Workers, worse-off under Duterte’s martial law and legalized contractualization

On Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address, Filipino workers march with the people to take him to task for his failed promises and to condemn his US-backed authoritarian rule.

Poverty, hunger and oppression among workers have worsened under Duterte’s continued promotion of cheap, contractual and repressed labor. His economic policies remain subservient to the neoliberal dictates of the US and China.

Duterte failed to deliver his promise of ending contractualization. Instead of prohibiting contractual employment, the Department of Labor and Employment Order 174 even legitimized contractualization through labor contracting agencies. Instead of regularizing workers, the DO 174 has resulted in massive lay-offs and retrenchments of regular workers only to be re-hired as contractuals in agencies. Recent studies by independent think-tank IBON Foundation has cited that there are currently over 24.4 million contractual workers in the country.

Workers’ wages remain below living standards and fragmented in over a thousand wage levels. The lowest wage level, P235 in Region 4-B does not even meet a quarter of the estimated Family Living Wage which is now pegged at P1,130 as of June 2017. Worse, Duterte’s Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 has adopted the previous administration’s wage-cut and wage-freeze policy through the Two-tiered Wage System that would further press-down wages and freeze it to poverty levels.

The administration’s refusal to implement genuine land reform and national industrialization has worsened joblessness in the country. There are now over 11 million unemployed Filipinos. Meanwhile, over 5,700 migrant workers are leaving the country on a daily basis to look for jobs abroad.

In the face of growing discontent over his failed promises, Duterte has pushed for the extension, and is working towards the expansion of his martial law in Mindanao under the guise of the US’ war on terror. Duterte’s martial law is not aimed at combatting terrorism but instead is merely being used to curtail civil liberties and suppress workers’ and people’s legitimate demands and struggles. Martial law gave license to the violent dispersal of workers’ strikes in Mindanao and has served as a threat to other workers asserting their demands for regular jobs and living wages.

With the establishment of a US-backed Marcosian dictatorial rule, failure to deliver his promise of change and continued implementation of anti-worker, anti-people and anti-democratic policies, the Duterte regime deserves only the ire and condemnation of Filipino workers and people.

In Duterte’s succeeding years in power, Filipino workers will be ever more assertive of our demands to lift the martial law, for an end to all forms of contractualization, for the implementation of a national minimum wage, and for a national democratic change in the country. On the other hand, we are ever determined resist and fight the US-Duterte regime’s authoritarian rule and continued implementation of neoliberal attacks against workers and the people.

Martial law extension condemned, workers vow to fight Duterte’s authoritarian rule

Filipino workers strongly condemn the special joint congress session for voting in favor of the extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017.

The overwhelming vote for martial law extension is baseless and is purely a showcase of political patronage.

There can be no legal nor moral basis to extend Duterte’s destruction of people’s lives and livelihood, curtailment of democratic rights and suppression of the people’s legitimate demands and struggles.

Duterte’s martial law is not aimed at combatting terrorism but has in fact sowed state-terrorism in the form of bombardment of civilian communities, forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands, dispersal of legitimate workers’ strikes, and gross atrocities and human rights violations.

The congress’ vote to extend Duterte’s martial law would pave way to the establishment of a US-backed authoritarian state administered by fascists, warmongers, peace saboteurs and human rights violators.

Filipino workers are ever determined to resist Duterte’s martial law and looming authoritarian rule. On Monday, Duterte’s second SONA, thousands of Filipino workers will march to Batasan to condemn the extension of martial law and assert our legitimate demands for a genuine national democratic change.

Martial law extension, possible expansion, is “all-out war” against the Filipino people – KMU

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) denounces in strongest terms Pres. Duterte’s plan to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

“Pres. Duterte has become putty in the hands of US puppets General Lorenzana, Esperon and Ano. Extending martial law will not bring forth just peace. Martial law will not stop atrocities by the AFP and the PNP. It will not put an end to the Marawi conflict. It will only further embolden and give license to state forces to suppress and oppress the masses. It will only set the stage for a wholesale violation of the people’s freedoms and democratic rights,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

Adonis said that Duterte’s martial law should be exposed for what it truly is, an all-out war against the Filipino people.

“Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao has actually only further ignited the Moro people’s rebellion brought on by their decades-long struggle for self-determination. It has provoked the intensification of armed resistance of the Moro people in retaliation for the AFP’s indiscriminate aerial bombardments resulting in countless deaths and the destruction of Marawi City. Extending martial law will only prolong the agony of the people of Marawi and Mindanao,” Adonis said.

Martial law extension and its possible expansion will also further jeopardize the peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratoc Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Lorenzana has made it very clear that the CPP-NPA-NDF is their target as much as the Moro people. His ‘all-out war’ declaration in February has come into full force since martial law has been declared. Attacks against civilian communities have stepped up not only in Marawi but in the whole of Mindanao and other parts of Luzon and Visayas. Lumad people continue to be victims of extrajudicial killings, threats and harassments. Unionists and workers’ strikes have been violently dispersed and suppressed. Illegal arrests and killings of activists and human rights defenders are rampant. Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao or nationwide is an attack against the Filipino people,” Adonis said.

Adonis said that it is also no surprise that big businesses are backing up Duterte’s plan to extend martial law until the end of the year. “Through martial law, Duterte can exercise absolute power to push neoliberal economic policies to the delight of foreign businesses and local oligarchs. Privatization schemes, debt-ridden infrastracture projects, onerous tax reforms and exploitation of our labor and resources, these are all in Duterte’s economic agenda, to the detriment of the Filipino people.”

“Workers will be at the forefront of the Filipino people’s opposition to the extension of martial law in Mindanao and its possible expansion nationwide,” Adonis said.

KMU called on all Filipino workers and the people to join nationwide protests set on Duterte’s July 22 Congress special session, and the massive anti-martial law protest set on July 24, Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. ###

On Duterte’s first year, workers were shortchanged

President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of “change” has not come in his first year in power. Duterte has shown extremely low productivity in terms of addressing our workers’ legitimate and just demands and even failed in delivering his own promises and pronouncements.

Duterte’s first year in office can be summed-up as a year of worsening hunger, poverty and injustice among Filipino workers and people under the continued implementation neoliberal economic policies of promoting cheap, flexible and repressed labor.

On Contractualization

Duterte’s promise of ending contractualization remains unfulfilled. Worse, the recently signed Department of Labor and Employment Order 174 has legitimized contracting-out of labor through labor contracting agencies as a government employment policy.

The DOLE’s much hyped efforts that claimed to have regularized 70,000 workers remain questionable. Regularization through labor contractors and not through their principal employer is not regularization. The DOLE has also failed to act on the obviously undeniable practice of “Endo” against SM workers and the prevalent contractualization by big multi-national corporations especially in Special Economic Zones.

President Duterte also failed to sign KMU’s draft executive order to end all forms of contractualization which was submitted to him by all labor groups last May 10 as a result of the Labor Day Dialogue in Davao last May 10.
On Wages

There has been no significant wage hike on Duterte’s first year. The current wage levels remains unlivable. Even the highest wage level in the country, P491 in NCR, does not even come half of the suggested P1,119 Family Living Wage.

Instead of heeding our demands for the implementation of a national minimum wage of seven hundred fifty pesos a day, the government has upheld in its Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 the previous Aquino administration’s wage cut and wage freeze through the Two-Tiered Wage System.

Duterte’s first year has also seen an unabated increase in prices of basic goods and services. The government’s tax reform policy would also be an additional burden to Filipino workers at would impose more taxes and even threatens to remove the cap on tax exemption for minimum wage earners.
On Martial Law

Duterte’s declaration of martial law has also taken its toll on workers’ rights. Foreign and local big businesses, in connivance with state security forces, is now using the martial law to curtail civil liberties and suppress workers’ legitimate and just demands.

Last June 2, a week since its imposition, martial law has been used as a license to violently disperse and arrest workers of banana plantation giant Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Mindanao who have been on strike for more than 2 months against contractualization and union busting.

Laying-off of workers forming unions remain rampant. This has been highlighted by the succeeding strikes and protests against illegal dismissals, union busting and for regularization of workers of Manila Cordage Company-Manco Synthetics Inc. (MCC-MSI) and Philippine Dong Yun Plate Making Corporation in Laguna, Soro-soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) in Batangas, Freshmax Trading Company and Shin-Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Compostela Valley among others.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello has invoked the Republic Act 6715 and used his power to assume jurisdiction and suppressed the legitimate strike of Delmonte Land Transport Bus Co. Inc. (DLTB) workers on January 2017 without addressing their demands for wages and benefits.

The worsening conditions and continued attacks against workers’ wages, jobs and rights under Duterte’s first year in office has been reflected in the International Trade Union Confederation’s 2017 Global Rights Index which ranked the Philippines as the fourth worst country in the world for workers’ rights.

Workers’ assessment on the Duterte administration’s first year

Workers’ Demands:

  1. End all forms of contractualization!
  • Issue an Executive Order to regularize all workers employed in various contractualization schemes for more than 6 months.
  • Junk the DOLE Department Order 18-A series of 2011 that sets guidelines on how to make contractualization legal.
  • Prioritize the passage of the Regular Employment Bill filed by Anakpawis Partylist.
  • Amend the Labor Code by junking Article 106 and removing its distinction between the Labor­Only Contracting and Job Contracting.
  • Ban contractualization. Heavily penalize big foreign and local capitalists who implement contractualization.
  1. Implement a national minimum wage!
  • Enact a National Minimum Wage, P750 per day for private-sector workers and P16,000 monthly for government employees.
  • Abolish the country’s regional wage boards. This follows from the foregoing, and means the establishment of a national mechanism for setting wages.
  • Junk the Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Law.
  • Stop using the poverty threshold as a way of setting the minimum wage and use a measure of the living wage for the latter.
  1. Stop trade union repression!
  • Free all detained labor rights defenders and junk trumped-up charges against them: Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Ernesto Lorenzo, Renante Gamara, Randy Vegas, Raul Camposano, Rene Boy Abiva and Virgilio Corpus.
  • Junk trumped-up charges against Rafael Baylosis, former vice-chairperson for external and political affairs of national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno.
  • Heavily penalize capitalists who illegally retrench workers who are trying to form their union.
  • Junk the power of the Labor Secretary to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes by amending the provisions of the Republic Act 6715.
  • Uphold the non-interference of police and military in labor disputes. Junk policies that sought to legalize such interference.
  1. Uphold workers’ rights and welfare
  • Immediately implement the long-delayed P2,000 hike in Social Security System pensions.
  • Grant tax exemption to workers earning less than P32,000 a month.
  • Heavily penalize capitalists who violate OHS Standards, especially if their violation results in the death of workers.
  • Attain justice for the workers of Kentex and other fatalities of industrial fires in the country.
  • Create decent jobs in the country by implementing national industrialization and land reform. End dependence on foreign investments in trying to create decent jobs in the country.
  • Junk the Labor Export Policy. Offer decent jobs and provide conditions for the return of Overseas Filipino Workers into the country.
  1. Support workers’ aspirations for a just and lasting peace!
  • Resume the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
  • Free all political prisoners.
  • Honor all previously signed agreements.
  • Sign the agreements on Socio-Economic Reform to address the roots of armed conflict.

*These demands were presented before DOLE Usec. Joel Maglunsod during the Workers’ Summit last July 15, 2017 at the DOLE Occupational Safety and Health Center.

Duterte’s response

  1. On contractualization:
  • DOLE issued the Department Order 174 that “prohibits” labor only contracting but fully legitimized job contracting through labor contracting agencies as an employment policy.
  • Duterte asked the labor sector to submit KMU’s draft Executive Order that prohibits all forms of contractualization and appealed on workers to give the administration more time to address contractualization.
  • DOLE claimed to have regularized 70,000 “endo” workers in the past year. However, this claim remains unqualified as to where and how workers were regularized. This also remains a far cry from the estimated 24.4 million workers employed under various contractual employment schemes.
  • DOLE issued Department Order 162, suspending registration of new applicants as contractors and subcontractors under DO18-A. DO 162 may eradicate fly-by-night contractors and subcontractors, but at the same time strengthen the monopoly of big employment agencies in labor contracting.
  • DOLE issued Labor Advisory No. 10, which merely reiterates the provisions of the article 106-109 of the labor code that legalized contractualization by distinguishing labor-only contracting as illegal and job contracting as legal.
  • No scientific study/research on the prevalence of contractual employment has been initiated by the government.
  1. On implementing a national minimum wage:
  • There has been no significant wage hike under Duterte’s 1st year in office. On the other hand, the Family Living Wage has increased from P1,086 in 2016 to P1,119 in 2017.
  • Duterte has been consistent in wanting to par wages in provinces to wages in Metro Manila. Last July 2016, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III also floated the administration’s plan to enact a national minimum wage law by October 2016. However, the government has taken no step towards addressing the demand for a national minimum wage.
  • The administration has adopted the Two-Tiered Wage System in its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 as a wage policy therefore upholding the wage freeze and wage cut policy of setting floor wages below the mandated minimum wage on the basis of poverty threshold.

 

  1. On trade union repression:
  • Detained labor rights defenders and junk trumped-up charges against them: Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Ernesto Lorenzo, Renante Gamara have been released through bail as part of the resumed peace talks between the NDFP and GRP. Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano were released through judicial proceedings while Rene Boy Abiva and Virgilio Corpuz remain illegally detained.
  • Lay-offs of workers forming unions remain rampant. This has been highlighted by the succeeding strikes and protests against illegal dismissals, union busting and for regularization of workers of Manila Cordage Company-Manco Synthetics Inc. (MCC-MSI) and Philippine Dong Yun Plate Making Corporation in Laguna, Soro-soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) in Batangas, Freshmax Trading Company and Shin-Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Compostela Valley among others.
  • DOLE Sec. Bello has invoked the Republic Act 6715 and used his power to assume jurisdiction and suppress the legitimate strike of Delmonte Land Transport Bus Co. Inc. (DLTB) workers on January 2017.
  • Strike breaking and violent interference of state security forces on labor disputes continued under Duterte. Worse, his declaration of Martial Law last May 23 gave license to the violent repression of workers’ legitimate demands and struggles and the curtailment of civil liberties and of trade union and human rights highlighted by the brutal dispersal and arbitrary arrests of striking Shin Sun workers in Compostela Valley.

 

  1. On workers’ rights and welfare
  • Duterte approved a P1,000 peso increase on Social Security Service pensions, but at the same time also increased premium contributions. The next tier of P1,000 pension hike is set to be granted by 2020.
  • The Duterte administration has been pushing for a Tax Reform Program that would not only impose additional taxes upon workers but would also lift the tax exemption on minimum wage earners.
  • DOLE has recommended the suspension of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards certification of the House Technology Industries after concluding that the company violated OSH standards that has resulted in the fire that gutted their factory in Cavite and is feared to have resulted in the death of over 1,300 workers.
  • Justice remains elusive to Kentex workers and other victims of work related deaths in the country.
  • DOLE started training unionists and labor leaders nominated to be deputized as labor standards inspectors.

 

  1. On just and lasting peace
  • Duterte resumed the GRP-NDFP peace talks last August 2016. The talks have already reached the 4th However, the scheduled 5th round was cancelled due to the GRP’s preconditions.
  • Both panels have moved forward the discussions on the CASER and has reached unities on agrarian reform and rural development.
  • The GRP panel’s consistent been push for an interim bilateral ceasefire prior to the signing of CASER has remained a stumbling block on the advance of the negotiations.
  • Amidst Duterte’s commitment to pursue the peace talks, warmongers and peace saboteurs remain influential in the GRP’s position in the peace talks which serves as a dark cloud over our workers’ and people’s aspiration for just and lasting peace.

 

Conclusion:

Duterte’s first year in office can be summed-up as a year of worsening hunger and poverty among Filipino workers and people under the government’s  continued adherence to the neoliberal dogma of promoting cheap, flexible and repressed labor.

Workers have seen an extremely low productivity on the part of President Duterte in terms of fulfilling his pro-worker commitments and promises and in addressing the above mentioned workers’ demands which could have eased the impacts of the onslaught of neoliberal attacks on wages, jobs and national development on our workers’ and people’s conditions.

Duterte’s low productivity can be concluded as a manifestation of his prior refusal to break-away from the previous administrations’ economic policies, which he even recognized by saying “Bakit aayusin ang hindi sira?”. Duterte has also surrounded himself with and has been very much dependent on pro-US, pro-capitalists and known stalwarts and promoters of anti-worker neoliberal policies as his economic managers.

It is imperative for President Duterte to realize that his promise of “change” would be insignificant to workers and the Filipino people unless he veer away from the US’ and other imperialist powers’ neoliberal impositions. He should instead uphold genuine land reform and national industrialization as his economic and national development policy and promote the rights and welfare of Filipino workers and people against foreign and local oligarch exploitation.

KMU sees Duterte’s following years in office as years of continuing unity in addressing Filipino workers’ demands and struggle against his administration’s anti-worker neoliberal policies.

The next years also serves as a challenge to Filipino workers to further strengthen their ranks and arouse, organize and mobilize in their hundreds of thousands to assert their legitimate demands and struggle for genuine change, freedom and democracy.