Tag Archives: Walden Bello

May 1 & May 9 calls: End Endo, End Poverty, Reject ‘Trapos’ and the Rising ‘New Right’!

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Around 6,000 organized labor belonging to SENTRO marched at 9:30 this morning from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola

ORGANIZED labor reiterated its call against rampant contractualization while urging the people to repudiate the “trapos” or traditional politicians. The national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) also warned against the rise of the “new right” or neo-fascists during the celebration of International Labor Day today which is just a few days before the crucial May 9 elections.

“The already dismal poverty has further been aggravated by the country’s non-inclusive economic ‘growth’, SENTRO said in it’s May Day statement. “Only the elites have benefited from this through the widespread use and abuse of contractual labor, especially ‘end-of-contract’ or ‘endo’ workers,” it added.

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They called to end contractualization of labor by passing the Security of Tenure Bill

Aside from low pays and scarce benefits that burden the vast majority of Filipino workers, a rapidly growing segment of the labor force is being driven to highly exploitative and illegal contractualization or precarious work arrangements, including the “endo” or “5-5-5” scheme, where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular employees, availing of mandatory bonuses and other benefits and joining a union, Sentro emphasized.

On the eve of next week’s polls, Sentro expressed its concern that while the people’s deep-seated frustration over the ineptness of the government has prodded more voters to rebuff “Aquino clone and neoliberal” Mar Roxas, and “barefaced trapo and corrupt” Jojo Binay, the citizens are yet forced to choose among the other dubious presidential bets: “unreliable” Miriam Defensor-Santiago, “egocentric and budding ‘trapo’” Grace Poe, and “rambling fool and thug” Rodrigo Duterte.

Sentro particularly voiced out its apprehension over the topping in the surveys of Duterte and vice presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the notorious late Philippine dictator, who also looted tens of billions of dollars from the country’s coffers. Marcos has continued to deny the wide-scale human rights violations and big-time thievery of the Marcos regime.

Duterte has ruled Davao City with iron-fist and widely acknowledged as the brains behind the extrajudicial killings there not only of criminals but many innocent people as well, including children. He was recently condemned and charged for his disgusting statement on a slain rape victim, reinforcement of rape culture and abusive behavior. His image is further tainted now with recent evidences to his secret wealth on his undisclosed bank accounts that are alleged to contain billions of pesos.

“Desperate for change, the voters, especially the rich and the middle class – and even many from the masses – are now opting for supposedly ‘instant solutions’ that is paving the way for the rise of ‘neo-fascists’ like Rodrigo Duterte and Bongbong Marcos,” Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO said.

Mata added, “It seems that the people have yet to learn the lesson behind the myth of strong leadership – that the huge power amassed by a leader leads to momentous errors at best as well as disaster and massive bloodshed – and looting – at worst. The dark years of martial law should be a grim reminder for all of us.”

However, SENTRO admitted that “while we could blame the ruling elites’ ineptitude for the rise of neo-fascism or extreme Right, we at the Left are partly responsible, too. The broad left groups, including in the mass movements and the trade unions, have again failed to get our acts together – reminiscent of the events prior to the rise of Nazism of Adolf Hitler and Fascism of Benito Mussolini. In fact, a major wing of the current Philippine Left is backing Duterte, another for Poe, and yet another is pro-Roxas.”

“Ultimately, real change can only come from conscious and organized people who have powerful labor or trade union movement and other progressive social movements,” SENTRO emphatically said.

SENTRO does not support any presidential candidate, but has so far formally endorsed Leni Robredo for vice-president and Walden Bello for senator. They got Sentro’s endorsement after signing their respective memorandum of agreements with the labor center last March 19, which enjoin them to “jointly and steadfastly promote and pursue (Sentro’s) labor and other social advocacies” specified in the MOAs.

Robredo and Bello joined several thousands of Sentro members from its various affiliate organizations and supporters who observed today’s Labor Day in Manila. They assembled at the Quezon City Welcome Rotunda in the morning and marched to Mendiola, near Malacañang, where a program was held. Other allied organizations present were the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), National Federation of Labor Unions (Naflu), Ang Nars party-list, and Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSlink).

Other Sentro May 1 mobilizations were held in Batangas, Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Cotabato.

Sentro formally endorses Leni, Walden, Akbayan after MOA signing

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MORE than a week after declaring its support during the International Women’s Day rallies, Sentro formally endorsed vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo, independent senatorial aspirant Walden Bello and the Akbayan party-list following the recent signing of their respective memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with the national labor center.

Signed last March 19 during separate meetings on the sidelines of the Sentro 4th General Council confab in Quezon City, the MOA binds the parties upon signing to “jointly and steadfastly promote and pursue (Sentro’s) labor and other social advocacies,” which were enumerated in the documents.

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Included here are the general labor and social agenda drafted by Sentro, each with still specific items, such as promoting secure and quality jobs as well as “green” jobs; living wage; social protection and services; strengthening trade union, political and human rights; refiling of certain significant bills that were blocked or rejected or set aside in the past Congresses; and filing other proposed laws and policies that will truly benefit the basic sectors, and ensure national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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More comprehensive and updated Sentro priority legislative and executive agenda were presented to Akbayan, such as on various international and national issues affecting the working people; asset reforms; sustainable employment; living wage, social wage and restructuring the wage determination system; strengthening trade union rights; Labor Code reforms; issues of specific groups of workers; working women’s priority agenda; socialized housing; and institutionalizing workers’ representation.

Some of the top proposed laws that the endorsed candidates will support in the legislative and executive branches of the government are the pending or blocked bills on Security of Tenure (SOT), Freedom of Information (FOI), Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Maternity Protection, and Anti-Discrimination.

Meanwhile, although Robredo has agreed to champion Sentro’s labor agenda, there is still an ongoing discussion with her on other important issues and concerns, like Sentro’s vehement opposition to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged between the Philippine and US governments.

Each MOA was “individualized” in its introductory paragraphs to cite the achievements and track record of each candidate in the pursuit of the rights and welfare of the people, particularly the workers and other basic sectors, and – since all of them are either current or former legislators – for advancing other “other progressive and nationalist” causes “inside and outside the halls of Congress.”

Sentro lauds Walden Bello for his ‘consistently principled politics, integrity, courage and dignity to fight the crooked powers that be’

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Rep. Walden Bello

WALDEN Bello is now an ex-member of the House of Representatives or the lower house of Congress, the state institution known for its trappings of power and privileges, which he did not indulge in, anyway, when he was still a congressman. He could have finished his third and last term until June next year either by constantly praising and blindly obeying President Aquino or by just keeping quiet while enjoying the perks of his office, even when he sees something wrong with the P-Noy government.

But, no, Walden is not a political leech nor a lapdog of anyone who does not have or no longer have the moral high ground to govern the nation. He belongs to a still very rare breed and very small group of public officials – hopefully, their tribe will increase sooner – who truly think and act for the good of the people. It is a genuine concern for the “masa” – not the perfunctory “kayo ang boss ko” label repeated ad nauseam in live TV broadcasts, not the pretentious pledge of “dating mahirap, kaya makamahirap,” and not the deceitful “makamasa” slogans that politicians routinely use during elections to win votes.

Walden does not look and speak like a “masa” but his politics and advocacies are certainly for the “masa” as his grassroots, activist and principled politics attest to. It is oceans apart from the prevailing elite politics as well as the politics centered on party bureaucrats and politics of expediency, a euphemism actually of opportunist politics.

Thus, not surprisingly, but with a heavy heart, Walden withdrew his support for Aquino last March 11 by irrevocably resigning as the principal Akbayan party list representative in Congress. While the immediate trigger was Aquino’s speech a day before in which he brazenly washed “his hands of responsibility of (the Mamasapano) mission he planned and executed” – there were also a series of earlier events that piled up which made that Jan. 25 tragedy the proverbial last straw for Walden, an erstwhile staunch but critical supporter of Aquino.

These include his vigorous appeals to Aquino not to lose the moral high ground of his administration’s much vaunted “tuwid na daan” drive and “reform agenda” by sacking Director General Alan Purisima, who was still then the PNP chief and not yet suspended, for his several plunder and graft cases. In the same vein, Walden implored Aquino to fire at least four of his Cabinet members who are mired in anomalies or incompetence: Vice President Jejomar Binay, the government’s housing czar and presidential adviser on OFW concerns for even large-scale and decades-long corruption; Budget Secretary Florencio Abad of the PDAF and DAP infamy; Agrarian Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for his dismal failure to fulfill CARPER; and Proceso Alcala for being a lame duck agriculture secretary.

Walden likewise suggested the shaking up of other executive departments including the DOTC, DOE and DFA as part of the needed revamp and improvement of the bureaucracy. The goal of these and other related efforts is good governance or where the government is able to honestly and effectively serve the people (whom Aquino claims to be his “bosses”) and to institute necessary measures to achieve the elusive genuine inclusive growth – amid the successive GDP “growths” under Aquino but still do not benefit the vast majority of the Filipinos.

But lo and behold! Bello was instead castigated, ostracized and disowned by the President and the government he sincerely wanted to succeed, as well as by his party leadership he thought shared his passion and commitment to truly serve the people and advance progressive agenda.

Sentro expresses its unequivocal and unwavering support to Walden Bello’s well-intentioned proposals and constructive criticisms – emphasizing that no amount of rebuking or disowning him will prevent Sentro from expressing its support to him – as long as what he conveys is for the benefit of the vast majority of people, and not a few privileged ones. Walden should have been thanked for all his efforts.

Indeed, prior to the Mamasapano tragedy, Walden honestly and persistently believed – even amid the growing doubts – in Aquino’s credibility and big potentials. Even at present, he considers Aquino as “a decent fellow untainted by corruption,” but this has been “overwhelmed by his pigheadedness, loyalty to and tolerance of corrupt and incompetent subordinates, inability to appreciate the urgent need for massive social reform, and his allowing the United States undue influence on our foreign policy and internal security policy.”

Walden said that it “seems that the President’s idea of an ally is someone who follows Malacañang’s line without question and without hesitation. It seems that an ally raising legitimate questions and criticisms is seen as sleeping with an enemy.” This is despite his unflinching support to the administration’s core legislative agenda, including the now controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Hence, Walden’s decision to quit his congressional post and privileges – as indignation to Aquino’s intransigent stand against meaningful social change as well as Aquino’s double standards and self-righteousness; and, unfortunately, in deference to the continued and unwavering support to the Aquino administration of his party’s leadership – is a paragon of statesmanship, consistently principled politics, integrity, courage and dignity to engage his adversaries head on.

Sentro and its member organizations are firmly behind you, Kasamang Walden. Mabuhay ka! Mabuhay ang prinsipyadong pulitika!

Congressional investigation puts Citra Mina in hot water; More exposes likely as the investigation continues

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Yesterday, 18 March 2015, the fighting workers of Citra Mina marked another milestone after they succeeded in forcing the company to face a congressional inquiry about what Congressman Walden Bello termed as its “criminal behavior”.

Citra Mina is now facing strong pressures not only from government agencies, but also from its fellow fishing and fish processing companies in Gensan. These companies fear of being dragged into the mess which Citra Mina itself has created.

Josua Mata, Secretary-General of Sentro, emphasized that the labor conflict could potentially undermine the country’s privileges under the EU GSP Plus that was recently approved. This privilege – mainly in the form of free tariff for fish products in the member nations of the European Union – being enjoyed by the fishing companies in Gensan will be jeopardized if they are found violating the required labor standards in the course of the ongoing congressional investigation.

No less than Gensan Councilor, Brix Tan, scion of Marfenio Tan, a tuna magnate in General Santos and a former president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing Associations and Allied Industries Inc. based in General Santos, who attended the congressional investigation had expressed alarm over the gravity of the impact of this inquiry on the entire fishing industry.

This congressional investigation could expose the evils of a long-time customary practices of labor only contracting, blacklisting, lack of required social protection for the fishing workers and the enslaving sacada system, among others, by the fishing industry in Gensan. These illegal activities are being undertaken by the fishing companies in Gensan with impunity.

Usec Rebecca Chato has already announced that DOLE is now preparing a department order to correct this unjust customary practice in the fishing industry.

The House of Representative Labor Committee held its first public hearing on the House Resolution No. 1746 “directing the Committee on Labor and Employment to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged violations of labor laws by the Citra Mina Group of Companies management that infringe on the workers right to self-organization and management’s failure to observe existing occupational health and safety standards in work place.” Rep. Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez III, both of Akbayan, filed the resolution last 4 December 2014.

The hearing succeeded in accomplishing the objective of exposing Citra Mina as a violator of the labor laws and in getting the commitment of the committee on labor to continue with the hearing sometime in May or June this year. Congressman Walden Bello, during this same hearing, described Citra Mina as a criminal corporation.

In addition, the union had managed to convince the Chair of the Labor Committee that the fishing industry’s “customary practice” of having “joint ventures” – a euphemism for the cabo system which has been outlawed by the Labor Code – needs to be investigated further.

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The hearing started at 3:00 PM with Walden Bello lambasting Citra Mina for its “criminal behavior” – its systematic violations of labor rights, labor standards and even maritime rules.

This was followed by Father Rey Ondap of General Santos City, representing the Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, who reminded the Labor Committee that “the unions are a mouthpiece for the struggle of social justice” (Laborem Exercens). And true enough, he said that the workers of Citra Mina who are trying to build their union are present in the hearing to explain a whole litany of human rights violations of Citra Mina: violation of freedom of association; violation of labor standards; rampant use of precarious work including the cabo system; slave- like condition in boats; deaths on high seas; and blacklisting.

Atty. Emil Paña, the legal counsel of the union, explained how Citra Mina systematically disguises its employee-employer relations. He used the case of Love Merben II to illustrate how Citra Mina uses dummies that act as “owners” of fishing vessels that it uses, even if such “owners” do not really have the means to run a multi-million peso enterprise.

Usec Rebecca Chato of DOLE made it perfectly clear that the DOLE maintains its position that both the fishing vessel owner and the fishing company are solidarily liable for all labor standards violations. She further explained that it is precisely why DOLE is now crafting a new DO that would develop an inter-agency approach in enforcing labor standards in fishing vessels. (Note: The drafting of this DO was initiated after we asked DOLE to investigate the deaths on high seas.)

Only 2 of the union’s 4 leaders were able to give their testimonies. Clyde Batelante, one of the 43 Citra Mina fishers we rescued from Ternate Island last February, spoke about his experiences in detention after his boat, Love Merben II, was captured by the Indonesian Navy. Jumary Arevalo, the union president, explained how Citra Mina violated their freedom to self-organization when they were illegally terminated to bust the union.

However, the chairman of the Labor Committee had pledged to allow them to give their testimonies during the next hearing.

In the next hearing, the Chair said that the boat captain of Love Merben II would be invited. The heads of MARINA and BFAR will also be invited.

The Chair also explained that in the next hearing, Rep. Raymond Mendoza of TUCP Party List will take the cudgels for the Citra Mina workers as Rep. Walden Bello has resigned as the Akbayan representative.

SENTRO fully supports Walden Bello’s ‘good governance crusade’ despite rebukes from the government and his party’s leadership

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Rep. Walden Bello

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) unequivocally supports and salutes Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello’s emphatic and consistent calls for President Aquino not to lose the moral high ground on his administration’s purported anticorruption drive and reform agenda, by firing at least four of his Cabinet members – not only Vice President Jejomar Binay, the government’s housing czar and presidential adviser on OFW concerns; but also Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala – as well as Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima.

SENTRO also upholds Congressman Bello’s suggestion to shake up the executives in the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Energy, and Foreign Affairs, as part of the needed revamp of the bureaucracy. The goal of these calls is good governance, where the government is able to honestly and effectively serve the people – whom Aquino claims to be his “bosses” – and to institute necessary measures to achieve genuine inclusive growth.

The decades-long corruption and meticulously hidden wealth of Binay and his cronies are now being unraveled despite his feigning of innocence, vehement denials, professing his humble origins and “pro-poor” stance, and invoking alleged persecution.

However, it is grossly unfair for Aquino’s political soldiers to condemn Binay, a nominal “oppositionist” and presidential aspirant, for corruption while exonerating or keeping mum about the shenanigans or incompetence of Abad, De los Reyes, Alcala, Purisima, and other top officials not identified with the Binay faction. Indeed, as Bello warns, “double standard has a tremendously corrosive effect on civic morality,” adding that “getting rid of Binay is only half the challenge facing the country. The other half is continuing the reform program.”

Abad is reputedly the brains behind the PDAF and DAP pork barrels that were liberally used for the government’s carrot and stick ploys. These huge funds, of course, spawned the multibillion-peso scam involving politicians (and their cohorts) from all sides of the political spectrum, including Aquino’s allies. He is also accused of political nepotism.

De los Reyes is being blamed by farmers for the sluggish implementation – or non-implementation – of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program extension with reform (Carper) law. After all these years and even with enough budgets, no less than 300,000 hectares of agricultural lands covered by Carper have yet to be distributed to impoverished farmers. This law will expire on June 30, this year.

The agriculture department has actually two de facto chiefs – Alcala and Secretary Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser on national food security. Hence, Bello observes: The DA “is headed to the doldrums. It will simply bring about a fatal division of responsibility and accountability. It’s the height of indecision. Why not give the fresh face full command?”

On the other hand, Purisima is likewise accused of unexplained wealth – although a pittance compared to Binay’s – and being held responsible for the deteriorating peace and order, but still has the temerity to deny this reality.

No amount of rebuking or disowning Walden Bello for his well-intentioned proposals and constructive criticisms will prevent Sentro from expressing our support to him – as long as what he conveys is for the benefit of the vast majority of the people, and not a few privileged ones. In fact, Bello should have been thanked for his efforts. The question is, why can’t his partymates support the principled position he has taken?

The Filipino Migrant community welcomes the commitment to restore the budget of Overseas Absentee Voting(OAV)

On the occasion of the 10th Asia-Europe Peoples Forum ”Towards a Just and inclusive Asia and Europe-Building States of Citizens for Citizens” in Milan, Italy 10-12 October 2014, Filipino migrant representatives from Europe and Asia, organized a special caucus to discuss the Filipino migrant agenda.

Absentee Voting (OAV) was particularly taken up and made a strong appeal to Congress to restore the OAV budget of 89.6 million Pesos. Besides the OAV agenda, participating organisations raised the Joint Police Operation of the Council of European Union “Mos Maiorum” (involving all Member States and Schengen Associated Countries (SAC) the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX)) in a massive roundup of migrants from 13th till 26th of October, 2014.

These same Filipino organisations have earlier expressed serious concern on the budget cut. The caucus also discussed and suggested amendments to improve the OAV law to ensure its effective implementation towards better enfranchisement.

Representative Walden Bello updated the Filipino Migrant community from Europe and Asia on legislative initiatives being taken up by the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, of which he is currently the Chair.

Representative Walden Bello informed officially the participants that Isidro Ungab, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, reassured the Filipino Migrant community that the budget of OAV will be restored. The caucus participants welcomed the favourable action to include the OAV budget in the amendments of the General Appropriations Bill.

The meeting ended with a resolve from different Filipino migrant organisations in Europe and Asia to actively participate in the education campaign for OAV to ensure the higher level of participation in the electoral exercise. This will require a joint effort of Migrant and initiative of communities, Philippine Embassies and Philippine Government.

List of participating organisations:

Edwin Bustillos – Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL) Sentro- Philippines
Rex Verona – Migrant Forum Asia and APL Sentro -Hongkong/Philippines
Rene Raya – Centre for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) -Philippines
Romeo Sangcap – Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW)-Italy
Sylvia Roxas – Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW)-Italy
Jille Belisario – Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW)-International Office
Charito Basa – Philipino Women’s Council – Italy
Nonoi Hacbang – Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe
Rosalie Castro – Babaylan- France

Sentro lauds Walden Bello’s ‘solidarity trip’ to Hong Kong

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Hong Kong protesters, Rep Walden Bello (inset) – Photo Philip C. Tubeza

THE Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa described as “impulsive, one-sided and unenlightened” the criticisms hurled against Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello for his “solidarity trip” in Hong Kong last week at the height of huge prodemocracy protests in this rich Chinese enclave.

“It was a solidarity mission both for the pro-democracy protesters – by expressing his support to their noble aspiration as a steadfast social activist himself and considering that they are part of a broader, interdependent and global movement for justice and democracy – and for the thousands of overseas Filipino workers, mostly domestic workers – by checking with the Philippine consulate whether contingency plans for the OFWs are in place for any eventuality,” Frank Mero, chairperson of Sentro, said.

Mero added that “while we understand well the concerns for the safety and continued employment of the tens of thousands of OFWs in Hong Kong, we should not likewise be restrained by antiquated box mentality or parochialism: because as we need Hong Kong, it also needs us; and social advocacies have indeed no boundaries.”

“Universal justice and democracy – like the long envisioned genuine empowerment of the workers – will remain elusive and even ‘romantic,’ but only if we do not actively seek them,” Mero asserted.

Sentro has an affiliate in Hong Kong, the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers (PLU-APL), which readily supported the protests and whose leaders accompanied Walden in the protest area. PLU-APL is affiliated to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).