6 months after Kentex fire, justice delayed, denied

12219519_1637114389896152_3996761265342844916_nTomorrow, November 13, marks the sixth month since the Kentex factory fire which claimed the lives of more than 74 workers. Despite the clear violations of occupational safety and health standards that resulted in the gruesome death of many workers, justice remains elusive for the victims’ families and the survivors.

> The two criminal cases filed against the capitalists of Kentex, one by Kentex workers and the other by the government, are gathering dust in the Valenzuela Prosecutors’ Office.

Instead of pushing for a hearing on the cases, the government filed a case of copyright infringement against Kentex this November pertaining to the latter’s imitation of Brazilian brand Havaianas. This move is aimed at pleasing the government’s guests in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings by showing that the country upholds intellectual property rights, but it does little to advance the cause of justice for the Kentex workers.

> The administrative case filed by the Kentex workers against government officials including Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and former Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas is not being acted upon by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is supposedly independent, swift, and strong-willed.

> The labor cases filed by the workers before the National Labor Relations Commission are still awaiting decision. This, despite the Kentex management’s efforts to take advantage of the economic hardships faced by the victims’ families and survivors after the tragedy by offering them a paltry settlement package in exchange of withdrawing their cases.

> While the Social Security System was able to release the benefits of workers who died, it refuses to release the benefits of workers who survived. At the same time, it has not yet filed a case against the capitalists of Kentex for failing to remit workers’ contributions to the fund.

In sum, it appears that for the government, justice for the workers of Kentex consists of merely of meager compensation. We reject this view. We demand justice and accountability for the workers who suffered from unchecked exploitation and criminal negligence at Kentex, many of whom lost their lives in the worst factory fire in Philippine history.

We vow to continue with our protests until justice is attained. We call on all supporters of workers’ rights to continue speaking out and holding protests to demand justice for the Kentex workers. We call on workers to unite, form unions that are genuine, militant and anti-imperialist, and fight for their basic rights, including the upholding of occupational safety and health standards.

APEC ‘no permit, no rally’ is unjust, revolting

12208801_1637111876563070_3813630025220439785_nWe condemn the Department of Interior and Local Government for asserting that the “no permit, no rally” and “maximum tolerance” policies will be implemented during the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. We reject the Aquino government’s plan of imposing Martial Law to please its foreign masters who will attend and benefit from the APEC Summit.

“No permit, no rally” has become a code word for “no rally.” It violates the 1987 Constitution which states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The government has often invoked “maximum tolerance” whenever it wants to legitimize its violent dispersal of rallyists. It makes it appear that protestors have become so unruly that a violent dispersal is needed despite its policy of “maximum tolerance.” In truth, the government has often violently dispersed workers’ and people’s protests that are peaceful and orderly.

We reject the attempt of Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, to shame protestors into silence by saying that protests will “embarrass” the country.

It’s not the protests that will embarrass the country, but the government’s repression of protestors. The world knows that the Philippines is a poor country, and economic summits like APEC are bound to attract protests. The workers and peoples of the world will be watching the Philippines and a violent repression of rallyists would anger them.
The Filipino workers and people have every reason to hold protests: massive landlessness, joblessness, poor quality of jobs, among other.

We vow to assert our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We vow to make the voices of the Filipino workers and people heard during the APEC Summit. We vow to continue with our protests against this anti-worker, anti-Filipino, anti-environment and pro-big capitalist economic formation.

Miriam, Senate hailed for stand on EDCA

12241263_1637111776563080_8382418471781286895_nNational labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed today Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and the entire Senate for taking the stand last Tuesday that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is a treaty and is therefore invalid without the Senate’s approval.

The labor group said that in taking the position, the Senate stood for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as Filipinos’ lives and properties and the country’s environment.

KMU said the 1987 Constitution is clear on the issue of military bases, citing Section 25 of Article XVIII, which states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.

“We are glad that Sen. Santiago and the Senate stood for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have done something that will always be remembered and cherished by nationalist workers and Filipinos,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said the position is a slap in the face of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, who is hell-bent on allowing increased US military presence in the country and asserts that the EDCA is an “executive agreement” in order to implement it immediately.

“In his extreme puppetry to the US, Aquino wants to sidestep the Senate, arrogate the power to approve the EDCA to himself and implement it immediately. We are so glad that the Senate stood up to him on this issue,” Labog added.

The labor group also said that the Senate decision is most welcome given reports that the Supreme Court is set to rule that the EDCA is constitutional so the ruling can serve as Aquino’s gift to US Pres. Barack Obama when the latter comes to the country for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

“We certainly hope that the SC follows the Senate’s example of standing up for the Filipino workers and people. The SC would expose itself as a lackey of the US and Aquino if it rules that the EDCA is constitutional,” Labog stated.

Labog called on everyone to intensify speaking up and holding protests against the EDCA, saying it’s the Filipino workers and people who prodded the Senate to take a stand and who will guarantee that the one-sided militaristic agreement will ultimately be junked.

KMU, together with public sector union center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government employees, filed a petition against the EDCA before the Supreme Court in June last year.

Spread of hunger makes P125 wage hike more urgent – KMU

2 (1) (2)Citing an increase in the number of Filipinos who experienced hunger in the past months, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the House of Representatives this morning to press for a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide.

The labor group said the latest Social Weather Stations’ survey, which shows that hunger in 3rd Quarter 2015 is the highest in the year, warrants a significant wage hike as a corrective to the meager adjustments that were approved by the country’s regional wage boards for the past decades.

“The increase in the incidence of hunger shows that a P125 across-the-board wage hike is more necessary. Workers need a significant wage hike in order to buy more food for their families and ease hunger,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The workers banged empty pots and pans to dramatize the spread of hunger and to call on Congress to immediately approve House Bill 253 which was filed by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap.

“Families of people who work hard should never be hungry. That’s why the spread of hunger among many hardworking Filipinos is simply unacceptable and patently revolting,” Soluta added.

Carrying streamers that read “Buwis, ibaba! Sahod, itaas! (Lower taxes! Increase wages!)” the workers also called for the passage of HB 5401, which was filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and seeks to reduce professionals’ income taxes and exempt low-income families earning a maximum of P396,000 yearly from income tax.

“The income tax coverage should be raised farther from the minimum wage. We have cases where workers would prefer to receive the minimum wage than receive a slightly higher wage because the latter would mean being taxed and actually taking home a wage that’s below the minimum,” Soluta stated.

The labor leader said the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting this November 18-19 would surely result in the further pressing down of wages as it would prioritize the interests of big foreign investors.

“APECtado ang obrero (workers are affected by the APEC). Since the last APEC was held in the country in 1996, wages have been pressed down, contractualization has spread, and the number of workers who are unionized and protected by a CBA have decreased,” Soluta said.

SWS survey: APEC will worsen joblessness

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The recent SWS joblessness survey reminds us that APEC has failed to deliver on its promise of creating more jobs and promoting decent jobs. The survey, released more than one week before the country hosts the APEC Summit for the second time, shows that APEC has in fact worsened unemployment and the quality of jobs in the country.

When the country first hosted the APEC Summit in 1996, the promise was more jobs and more decent jobs for Filipinos under “Philippines 2000.” Now, the country is suffering from record-breaking levels of unemployment. Now, temporary jobs are more prevalent, wages are lower, contractual employment is more widespread, and fewer workers are unionized and covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements than before.

As long as the government refuses to implement genuine land reform and national industrialization, unemployment will continue to worsen and the quality of jobs will continue to deteriorate. The country’s economy will continue to be controlled by big foreign and local capitalists who have no interest in achieving full employment and in upholding workers’ rights to living wages, regular employment, and unionization.

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The SWS tells us that joblessness increased from 22.9 percent in September 2014 to 23.7 percent in September 2015. It tells us that this is the highest unemployment rate for the year and amounts to 10.5 million jobless adults.

It also tells us that average joblessness has on the whole increased under the presidency of Noynoy Aquino: 22.5 percent in 2010, 23.6 percent in 2011, 28.8 percent in 2012, 25.2 percent in 2013 and 25.4 percent in 2014.

In a May 2015 study, independent think-tank Ibon Foundation claims that the country’s production sectors (agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and mining and quarrying) decreased in proportion to the GDP from 60 percent in the 1970s before globalization to a mere 39 percent in 2010-2014.

This certainly has a correlation with the decrease in jobs being generated by the economy: 2.7 percent (1960s), 4.1 percent (1970s), 2.8 percent (1980s), 2.4 percent (1990s and 2000s) and 2.3 percent (2010-2014).

“The Philippines is now a service and trading economy more than a producing economy,” says Ibon. Workers know that the service and trading sectors of the economy are notorious for temporary employment, low wages, contractualization, and violation of the right to form unions.

The SWS tells us that the biggest segment of the jobless, amounting to 11.7 percent or 5 million adults, were retrenched from work. Contractualization has made it easier for employers to simply retrench workers.

http://ibon.org/ibon_features.php?id=491

Palparan’s new PR tactic won’t fool anyone

12208534_1636482459959345_5747574976445767509_nWe do not buy the butcher’s attempt to wear the hat of a gentlemen officer. Former General Jovito Palparan used to see red everywhere but is now trying to project the image of a man compassionate towards victims of human-rights violations and mindful of the distinction between legal progressive organizations and the New People’s Army.

A far cry from the combative general who didn’t mince words when talking about the so-called communist front organisations, the accused is now singing a different tune, even going as far as saying the he pities the mothers of disappeared students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan because they are looking for their daughters.

We condemn the latest legal and PR tactic of the Palparan camp. This tactic is aimed at securing acquittal from the courts and softening public condemnation of his bloody human-rights record.

Let us not forget that he is the one responsible for the spate of extrajudicial killings and other human-rights violations in the regions under his command when he was still a favorite general of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Let us not forget that he actively vilified legal progressive organizations including human-rights group Karapatan.

In a country where anti-communist hysteria as as strong as it was in the cold war era, red-tagging is akin to handing out death sentences. And Palparan tagged groups as “communist fronts” in an attempt to legitimize the extra-judicial killings and abductions of their members.

Contrary to his claim, the reds don’t need destroy his reputation, for he he has done that himself a long time ago. While he is more concerned about the reputation that he destroyed himself, the kin of those that were tortured, murdered, and disappeared, are still seeking for justice.

APEC preps aimed at hiding real state of PH – KMU

12108885_1636482563292668_7322852461641766237_nNational labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno blasted today the government’s preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting on November 18-19, saying the measures are aimed at hiding the real state of the country’s economy.

The labor group said the government’s preparations for the APEC Summit go beyond ensuring the meeting’s success and are being carried out in order to project economic growth, which runs counter to the joblessness, poverty and hunger experienced by most Filipinos.

KMU said the government is spending P10 billion for the APEC Summit while majority of Filipinos experience hunger, is removing the poor from the streets while they are everywhere for the rest of the year, and is trying to ease traffic despite the daily traffic jams.

“Through its APEC preparations, the Aquino government wants to show the world an economic growth that is non-existent for most Filipinos. It wants to assure APEC leaders that the country is on the right track economically when it isn’t,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader also condemned the declaration of non-working holidays on November 17-18, saying this will negatively affect workers employed under the “no work, no pay” scheme, which are among the poorest.

He condemned the Labor Department for reiterating the guideline that, except for some exemptions, “if the employee did not work, the ‘no-work, no-pay’ principle shall apply” on the said dates.

“This government doesn’t care if workers won’t have food on their tables as long as it can have the elbow room to create the illusion of economic growth. The Filipino workers and the poor experience real suffering because of the government’s efforts to create an illusion of development,” Labog added.

The KMU leader said the government’s preparations for APEC are ultimately unacceptable because of the anti-worker, anti-Filipino and anti-environment policies that APEC is pushing for.

“The APEC Summit will cause not just temporary disruptions, but the country’s long-term underdevelopment. APEC is pushing for policies that favor big foreign and local capitalists at the expense of workers, farmers, the poor and the environment,” Labog added.

Noynoy told: sign SSS pension hike into law

12208709_1636489293291995_3356349351924251803_nWe are glad that the Senate has approved on third and final reading House Bill 5842, which seeks to increase the pension of retired Social Security System members by P2,000. We are glad that the country’s senators heeded the demand made by pensioners, workers and the public to hike pensions, which were last adjusted in 1997.

The pension hike would be a most welcome Christmas gift to the country’s pensioners. If approved, it will enable them to pay off some of their debts, buy a little more food for themselves and their families, and bring their medication closer to the ideal.

We dare Pres. Noynoy Aquino to immediately sign the bill. The ball is in his court and he should have the balls to pass it immediately. We expect him to invoke the arguments put forth by fake labor leaders and other officials of the SSS against the pension hike.

We repeat: The SSS has the funds for the pension hike, because workers have been faithfully paying their contributions. It will have more than enough funds if it improves its collection efficiency, goes after employers who refuse to remit workers’ contributions, reduces huge bonuses to board members, and reduces its administrative costs.

We are angered by the objection made by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to the bill. While he is a senior citizen himself, Enrile is insensitive towards the plight of retirees from the poor sections of our society. He has not been forced to subsist with a P1,200 monthly pension. His stand on this issue is another basis for his retirement from public office.

This victory was made possible by the clamor made by pensioners, workers and the public. We are calling on everyone to make our calls louder so we can finally have the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike approved before Christmas.

Nationalist workers show opposition to APEC

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Nationalist workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno assembled in front of working-class hero Andres Bonifacio’s monument in Liwasang Bonifacio last Saturday to show their opposition to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting set to be held in the country.

They claimed that APEC has only worsened joblessness in the country and brought about lower wages and the spread of contractual employment. They said contrary to its promise of bringing development to the country, APEC has only caused greater poverty, hunger and suffering among the majority of Filipinos.

They vowed to hold protests during the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in the country.

APEC: greater joblessness, more poor-quality jobs

12115628_1635650960042495_625744902888911940_n_editedMore jobs and more decent jobs. That is what the government arrogantly promised when the APEC Summit was first held in the country in 1996. Now, almost 20 years after, the country is suffering from greater unemployment and the spread of poor-quality jobs.

APEC stunted the growth of two sectors of the economy that should have been the basis for job creation: agriculture and industry. Agriculture shrunk from an average of 21% of the GDP in 1991-2000 to 11% in 2011-2014. Manufacturing shrunk from an average of 25% of the GDP in 1995-2000 to 23% in 2010-2014 – the lowest in the past six decades. Even the number of Small and Medium Enterprises, which the APEC Summit this year claims to seek to help, has decreased.

Not surprisingly, the number of OFWs has further ballooned. The number of unemployed and underemployed has increased. According to Ibon Foundation, the country at present has the most number of unemployed Filipinos in history.

On the other hand, what grew as a sector of the economy was the service sector. It is a bailiwick of low wages, contractual employment, and violations of workers’ right to unionize. Not surprisingly, wages have become lower, contractual employment has spread, and fewer workers are unionized and enjoy a Collective Bargaining Agreement. This means that low-quality jobs have spread.

This is the condition which the APEC Summit this year will surely worsen. Its promise of supporting investments in human capital is a big lie. APEC has only brought about greater unemployment and the spread of low-quality jobs in the Philippines.

APEC deserves the widest protest from workers, the poor and all Filipinos. We are calling on everyone to join the protests against APEC 2015.