Author Archives: sentro01

NO HARMONIZATION, NO SUPPORT FOR END ENDO LEGISLATION

We, various labor groups comprising the majority of NAGKAISA, are denouncing, in the strongest possible term, the passage of the non-harmonized version of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bills. This is clearly a product of treachery by the leadership of both Houses, working in cahoots with employers, to hijack the process to undermine workers’ final push for a better law through the harmonization of HB6908 and SB1826 at the bicam level. 

With the House adopting SB 1826 en toto, our dream of having stronger anti-contractualization provisions in the Labor Code is dead!

It was arbitrary on the part of the House leadership to bypass the House panel tasked to harmonize the provisions on the SOT bills, particularly: 

1. Prohibition of fixed-term employment and of multi-layered contracting found in the HOR version must be incorporated in the Senate version.

2. The strong provisions of the HB 6908 on fines and penalties, including closures of agencies guilty of labor only contracting must be included. 

3. The derogation of solidary liability of the principal and the contractors in the Senate version, when Title II, Book III was inserted, and must be corrected.

An impending anti-endo legislation that does not meet these bottom line issues is not worthy of support. Absent the harmonization of this demand in the final version, our collective response is outright rejection. ###

Labor group calls for urgent action to help an OFW beaten in Malaysia

An overseas Filipino worker beaten almost to death in Kuching, State of Sarawak, Malaysia needs an urgent assistance from the Philippine government, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said in a statement.

Penny Fritz Gutierrez Pido, 39 who is currently in Borneo Medical Centre in Kuching is slowly recuperating from severe lacerations to her scalp, a broken hand and wrist, and a broken leg. Her employer, a British family based in Malaysia, is the suspected perpetrator.

“Philippine embassy’s response is very slow,” said Josua Mata, Sentro’s Secretary General, who met with the Philippine Labor Attaché in Malaysia on Friday, May 24.

According to Mata, “as of today [May 24] no Philippine official has visited Pido and that the Philippine embassy’s lawyer is planning to visit the victim next Wednesday, May 29, adding “the planned visit may prove too late and will pose a complication for any legal actions needing Pido’s presence because her visa’s expiration is on May 29, 2019.”

The government should looked into this, Mata said, acknowledging that Senator Joel Villanueva called up already the Philippine embassy in Malaysia “but the executive department should be on top of this, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Labor Department.”

“This case is yet an addition to our rather long list of reasons why the government should focus on developing the local economy to prevent forced labor migration. If you have no choice but to work abroad for lack of enough employment in the Philippines, then its really a ‘forced’ labor migration,” Mata said.

According to initial reports, the assault to Pido happened on May 8 and she was brought to the hospital in May 9. Her male employer left for Britain in May 7, a day before the incident. She was brought to the hospital by her female employer, the suspect, and was threatened against reporting to Malaysian authorities. The employer refuses to pay the hospital bill which last week has already reached 30,000 Malaysian ringgit (RM), or about Php373,800. The female employer and two children remain in Malaysia.

Pido’s male employer reportedly returned to Great Britain on the day of the incident while the wife and other family members remain in Malaysia.

A local politician in Malaysia who posted in his facebook update about the incident in May 16 was instrumental in providing initial public awareness of the case, when acting on a tip off, he contacted a local police official to investigate the case. The post was picked up by other concerned OFWs and relayed to other channels.

Pido is now accompanied by a younger sister in the hospital and waiting for a visit from Philippine officials.

Failing the People : Statement on 2019 Election Results

Social movements against Charter Change are deeply alarmed that winners are declared for senator and partylist despite many irregularities documented in the 2019 midterm elections, including in vote counting and canvassing. 

COMELEC has been amiss in explaining these irregularities in full detail and with transparency, and has not directly challenged overt vote-buying nor the President’s public statement that coax the Filipino masses to accept vote-buying as the norm during elections.

As a result, we believe that the way this election was conducted has tarnished the integrity and credibility of this democratic process. The election is a pivotal exercise that determines the direction and mode of political and economic development in our country.  This newly-elected set of national legislators and local officials will be critical in advancing the shift to a federal form of government by the Duterte administration through Charter Change (ChaCha).  

Given the pronouncements during the campaign period of the declared winners, the overwhelming majority of them favor the shift to a federal constitution, clearly prioritizing the interests of foreign investors and the elite over the oppressed majority. They sing the same tune as former President Gloria Arroyo, who only yesterday was asking the Senate to fast-track ChaCha.  Given the track record of Hugpong ng Pagbabago senators, including the co-ownership of mining companies by Senator Cynthia Villar’s family, the brokering by Angara family of economic zone accused of land-grabbing by farmers and indigenous peoples, they will not hesitate to remove the 40% limit to foreign ownership of corporations undertaking exploration of our natural resources.

Most likely ,  this incoming Congress will also support the Duterte administration’s kill policies – the death penalty, lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility, extension and expansion of Martial Law and the continuation of the war on drugs.  KALIPUNAN resolves to fight and reject these anti-poor and anti-people policies.

As this electoral process is crucial, and hands the future of the most marginalized among us in the hands of winning politicians leaning towards Charter Change and kill policies, the electoral process must first be beyond reproach.

The COMELEC must investigate and explain the irregularities that happened surrounding the elections, including evidences of pre-shading of ballots, intimidation of local governments, uncounted votes of partylists in numerous precincts, the lack of transparency, the failure of Voting Registration Machines (VRMs), the conking out of Vote Counting Machines (VCMs), the lack of ballot marking pens that are used to blot the ballot, rendering these as spoiled votes. Other issues are still being elevated to the court such as the choice of a Duterte-allied party to be the dominant minority party for monitoring. 

We support the call of the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), for the COMELEC to open all recording devices related to the Transparency Server to all stakeholders.  We also share the belief that involving as many stakeholders as possible to observe the transparency server can only enhance the integrity of this election.   COMELEC must act immediately, and must not allow itself to be abused by fascist tendencies of an administration that plans to install a constitutional dictatorship. 

Green Convergence Movement
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement
Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa

Labor to Duterte: Instruct your senators not to obstruct security of tenure bill’s passage

(Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News)

Instead of merely expressing optimism for Congress to pass Security of Tenure (SOT) Bill, Mr. Duterte, at the very least, should instruct his allies in the Senate not to obstruct the enactment of SBN 1826 or the End of Endo Act of 2018.

“Almost sounding like a squeak, the call asking the Congress to pass measures that will fully protect workers’ rights especially to security of tenure and self-organization is uncharacteristic of the president who usually expresses policy instructions in colorful language,” observes Josua Mata, secretary general of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at progesibong Manggawa (Sentro).

According to Mata, the 17th Congress have nine sessions left before the new Congress is called into order after the May election, and the Senate has yet to pass SBN 1826 on second and third reading.

“If they are really interested in supporting workers, the senators could simply forgo amending the bill. After all, the current version is already a compromise version,” Mata said.

To recall, according to Mata, re-electionist senator Cynthia Villar expressed her intention to introduce amendments to the SOT Bill, forcing the measure to enter a prolonged period of amendments.

“Failing to disclose her amendments until now, Senator Villar is silently but effectively killing the proposed security of tenure law,” Mata said. “The practice of declaring your intent to introduce amendment to a measure and then sitting on it is a favored tactic readily employed by legislators who do not want to be seen as opposing that bill,” he added.

There is no reason why the 17th Congress can’t pass the SOT Bill. “In fact, the Senate would take only a day to simply adopt the version of the House of Representatives, which was approved as early as January 2018,” Mata said.

Against this backdrop, Mata declared that, “the failure of the passage of the SOT is the failure of Mr. Duterte as a president!”

Labor Group Banking on Pro-Worker Senatoriables to Ensure the End of Endo for ALL Workers

Today, tens of thousands of workers belonging to Sentro ng mga Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro) would march, together with NAGKAISA, in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and General Santos to hold Mr. Duterte to account for his inability to deliver his campaign promise to end Endo.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition

In Manila, a number of senatorial candidates like Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada would march with SENTRO leaders and members to press for the passage of the SOT Bill before the end of the 17th Congress.

“After 3 years, contractualization continues to be as prevalent as before,” said Josua Mata, secretary general of Sentro. “In fact, things turned from bad to worst after government policies like DO 174 legitimized the patently anti-labor practice of hiring non-regular workers,” Mata added.

The Security of Tenure Bill (SOT Bill) should have been enacted by time. Aside from being certified by the president, it was pushed by other worker-friendly senators. Unfortunately few senators like Cynthia Villar, a key ally of Mr. Duterte, seems intent on killing the bill.

“We would like to remind Mr. Duterte that it is his duty to ensure that SBN 1826 is enacted into law. As such, we demand that he order his minions in the Senate to stop blocking its passage,” Mata said.

The 17th Congress still has 9 session days to go before it adjourns. That should be enough time to shepherd the SOT bill into law.

“For the May 13 election, we are asking the workers not to vote for senatorial candidates, especially those seeking reelection, who are not willing to support the SOT bill,” Mata added.

SENTRO bemoans the fact that the administration’s senatorial candidates are deafening quiet about the need for the passage of the SOT Bill. This does not auger well for the working people.

Only the SOT bill can ensure that workers can actually access their constitutionally guaranteed rights – to organize, collectively bargain and to wage concerted actions. Without the SOT Bill, the country’s growth will continue to benefit only a handful of Filipinos – the top 1% of our population. This is patently unacceptable.

“We need legislators who will continue to work on ensuring security of tenure not just for the private sector, but of equal importance, of the public sector workers as well,” Mata said.  

For this reason, SENTRO is endorsing Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, Samira Gutoc, Florin Hilbay and Sonny Matula as the working people’s preferred candidates for the Senate. SENTRO is also endorsing Akbayan and PM as the party-list of choice for its members.

Big workers’ groups press for end to contractualization, wage increase

Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)–the largest labor groups in the country, convened on the eve of Labor Day to reiterate calls for an end to contractualization and push for the enactment of a Security of Tenure Law, while calling for increase in wages nationwide.

“We have long and consistently called for a just end to pervasive contractualization of labor, yet the practice of labor-only contracting, job-only contracting and other forms of flexible labor remain prevalent among the working people,” said Elmer Labog, chairperson of KMU.

Congress has nine more session days after the elections. Newly-elected legislators won’t begin their terms until after June 30. “The labor movement will defend workers’ rights to the last. With enough political will, President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies in the Senate can still have a Security of Tenure Law enacted during this Congress,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa.

Nagkaisa and KMU were together at the Senate in early February during the last few session days prior to the recess of Congress as they mounted pressure on the Senate to pass the Security of Tenure Bill.

“This will definitely continue the pressure on the Senate, especially its reelectionist senators to openly declare either their support or opposition to the proposed End Endo Law,” Matula said.

Ending contractualization is one of the biggest promises of President Rodrigo Duterte. Many believe it was one of the issues that catapulted him to the presidency among the working people in the public and private sectors.

“Two issuances under President Duterte’s watch—DOLE Department Order 174 in 2017 and Executive Order 51 on Labor Day last year—failed to solve, and perhaps worsened contractualization,” Labog said. Duterte then certified as urgent the SOT Bill. The Senate has not passed a Security of Tenure Bill despite also getting the commitment of Senate President Tito Sotto.

The Filipino workers unity will thrive and translate into votes and campaigns against contractualization and opponents of workers’ rights and benefits in the present and next Congress. “Filipino workers are proposing to clamp down on labor-only contractors by having a new law declaring labor-only contracting illegal, irrespective of a manpower agency’s capitalization or investment in equipment, and imposing heftier fines on erring employers and manpower agencies, way beyond the mere P1,000.00 that present laws provide,” Matula said.

“This is unacceptable. We cannot legitimize labor-only contractors, who do nothing but recruit and deploy workers, yet maintain supervision over contractual workers on paper. They connive with principal business owners to deprive workers of security of tenure and other basic labor rights, while avoiding legal and financial obligations,” Labog said.

House Bill 6908 on Security of Tenure was passed early this 17th Congress. Its counterpart measure, Senate Bill 1826 has yet to be passed on second reading. “The passage of the Bill is the necessary first step in changing the law towards prohibiting contractualization. While it may not result in the total ban on contractualization, we find it critical to put a stop to conditions that promote precarious work,” Matula said.

“Failure to enact a law that will end contractualization will be on the hands of the Senate. It will go down as ‘a legacy of failure’ and one of the greatest unfulfilled promises of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Labog said. The groups also said that government as an employer should walk the talk.

The nationwide unity of workers also calls for an increase in wages, especially the fulfillment of a national minimum wage, a stop to all attacks against workers and the full recognition of workers’ rights, especially the right to organize.

“A significant wage hike is long overdue. The sharp increase in inflation and cost of living has already eroded the value of existing wages. We call for an immediate wage increase, and a national minimum wage for all workers in the country,” Labog said.

Labor groups Kilos na Manggagawa, Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines (MWAP) and BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) already filed wage hike petitions before the NCR Regional Wage Board last week. TUCP filed a wage hike petition yesterday.

#FridayforFuture Philippines Students Strike

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PRESS RELEASE

Alliance of Progressive Labor- Youth – SENTRO (APL-Youth- Sentro)

15 March 2019

Contact person : Regie Dalisay, 09666787601

This 15th of March, hundreds of thousands of students all over the globe will be marching in protest demanding that the governments, corporations, and industries of the world take drastic, serious, and comprehensive action on the looming catastrophe of climate change. According to a report in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have only 12 years left to make major changes before the effects of climate change become irreversible. Many of these participants, coming from college, high school and primary school, have gone to the streets and demanded that the world’s leaders take the threat of climate change seriously, knowing that it is the youth’s future at stake due to the negligence and inaction of world leaders.

Since November of last year, this upsurge of protest has turned into a global movement, with students in various countries planning coordinated protest actions. The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) stands with the students in demanding a resolute and uncompromising response to the existential threat of climate change. We recognize that there can be no decent jobs, no protection of rights, and no future in an earth already destroyed by global warming. To this end, SENTRO, and its youth affiliate, the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Youth (APL-Youth) shall actively participate in this global action in solidarity with the students in Europe, Australia, the United States and in other countries where the cry for climate justice is ringing in the streets. 

That it is the youth of today that is taking up the struggle against the destruction of the world by big corporations and industries is symptomatic of the impotence and unwillingness of responsible international bodies and national governments to address the fundamental causes of climate change – which is rooted in global capitalism and the wanton pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment. We should be suspicious of billionaires and industries that pretend to be concerned for the working people and the planet while they continue to make money of the plight of women and indigenous peoples who are already bearing the consequences of climate change.

Climate change is both a product and a factor of global inequality. Many of those displaced by intensified natural disasters are robbed of their livelihood. More often than not, women are forced to sell their bodies in prostitution as an alternative source of money to provide for their families. Others are pushed to separate from their children and relatives to work overseas as domestic workers. Working people in general are forced to adjust to disasters imposed upon them by industries in service to the interests of the rich. Likewise, indigenous people the world over face the risk of losing their ancestral homes and whole forestries to incursions by multinational companies, often with the support of national governments.

The students are right in calling out their governments for being beholden to profit-oriented interests instead of working for the public good in addressing the issue of climate change. For SENTRO, the looming climate disaster and the broad youth activism that it has engendered is the perfect opportunity to expose the role of capitalism in this global problem. It is clear that the pursuit of profit has lead to the widespread destruction of the environment, as the trillion dollar oil and coal industry clearly demonstrates. Despite the promises of governments, and the existence of international conventions and discussions, the student’s strike demonstrates that the processes of the UNFCCC COP and other initiatives are not at all delivering in terms of addressing the systemic and fundamental conditions responsible for the impending climate disaster. 

The student’s strike is therefore a wake up call for everyone, pointing to the need for more radical responses to force governments to tackle the issue of climate change and the vested interests that prevent us from facing it head on. It is time for the people of the world to demand their governments, and the international community, to take drastic action. In this, the youth have once again proved their historic role as the spearheads of movements for transformation.

The rise of student activism in defense of the environment is a sign of optimism – a demonstration that the youth of today will not allow the world’s governments, companies and industries to rob them of their future without a fight. It is imperative for all of the world’s progressives, environmentalists, concerned civil society organizations, and the organized labor movement, to work hand in hand with the students both in the discussions and negotiations with world leaders as well as in the mass demonstrations in the streets all over the world. The climate crisis concerns all of us. As students and workers, we  recognize that only through working together with other progressive forces of the world do we stand a chance to stop, and hopefully reverse, the catastrophic effects of climate change on the world and on our lives.

#15March

#YouthForClimate

#YouthForEnergyDemocracy

#FridaysForFuture

15 March 2019

Contact person : Regie Dalisay, 09666787601

This 15th of March, hundreds of thousands of students all over the globe will be marching in protest demanding that the governments, corporations, and industries of the world take drastic, serious, and comprehensive action on the looming catastrophe of climate change. According to a report in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have only 12 years left to make major changes before the effects of climate change become irreversible. Many of these participants, coming from college, high school and primary school, have gone to the streets and demanded that the world’s leaders take the threat of climate change seriously, knowing that it is the youth’s future at stake due to the negligence and inaction of world leaders.

Since November of last year, this upsurge of protest has turned into a global movement, with students in various countries planning coordinated protest actions. The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) stands with the students in demanding a resolute and uncompromising response to the existential threat of climate change. We recognize that there can be no decent jobs, no protection of rights, and no future in an earth already destroyed by global warming. To this end, SENTRO, and its youth affiliate, the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Youth (APL-Youth) shall actively participate in this global action in solidarity with the students in Europe, Australia, the United States and in other countries where the cry for climate justice is ringing in the streets. 

That it is the youth of today that is taking up the struggle against the destruction of the world by big corporations and industries is symptomatic of the impotence and unwillingness of responsible international bodies and national governments to address the fundamental causes of climate change – which is rooted in global capitalism and the wanton pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment. We should be suspicious of billionaires and industries that pretend to be concerned for the working people and the planet while they continue to make money of the plight of women and indigenous peoples who are already bearing the consequences of climate change.

Climate change is both a product and a factor of global inequality. Many of those displaced by intensified natural disasters are robbed of their livelihood. More often than not, women are forced to sell their bodies in prostitution as an alternative source of money to provide for their families. Others are pushed to separate from their children and relatives to work overseas as domestic workers. Working people in general are forced to adjust to disasters imposed upon them by industries in service to the interests of the rich. Likewise, indigenous people the world over face the risk of losing their ancestral homes and whole forestries to incursions by multinational companies, often with the support of national governments.

The students are right in calling out their governments for being beholden to profit-oriented interests instead of working for the public good in addressing the issue of climate change. For SENTRO, the looming climate disaster and the broad youth activism that it has engendered is the perfect opportunity to expose the role of capitalism in this global problem. It is clear that the pursuit of profit has lead to the widespread destruction of the environment, as the trillion dollar oil and coal industry clearly demonstrates. Despite the promises of governments, and the existence of international conventions and discussions, the student’s strike demonstrates that the processes of the UNFCCC COP and other initiatives are not at all delivering in terms of addressing the systemic and fundamental conditions responsible for the impending climate disaster. 

The student’s strike is therefore a wake up call for everyone, pointing to the need for more radical responses to force governments to tackle the issue of climate change and the vested interests that prevent us from facing it head on. It is time for the people of the world to demand their governments, and the international community, to take drastic action. In this, the youth have once again proved their historic role as the spearheads of movements for transformation.

The rise of student activism in defense of the environment is a sign of optimism – a demonstration that the youth of today will not allow the world’s governments, companies and industries to rob them of their future without a fight. It is imperative for all of the world’s progressives, environmentalists, concerned civil society organizations, and the organized labor movement, to work hand in hand with the students both in the discussions and negotiations with world leaders as well as in the mass demonstrations in the streets all over the world. The climate crisis concerns all of us. As students and workers, we  recognize that only through working together with other progressive forces of the world do we stand a chance to stop, and hopefully reverse, the catastrophic effects of climate change on the world and on our lives.

#15March

#YouthForClimate

#YouthForEnergyDemocracy

#FridaysForFuture

Labor group calls for more gender sensitive anti street harassment bill

Despite the positive note to the passage on 3rd reading HB 8794 or the proposed bill known as “Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act” which criminalises catcalls and street harassment, women belonging to the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Proresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) are calling for a more gender sensitive version once bicameral conference starts.

“While the recent passage of the bill is commendable as its an attempt to pursue gender equality, we find it very alarming that its contents lose firm gender bias along the way, as we cannot talk about equality without deliberately siding with the oppressed,” Michelle Lising, Sentro Women’s Council Chairperson said in a statement.

According to Lising, “violence is gendered, and it is crucial for lawmakers to recognize that in the discourse of violence, women are always the most vulnerable,” citing data which states that from 2008 to 2014, there were 7,957 reported cases of rape against women, and 27, 186 reported cases of wife battering and physical injuries.

More often than not acts to be criminalized indicated in the bill are committed by men against women, such as catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless requests for personal details, statement of sexual comments and suggestions, public masturbation or flashing of private parts, groping, or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety, Lising said.

“We hope that a bicameral is immediately called for the final version. We urge the authors of HB 8794 to ensure that proper amendments be made. Let this attempt towards gender equality not become a compromise for the comfort of the privileged, as women have endured too much,” Lising said.

To understand the deeper implications of gender-neutral language in gender issues, Lising said, it is urgent that workers see these abuses as manifestations of a systemic ill which we call as patriarchy.

“Patriarchy assumes that men, because of biology, naturally have power over women,”Lising explained, adding that “this myth leads men feeling entitled over women’s bodies.”

Cat-calling, for example, is male speech forcing its opinions and desires on the female body, she said.

It is not a random act of teasing or “complimenting,”Lising further said referring to cat-calling—“it is the treatment of women as objects to be pursued and “won over” by men, based on social relations where men have power over women, which communities have accepted as normal.

The women leader also said that changing harmful behavior entails dismantling patriarchy altogether.

Statement on the Official State Visit of Xi Jinping to the Philippines

SENTRO

The arrival of People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping to the Philippines yesterday, November 20, marks a significant and disturbing watershed in the fate of Philippine sovereignty, independence and international relations. Since his ascent to the Philippine Presidency, Rodrigo Duterte has exhibited a fanatical obsession with establishing positive links with Beijing through Xi. We in the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa(SENTRO), despite believing in internationalism and good will among nations, meet this development with growing scepticism. The Duterte regime’s incessant kowtowing to Beijing and the deceptions it continuously sells should be met with measured outrage—for it is selling out our sovereignty, patrimony and credibility in the global stage as we watch.

This policy of appeasement to China, not without support from policy-makers, business interests and even scholars, was initially sold to the Filipino people as mere corrective reorientation away from our centuries-long special-yet-unbalanced relationship with the United States of America. With the dominance of Donald Trump and an increasingly-racist, exclusionary and oppressive Republican Party at the head of the so-called “free world”, a move away from Washington is, in many ways, understandable if not even imperative. However, what should have been an opportunity to finally and truly assert an independent Philippine foreign policy was heavily compromised by Duterte’s obsessive swing to China.

We at SENTRO have had no shortage of criticisms of how previous presidencies have pursued foreign affairs. We also have no illusions about how our participation in transnational bodies (such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization—even the Association of Southeast Nations, for that matter) have more often than not led to further economic inequality and social strife. Yet all the same, we recognize the global space of foreign affairs as having openings and opportunities for people-led empowerment and struggle. SENTRO, with its engagement with transnational activist organizations, have found that there are ways in navigating this multilateral world of diplomacy and foreign affairs—so long as it remains multilateral, decentralized and representative.

This is not the kind of global order Beijing under Xi Jinping wishes to achieve. Xi’s steering of the Chinese Communist Party over the past decades saw it deploying symbolic capital and physical force to not only subjugate territories it can conquer. It has also held economies of different countries hostage and institutionally-dependent on Beijing’s imperial munificence. Many of us are already seeing this happening in African nation-states, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, even Brazil and Panama.

The Duterte regime’s supine surrender to China has already seen unsettling and disgusting developments in its measly two years. Foremost of the casualties of our swing to China would be our pursuit of out internationally-recognized sovereign right to the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal. For many of the flaws of the administration of Benigno Aquino III, his administration’s officials and advocates did more than any other to assert our historical and territorial rights as mandated by international law.

More importantly, however, would be the nature of the deals and projects the Duterte regime has opened with Beijing. Listed down among these would be oil and gas development, infrastructure cooperation programs, industrial parks cooperations, infrastructure building in Davao City and bridge-building in Panay, Guimaras and Negros. Perhaps most controversially, it has all but guaranteed the pouring of money and utilities for the Laiban and Kaliwa Dam projects, despite decades-long resistance of the Remontado-Dumagat to protect their ancestral domains.

It can already be said with clarity that our economy is now very vulnerable to the actions and whims of Beijing—what with the enactment of many non-transparent and un-consulted deals that put to shame even Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s own failed attempt at the ZTE-NBN deal. Investigative reportage (by trusted news outfits such as Rappler and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism) suggests that it has been persistently part of China’s modus operandito specifically seek out vulnerable countries with corrupt and venal administrations, in order to take control of their economies.

That Beijing chose to establish such lopsided links with the Arroyo and Duterte administrations is not only proof of their less-than-benevolent intentions. It is also a damning testimony to the bankruptcy of these administrations’ governance track record. It is not entirely good company for any president to be lumped with notoriously-corrupt China stooges like Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak and Cambodia’s long-reigning premier Hun Sen. But perhaps this development was inevitable, what with major Duterte cronies (like national epal Christopher “Bong” Go and emerging telco mogul Dennis Uy) heavily linked to Chinese business interests, and with Duterte himself getting elected in part by money from them as well.

All of these complex policy and diplomacy concerns may be overwhelming to our kababayans, even to us in the working peoples’ movements. Yet the injustices of what the Xi-Duterte affair represents to the common Filipino was illustrated very well with what happened yesterday Tuesday, November 20 at the Skyway leading to NAIA. Hundreds of people were stranded and forced to walk away from their cars and transport just to reach their flights—all because the roads were closed for the exclusive use of Xi Jinping’s entourage. This same unjust road management policy was levied against us when the Aquino administration hosted APEC 2015—as the nation supposedly negotiated trade deals with many other countries, even at the expense of our actual economic and social miseries.

By entering the devil’s deal with Beijing, we are very unlikely to be afforded any form of transparency. For Beijing’s government does not only seek to enslave men’s bodies and economies. It also seeks to warp and subvert the world’s growing sense of freedom from over-centralized state control.

We in SENTRO believe that we Filipinos, despite our pitfalls, would value our freedoms and liberties above and beyond false development deals. We have done this against the onslaught of neoliberalism and neo-colonial control under Marcos and the post-EDSA Presidencies. We can stand up again.

Reject the Xi-Duterte alliance! Down with Beijing’s imperialism! Push for a genuine independent foreign policy!

 

 

Time to abolish regional wage boards—labor group

Saying that the regional wage boards have effectively prevented the resumption of the legislation of national minimum wages for almost 30 years now, the SENTRO NG MGA NAGKAKAISA AT PROGRESIBONG MANGGAGAWA (SENTRO) is renewing its call for their abolition!

According to Daniel Edralin, SENTRO Vice-Chairperson for the Private Sector, the said wage boards had not, and will never, issue adequate adjustments in the minimum wages because these 7-member boards are dominated employers, 2 from the private sector, and 3 from agencies of the Government, itself the largest employer in the country.

“What can the remaining 2 union representatives do during board deliberations and decision-making when the total 5 private and Government employer representatives agree to continue enforcing the National Government’s cheap labor policy?” Edralin asked.

“The Government actually decides on the amounts of minimum wage raises with its 3 representatives (from DTI, NEDA and DOLE) needing only one more vote, which most of the time come from the 2 employers, who in turn will agree only to the lowest amount possible,” he related from experience.

Edralin also lambasted the Government’s cheap labor policy, which is primarily the reason for the freeze in real wages in the past almost three decades.

He noted that such low wage policy was premised on its helping attract foreign investors, and making local businesses globally competitive. “But what is really needed is for Government to do away with this cheap wage policy, and instead formulate a real Industrial Policy, not just have road maps submitted by favored employers to promote their businesses,” Edralin added.

SENTRO Secretary-General Josua Mata, in turn, recalled that prior to the enactment of RA 6727 (Wage Rationalization Act of 1989), which created the regional wage boards, the Government was more considerate to the plight of Filipino workers.

“In 1987, for instance, the Administration then successfully raised the minimum wage three times during that same year, through two executive orders and a congressional act. This happened again in 1984, when minimum wages were raised thrice in succession,” said Mata.

Mata likewise pointed out that the P25/day increase that resulted in the P89/day national minimum wage in 1989, was far more decent (because of its higher purchasing power then) compared to the recent P15, plus the previous P10 COLA converted to basic pay, daily increase, ordered in the NCR, because of their greatly reduced purchasing power.

Both SENTRO leaders further assailed the Government representatives’ natural employer-like inclination to allow only the smallest minimum wage adjustments to private sector workers, anticipating that such higher increases will then be used as basis by public sector workers to demand for similar increases as well.

“It’s really time to do away with regional wage-fixing, since the original claim and intent that it will encourage industries to disperse to areas outside the Metro areas (such as Manila, Cebu and Davao) and other urban areas, has also not been realized,” Edralin urged. Most businesses still concentrate in these urban centers where the bulk of their markets or customers are, intensifying the internal migration to urban centers, and worsening the overcrowding there,” he emphasized.