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#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.

Labor group calls for urgent inquiry on killing of sugarcane workers in Negros

Photo courtesy : Philstar

Calling the killings of the sugar workers a heinous crime, labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) is urging the Senate to conduct an immediate inquiry on the matter.

“We call for an immediate and thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators, especially the brain behind the atrocity, to account,” Josua Mata, Sentro Secretary General said in a statement.

Nine members of the left-leaning National Federation of Sugar Workers were shot dead by armed men in Sagay, Negros Occidental, on Saturday night. Fatalities succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds and burns, among them were two minors and three women

“No matter how contentious the land dispute is, why shot them, especially the children and women? It seems that the norm now against the hapless poor is to dispose of them with much violence as possible,” Mata said.

According to the labor leader, this land-based conflict will continue as long as the government is continuing to shy away from its responsibility of completing the agrarian reform in the country.

“The workers are not being regularized; the farmers are not being given lands to till, and the government is still acting business as usual,” Mata lamented.

The group has been lobbying to end the practice of endo or perpetual contructualization of workers particularly in the service and food industry.

 

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition’s reaction re Usec Maglungsod dismissal from the DOLE

Dismissing Usec Maglunsod is a great loss to the DOLE; he’s no NPA

Usec Maglungsod performs his mandate well in the DOLE. He is no NPA (non-performing asset).

In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridge the “gap of trust” between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros.  He has also pain stakingly conduct dialogues between employers and organized labor relaying to them the department’s effort on enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting with the end in view of respecting the rights of both the workers and employers.

USec Joemag, as many in organized labor fondly called him, is a great loss to the department.

President Duterte has made a major mistake in dismissing the services of Usec Joemag at the DOLE only to heed the advice of the military and anti-worker elements of his administration. ###

Duterte certifies as urgent anti-contractualization bill

 Organized labor finally got a big push in its quest to end Contractualization.

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent Senate Bill 1826 that seeks to end Contractualization and strengthen security of tenure of workers.

“NAGKAISA welcomes the certification of President Duterte,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of the Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition.

“We are near the goal. It’s closer than it has ever been, but we still have some work to do. The Senate has been given a directive to craft a law that will end Contractualization. We must see this through and ensure that the proposed measure shall address the weaknesses of existing laws on security of tenure,” Matula said.

Nagkaisa has consistently campaigned against Contractualization since its inception in 2012.

“Labor’s persistence has so far paid off. Our relentless efforts have shown dividends. Now is not the time to rest. After more than two years, the Duterte administration has finally made a big step towards the fulfillment of a campaign promise,” said Matula, who is also the president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).

“We shall mount more pressure within the halls of Congress and the parliament of the streets,” said Matula.

Once passed by the Senate, a bicameral conference will be convened by both chambers of Congress to harmonize the provisions of the separate bills.

“With the election season fast approaching, the Senate and House of Representatives, voting separately, is under pressure to ratify the harmonized version and submit the law for the president’s enactment,” Matula said.#

Heath workers dismayed over gov’t reduction to 2019 health budget

Instead of cutting the health budget allocation for the 2019, the government should have had enhanced further the budget for health, a group representing thousands of health workers said on Wednesday.

“Not only the budget cut will endanger the employment of 15,000 health workers to the barrios, this is also an outright denial of the basic rights of the poorest in the far-flung rural areas who badly need the government’s health programs,” the Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW) “said.

AFW is a national union of private hospitals in Luzon. It has 13 affiliated unions with 6,000 members concentrated in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Luzon, including top-rated hospitals such St.  Luke’s and Makati Medical Center.

Under the 2019 budget, the Duterte administration slashed P36.2 billion from P107.3 billion this year to a mere P71 billion for 2019, specifically affecting the budget for health human resources deployment (HHRD), which was decreased from P9.59 billion this year to a measly P1.17 billion for 2019.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, a representative from the Department of Budget and Management explained that the budget was just transferred to Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) pending a review by the budget department and the Commission on Civil Service.

During the said hearing, Senator Franklin Drilon was correct in pointing out that the fund transferred to the MPBF might not be released without Malacanang approval.

“It means lesser opportunities for our health workers especially nurses. The plight of nurses abroad seeking for greener pastures would worsen the “brain drain” of our health professionals. The government should increase the health budget and generate more jobs in the health sector instead of cutting its allocation”, said Lito Calderon, AFW Secretary General.

“We, as health workers, are very much disappointed to say the least, over the slashed to the DOH’s budget,” according to Willy Pulia, AFW national president.

In contrast, both the House and Senate had approved the Office of the President’s proposed 2019 budget amounting to P6.7 billion. Its proposed budget is higher than this year’s budget of around P6.031 billion.

“It is disappointing that the budget of the Office of the President has improved and yet the budget for health were slashed,” Pulia added.

 

Nagkaisa! condemns violence against workers across the country

Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition is deeply concerned over the spate of violence that befell workers in separate incidents across the country.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible, the attempted murder of a trade union leader in Cebu City and the violent dispersal of striking workers of food giant NutriAsia and their supporters, in Marilao, Bulacan,” Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa! said.

The display of violence happened a few hours apart yesterday.

“There was an apparent attempt on the life of Jessielou Cadungog, labor leader of ALU-TUCP, vice chairman of the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) and it involved the police,” Matula said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cebu are owning up to the incident as a legitimate police operation.

Meanwhile, in Marilao, Bulacan, the picket of protesting workers and their supporters was violently dispersed by operatives of PNP Bulacan and security personnel of giant food manufacturer NutriAsia.

“A peaceful concerted action demanding the recognition of rights of workers such as what was being done by workers of NutriAsia, should never ever merit any and all kinds of violence, especially those perpetrated by the police and private security personnel,” Matula said.

Based on workers’ accounts, some 100 security forces, including 30 police officers violently dispersed the picket line as protesters were holding a religious ecumenical service.

At least 19 were arrested and scores arrested as many of the protesters scrambled for safety amid the chaos.

Back in Cebu, the gunman who was killed in the encounter by Cadungog’s aide was identified as PO2 Eugene Alcain Calumba. The accomplice who was taken into custody by the PNP was Michael Banua.

“Now, the PNP is trying to portray the assassination attempt on Mr. Cadungog as a legitimate police operation identifying him as a ‘person-of-interest’ involved in shabu,” Michael Mendoza, president of ALU-TUCP, a Nagkaisa member said.

“We stand by Mr. Cadungog and condemn this sordid attempt to justify and cover-up for what is clear police involvement,” said Mendoza.

Meanwhile, police in Bulacan are claiming that some of the arrested protesters had guns and drugs with them.

“It is becoming a sad refrain. The campaign against drugs is being used by the police as a flimsy excuse to either justify the use of violence or use it as an escape goat, when harassing workers and citizens who are exercising their legitimate trade union and human rights,” Matula said.

“We are calling on the authorities to conduct a thorough and objective investigation of the twin incidents of violence against workers that occurred yesterday. The police officers and their superiors who will be proven to have done wrongdoing should be made accountable. The culture of impunity must stop,” Matula said.

SENTRO Statement for SONA 2018

This year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) is the third under the Duterte administration. While the chief executive will no doubt use this opportunity to present the supposed achievements and the future promises of the national government before a national audience, We, the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa assert, that behind the facade of progress,development, peace and stability that the incumbent administration attempts to portray, the reality of inequality and the precarity of employment that continues to affect the working people of the country demonstrate the failure of the Duterte government to adopt and articulate a national framework that is pro-people and supportive of the working class.

CEBU CITY

What we see is that despite the rhetoric of change and claims by the incumbent administration to be for the people, the policies and practices that are detrimental to the interests of working people throughout the country remain in place. Contractualization for instance remains rampant despite the promises of the Duterte administration to clamp down on its practice. Indeed, the much vaunted win-win solution by DOLE is full of legal loopholes that continues to leave workers vulnerable and their rights to dignified and secured employment frustrated.

DAVAO CITY

Another area of concern is the continuing rise of expenses for commodities and basic necessities, a product of the confluence of external factors and the impact of TRAIN. The disagreement between government technocrats and critics of TRAIN notwithstanding, the lack of meaningful action in response to the genuine concern of those affected by the price increase and eroding purchasing power betrays the lack of concern to the needs of the majority of the Philippine population.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY

Side by side with rising prices and precarious employment is the targeted assault on the poor and the vulnerable sectors in society. The continued war on drugs has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings, with victims predominantly poor. Oplan galugad on the other hand, results in the harassment of communities and the criminalization of the systemic issue of poverty by attacking the poor under the guise of ridding the streets of vagrants and unwanted elements in society. These heavy-handed and highly securitized operations obscures the fact that poverty is the primary condition for the rise in criminality and merely victimizes those who are already powerless and unable to assert their rights.

The failure of the incumbent administration to safeguard the concerns and interests of the broad majority are also evident in other areas. The utter disregard and lack of respect towards women as shown by the misogynist culture perpetuated by statements and  actions of the President endangers the rights of women and undermines the important role they play in Philippine society. Duterte’s remarks and words give state sanction to the practices and conditions of domination that women are constantly subjected to.

Second, the continued connivance with foreign powers detrimental to the national interest risks compromising national sovereignty and the authority of the Filipino people in our own territory. The acceptance of loans from China at high interest rates threatens to bring the Philippine State at the mercy of foreign creditors and take crucial decisions on the economy away from Philippine hands. The unabashed seizure of islands and territory claimed by the Philippines and the refusal of the Duterte administration to assert our 2016 hague ruling victory is also another betrayal of the public trust as the Philippine State itself appears to be unwilling to defend or even assert the rights of Filipinos against Chinese aggression.

Instead of working towards addressing the key concerns of the majority of the working population, or attempting to defend Philippine sovereignty against foreign incursions, what we see is the continuous attempt by Duterte and his allies in government to monopolize political and economic power. The attempt to force federalism upon the Filipino population despite widespread and mounting opposition through the administration-dominated legislature, tactics involving the withholding of information on the proposed shift from the general public and the restricted scope of popular participation are examples of the flagrant abuse of power and the deliberate attempt to exclude the people from participating in this important discussion. The lack of transparent and inclusive participation on the question of federalism puts into question how the interests of the population, and more importantly, of entities such as the Bangsamoro and indigenous people’s will be genuinely represented in the attempts at amending the charter.

Contrary to the government’s assertion that it is the embodiment of change that the people aspire for, the actions and positions taken by the Duterte regime serve the interests of society’s powerful and privileged at every corner, with popular demands constantly ignored and undermined. Thus, for SENTRO, the only appropriate response to the continuous assault on the rights of society’s basic sectors and on the working class is the intensification of our mass struggle and campaigns against the Duterte regime. To this end, we stand together with our comrades in the other mass and social movements that likewise struggle against systemic injustice and oppression in opposition to Duterte’s attacks on our fundamental rights.

Our collective mobilization on the 23rd called the “United People’s SONA” counters the President’s address. It is essentially the people’s response and challenge to the government that continuously fails to deliver on its promises. We will stand together in demanding that the popular demands and concerns of the people be at the center, both of national discussions and government action. The 23rd will be historic not because of the President’s SONA, but rather because of the fact that the different progressive organizations stand united as one in the current struggle for our fundamental rights.

Mabuhay ang Uring Manggagawa!