements to justify suppression of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

We condemn and will continue to oppose any act of terrorism perpetrated by any group in any part of the country. And while we recognize the power of the President to address security emergencies like this one, we also will not disregard the danger posed by unqualified use of military power to deal with security threats at the expense of democracy and basic human rights. Filipinos will never forget the dark days under fourteen years of martial law.

In line with this, we find the Moscow declaration of President Duterte placing the entire Mindanao under the state of martial law as worrisome as it came with yet to be qualified basis except for the pockets of violence that erupted yesterday in Marawi City between the military and the combined forces of Maute and Abu Sayaff groups. Why place the entire Mindanao under a state of martial law when the military itself claimed it is in full control of the situation?

Even the fire and storm of Misuari in Zamboanga nor the firefights in Ipil were not sufficient cause for a declaration of Martial Law. Indeed, if there is any lesson, Mindanaoans have demonstrated in the last 40 years, is that they best cooperate, cohabit and interact with each other WITHOUT Martial Law. The historical memory of the Filipino race has been so foreshadowed by the totalitarian menace that even now, we feel more threatened than secured by the State under Martial Law. Workers will never forget, especially when workers’ rights to organize, to bargain and to strike occupy such a low level of political esteem from the powers that be. We ask all to step back from the totalitarian temptation.

Furthermore, the Filipino people deserve the right to be properly informed on matters of national security especially when their rights and welfare are affected by executive decrees, including military actions that reign supreme over civilian authority during a state of martial law.

Lastly, we call on the Congress and the Supreme Court to exercise their oversight powers over the President on the issue of martial law, and for the Filipino people to remain vigilant during these difficult and challenging times.

NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
PRESS STATEMENT

We condemn the declaration of Martial Law ! -iDEFEND

IDefendOn Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law on the entire Mindanao Island while on a state visit in Russia, following the fighting between the military and the Maute group.

It has to be clarified that the clashes were triggered by law enforcement operation in Marawi. This is a situation started by the government itself. Similarly, the Maute group is a local terrorist group, and not ISIS, even as the former tries to ally itself with ISIS.

We condemn the violence perpetrated by the Maute group to advance their political interest. Attacking civilian population not party to the conflict between government forces and the Maute violates duly recognized human rights of the people and violation of International Humanitarian Law on armed conflict.

While the fighting has endangered the life of civilians in the area, Martial Law does not alleviate this danger nor ensure the resolution of conflict and achievement of peace. Note that the National State of Emergency Due to Lawless Violence, declared after the Davao bombing, is still in place nationwide.

Martial Law adversely affects civilians as this would curtail many of their rights. Without Martial Law, the military has engaged and fought terrorist groups in Mindanao and can continue to do so as their obligation and mandate.

With Martial Law, the civil and political rights of the civilians, and their lives, are endangered more than ever. Confusion and insecurity among communities may be taken advantaged of by different armed groups, furthering the violence in Marawi, and the rest of Mindanao. Human rights abuses are bound to happen, especially under a presidency which has openly shown no respect for human rights. It could potentially endanger striking workers and other protesting activists in Mindanao.

The public has the right to be informed of the situation in Mindanao and as of the declaration of Martial Law, a lot of questions remained unanswered. Defense Secretary Lorenzana himself told media that “there is intelligence” about the situation in Marawi, but that this intel has been wrongly interpreted. If the situation in Marawi had to do with weaknesses in the execution of its job, Martial Law, and over the entire Mindanao Island, is NOT the answer to this shortcoming or failure.

The 1987 Constitution has limited the President’s powers to place the country or any part of it under martial law to two situations – invasion or rebellion – and only when the public safety requires it. Clearly, only compelling reasons must justify martial law. The current situation does not constitute sufficient factual basis for the proclamation of martial law or the potential suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

WE CALL ON THE CONGRESS TO REVOKE THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW!