Workers back Duterte’s call to pull out US troops

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Joining a protest at the US Embassy to commemorate the rejection of the US-RP Bases Agreement, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the immediate pull-out of U.S. troops from Philippine territory.

 

“Workers agree with President Duterte. US troops must go! We are willing to support his plan to reorient the Philippines’ foreign policy if it means junking all unequal ties with the US,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary general.

 

KMU demanded that Duterte junk the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Philippines, which allowed the US to use existing camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as their military base, store weapons, warships, and aircrafts, conduct joint exercises with Filipino troops, and bring-in defense contractors and other civilian personnel.

 

“Duterte should reject the US’ recolonization of the Philippines. He should not allow the US to permanently station their troops in our country using resources from Filipino workers’ and people’s taxes. He should reject the US’ plan to use our country as their base of operation in spreading their hegemony in Asia,” said Adonis.

 

Amidst Duterte’s strong anti-US stance, government agencies such as the DND (Department of National Defense) and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) have cautioned that the status quo will remain unchanged, and the alliance with the U.S. will be maintained.

 

“It is a blatant violation of our sovereignty. The US wants to use the Philippines as a pawn in its military plans for the Southeast Asian region,” said Adonis.  “Historically, allowing increased US military presence in our country has led to violations of human rights and escalation of conflict and violence.”

 

Duterte cited one such incident, which took place in Mindanao: the Bud Dajo massacre, which led to the deaths of an estimated 600 members of the Moro community at the hands of American soldiers. The KMU also pointed to many other cases where the U.S. military presence in the Philippines did more harm than good, from sexual assault cases like those of Jennifer Laude and Nicole, to increased tensions with China and aggressive counter-insurgency programs patterned after U.S. models.

 

“We join the Filipino people in calling for peace and sovereignty, in defending our rights and asserting our freedom from U.S. control,” said Adonis. “We challenge President Duterte to begin enacting and implementing concrete policy proposals to effect his proposed reorientation of foreign policy, to become more pro-Filipino instead of pro-America. Actions speak louder than words,” he added.

The labor leader meanwhile challenged Duterte to also reject US dictated neoliberal economic policies of pressing down workers’ wages and legalization of contractual employment.
“Duterte’s foreign policy shift must also be aimed at rejecting US dictated economic policies that subjects workers to worsening hunger and poverty. He can counter the US’ neoliberal attacks against workers immediately by implementing a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos and ban all forms of contractualization, and in the long run should adopt national industrialization as his administration’s economic policy.” Adonis said.

[On Bello’s pitch for a National Minimum Wage Law] Implement a genuine pro-worker national minimum wage now!

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Kilusang Mayo Uno recognizes Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello’s pitch for a National Minimum Wage Law. It should however be followed by immediate and concrete actions.

The implementation of a national minimum wage has long been pushed by workers as their main demand on the Workers’ Agenda for Change. It has been presented and pushed to the Duterte administration since it stepped into office.

Workers demand that the Duterte administration enact a National Minimum Wage in the amount of seven-hundred and fifty pesos (P750). This will enforce a genuine minimum wage in the country and bring existing legally-mandated minimum wage levels closer to the living wage, which according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation is already at P1,096.

A national minimum wage of P750 would serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst their worsening hunger and poverty. It should also be regularly increased to meet living standards.

The DOLE must immediately abolish the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards and establish a national mechanism for setting wages. Regional wage boards serves no purpose to workers. It has long been used by capitalists to deny workers of a significant wage hike. RWBs are also a deliberate waste of our taxes.

Duterte must order the “super-majority” in Congress to junk the Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Law of 1989 that paved-way the drastic fragmentation of workers’ wages. Since its implementation, there has been no standard minimum wage in the country. In fact, it resulted to more than a thousand wage levels in the country.

The Wage Rationalization Law is a US-dictated neoliberal policy that fragmented and pressed wages down to poverty levels. To prove that the Duterte administration’s pitch for a national minimum wage is genuinely pro-worker, it has to be aimed at negating such US-dictated policies.

Justice for Fort Magsaysay massacre victims sought  

 

 

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Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the Fort Magsaysay massacre that killed four farmers and wounded another. The victims were part of the cultivation activity on the land awarded to them inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

 

The four were resting after their farming chores when armed men alighted from a helicopter and opened fire at them Saturday afternoon. Their bodies were torn apart from the merciless rain of bullets.

 

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the massacre of peasants in Fort Magsaysay. Impunity must end. We stand with our peasant brother and sisters in demanding justice against this heinous murder. The Duterte administration must ensure this won’t go unpunished,” said KMU Secretary-General, Jerome Adonis.

 

Reports revealed that the perpetrators are goons and private army affiliated with Palayan City Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas of the notorious Joson political clan of Nueva Ecija and a certain Col. Rigor of the Nueva Ecija CIDG.

 

“We urge President Duterte to immediately form a task force that will investigate and put the perpetrators behind bars to serve justice to our murdered peasant brothers and sisters” Adonis said.

 

On November 5, 1991, former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino awarded 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation to over a thousand landless peasants – including evacuees of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The beneficiaries were issued a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung.

 

“By virtue of the 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and DAR, the more than 6,000 peasant beneficiaries should have already acquired ownership of the lands they live on and till. Since 2008, the 7th Infantry Division of the AFP took part in scheming and harassing Fort Magsaysay farmers to cancel their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards,” said Adonis.

 

The four victims of the massacre who were identified as Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay, are members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 (ALMANA). During the Aquino administration, ALMANA 3100 leader Pascual Guevarra, 78, was shot dead inside his house by a lone gunman in barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija.

On Bello’s push for a P125 wage hike

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno welcomes Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello’s recognition of the Filipino workers’ need for an immediate relief amidst their worsening hunger and poverty.

Secretary Bello’s push for a general wage increase is a result of workers’ arduous struggle for a P125 across-the-board wage hike since 1998. It is a positive development in workers’ clamor for a significant wage increase which for more than a decade have been rejected by previous administrations.

A P125 wage increase should immediately be implemented across-the-board and not through Regional Wage Boards which could be used by capitalists to only give measly increases or even deny the wage hike. However, P125 may also already be insufficient to give immediate relief to workers as the current minimum wage has already been left out by the ever increasing prices of basic goods and services.

Workers need an immediate relief that would at least bring the minimum wage closer to living standards. The gap between the mandated minimum wage and the actual amount needed by a family to live decently, the family living wage, has drastically widened over the years. The highest wage level in the country, P491 in the NCR, does not even come half of the estimated P1,096 family living wage.

To supplement the P125 increase, we urge the DOLE to immediately work on implementing a National Minimum Wage of P750 for private sector workers. Not only would it give an immediate relief to workers and their families, it would also negate the fragmentation and further pressing down of the minimum wage by the Wage Rationalization Law. It should also be regularly increased to meet living standards.

There is no standard minimum wage in the country. Currently, there are more than a thousand wage levels in the country. The rationalization of wages also put workers’ demands for a significant wage hike at the mercy of Regional Wage Boards who could only give insultingly measly increases.

We appreciate that the Duterte administration is one with workers in wanting wages in the provinces to be at par with wages in Metro Manila. There should therefore be no dilly-dallying in the implementation of a National Minimum Wage which is the only way to end the disparity of wages in the country.

On the Davao Bombing

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Filipino workers strongly condemn the bombing in Davao City that has killed at least 15 and wounded over 80 people. We demand justice for the victims of this heinous act of terror that deliberately targeted civilians to spread fear, violence and chaos in the country.

We seek that the perpetrators of this terror attack be brought to justice. However, we are alarmed with President Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness on a nationwide scale which also includes the war on drugs. Such declaration could further unleash the brutal and fascist character of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police which could result in gross violations of human rights against civilians especially the Moro people.

We have every reason to believe that the Davao bombing was an act of terror orchestrated by the US government and their lapdogs in the AFP using their long time terrorist bogey Abu Sayyaf Group to create havoc and unrest in the country to justify the increased deployment and presence of US troops in the country especially in Mindanao.

It is no secret that the ASG has been created, funded, trained and operated by the US’ Central Intelligence Agency and the AFP to justify US intervention and violations of our sovereignty under the guise of the war on terror.

We demand that President Duterte stand with the Filipino people against these US orchestrated acts of terror. He should immediately cut all unequal ties with the US particularly the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Defense treaty and the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement that gave license to the US to meddle with our internal affairs and commit such heinous acts of violence and terror against the Filipino people.

NEDA’s position vs wage hike, an insult to workers  

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Workers’ unions led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a nationally coordinated noise barrage protest to condemn Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia’s attack against workers’ legitimate demand for a substantial wage hike.

Simultaneous noise barrage protests were held outside factories and in workers’ concentration areas around Metro Manila, Cavite and Laguna to demand the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos a day for private sector workers and 16,000 pesos monthly for government employees.

“Change has not come to NEDA. We are enraged over director Pernia’s insulting statements that wage increases are counterproductive. He is merely echoing the same anti-worker reasoning used by the Aquino government to deny us of a substantial wage hike amidst our worsening poverty and hunger,” KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

The labor center insisted that capitalists are more than capable of giving a substantial wage increase citing independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s study which showed that implementing a National Minimum Wage of P750 would only amount to a 30% decrease in profits, leaving employers a significant 70% of their clean profits.

“A National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos can and should be implemented. Increasing workers’ wages is not counterproductive. In fact, higher wages, proper benefits and decent working conditions, can increase workers’ productivity and purchasing power which will in turn revitalize the domestic market” Labog said.

The labor leader also slammed Pernia’s claim that minimum wage increases would result to massive lay-offs saying it is an absurd and baseless justification to further press down wages and reject Filipino workers’ demands for a National Minimum Wage.

“For the longest time, the minimum wage in the country has already been at poverty and starvation levels yet unemployment continue to worsen. There has been no significant wage increase for decades yet thousands of workers are being laid-off for exercising their rights to unionize” Labog said.

Labog insisted that even with the current measly minimum wage, previous administrations have failed to create decent jobs in the country citing IBON Foundation’s data showing that 24.4 million or around 63% of total employed are actually in poor quality work, consisting of: non-regular and agency-hired workers (6.6 million), private households (2.0 million), self-employed without paid employee (10.7 million), employer in own family-operated farm or business (1.2 million), or unpaid family work (3.9 million).

“If the Duterte administration is truthful in its promise of change, it should reject NEDA’s anti-worker position. Duterte should distinct itself from previous administration’s economic policies that are detrimental to workers by declaring national industrialization as its development policy. Only through such policy can the government ensure the creation of decent jobs, living wages and genuine development in the country” Labog ended.