KMU hails Poe for hitting Aquino, contractualization

12316602_1644298205844437_7966934374395944447_n
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed today presidential aspirant Sen. Grace Poe for criticizing the administration of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, the situation of the country’s workers, and long-term contractualization among the country’s workers.

The labor group said Poe’s statements last Monday that many Filipinos remain poor and hungry after six years of “daang matuwid (straight path),” that contractualization is unfair and unjust, that workers are overworked and underpaid, and that workers need lower income taxes are all correct.

“We are glad that Sen. Poe has spoken up on the terrible economic legacy of Aquino and the situation of the country’s workers. We are glad that the front-runner in the 2016 elections has condemned contractualization,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said Poe’s criticism is “like a breath of fresh air” amidst many politicians’ refusal to criticize the Aquino government and much needed given the need for an honest assessment of the condition of the Filipino workers and people.

“We certainly welcome Sen. Poe’s fair assessment of the condition of the Filipino workers and people after six years of daang matuwid. It goes against the lies of the Aquino government and is important if we are to move forward as a nation,” Labog added.

KMU said that contractualization has meant the wholesale violation of workers’ rights – to a living wage, to job security, and to the free exercise of trade-union rights – is a crime against workers and should be junked immediately.

It said that more workers and employees, both in the private and public sectors, have become contractuals under Aquino, and that contractuals now comprise the majority of the country’s workforce.

“We are calling on all presidentiables to bare their assessment of the impact of Aquino’s presidency on workers and the poor. We are calling on all of them to bare their platform with regard to wages demands for higher wages, the junking of contractualization, a stop to union busting, and safer workplaces,” Labog stated.

ACTO’s ‘transport strike’ is part of sellout of drivers – KMU

12313827_1644037469203844_2388179564001447726_n
The threat made by the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) that it will hold a transport strike today is part of yellow transport leader Efren de Luna’s sellout of jeepney drivers and operators and the public on the issue of jeepney phaseout.

First of all, his threat of a transport strike was anchored on a demand for a mere dialogue with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on the Aquino government’s plan to phase out jeepneys from the roads of Metro Manila and the country starting in January 2016. The LTFRB granted his grand request for a dialogue and so he stopped his “transport strike” concentrated in the FTI-Taguig area.

De Luna is explicit in saying that all he wants is that jeepney drivers and operators be given time to prepare and loans to buy electronic jeepneys. He is after all among yellow transport leaders who held “dialogues” with the Department of Transportation and Communications in which they presented their proposals for a “jeepney modernization program” and gave their thumbs up to the jeepney phaseout scheme.

This afternoon’s “dialogue” will not halt the scheme nor will it improve the condition of jeepney drivers and operators.

Through his threat of a transport strike, De Luna wants to make it appear that he is against the jeepney phaseout scheme in the eyes of ACTO’s disgruntled members and leaders and the public. He also wants to increase the funds that he will get from the government for his approval of the scheme and as one of the suppliers of the electronic jeepneys. He is out to sabotage the campaign of jeepney drivers and operators and the public to junk the jeepney phaseout scheme.

We say “No!” to the jeepney phaseout scheme. It will result in the loss of livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers and operators making a living out of the 300,000 jeepney units in the country. It will subject a portion of jeepney drivers to exploitative conditions under the so-called fleet management scheme. It will definitely result in higher fares for passengers who will shoulder the cost of new vehicles.

The jeepney phaseout scheme is not modernization, but corporatization and monopolization of an important sector of the country’s transportation system. The jeepneys’ contribution to air pollution in the country is being addressed by the drivers and operators themselves and is negligible compared to the main causes of air pollution in the country.

Jail Dinky over food donation spoilage – KMU

11221587_1644031505871107_8860377947225767379_nWe are revolted by the spoilage of hundreds of food packs and sacks of rice and their consequent dumping by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Dagami, Leyte. DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman was only forced to admit that the food packs and sacks of rice came from the department’s warehouses after photos of the dumping went viral on social media.

This crime is the latest addition to the spoilage of food packs worth P2.8 million for 7,527 families affected by super typhoon Yolanda “due to improper handling,” according to the 2013 Commission on Audit report. It is also an addition to the failure to distribute and spoilage or near-spoilage of P141 million worth of relief goods according to the 2014 COA report.

The spoilage of rice and other food items is an injustice to all victims of disasters in the country, especially those who remain hungry at present, and to all Filipinos suffering from hunger and poverty. It is also an injustice to all big-hearted Filipinos and peoples of all nationalities who gave donations to help alleviate the suffering of Filipinos who were badly hit by disasters.

We demand accountability for this crime of denying available food to hungry Filipinos. We believe that Soliman should be charged and jailed over this crime. It would be an understatement to say, in the wake of the recent revelation, that she is “not compassionate” towards disaster victims. She is a criminal worthy of a jail term. We could only surmise that the DSWD refused to release the food stuff not because it wanted to warehouse these for future disasters, but because it intended to use these for the upcoming elections.

The spoilage of rice and other food items under the DSWD’s control seriously puts into question the DSWD’s policy of requiring victims to present cedula’s before giving them relief goods. It affirms the correctness of the Davao food protest in February 2013 in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo. It explains the desperation felt by victims of typhoons and other disasters in the country, including those which the government tried to demonize as “looters.”

Poe’s DQ cases show Aquino, Mar getting more desperate – KMU

12308663_954176097953451_5617954046831702022_n
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno joined a protest in front of the Commission on Elections’ main office in Intramuros, Manila this morning to condemn the disqualification by the poll body’s Second Divison of Sen. Grace Poe from running as president in the 2016 elections.

The labor group, which joined progressive electoral alliance Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan or Makabayan in the protest, said the decision reflects the desperation of Pres. Noynoy Aquino and presidential candidate Mar Roxas to make the latter win in the upcoming elections.

“The numerous disqualification cases filed against Poe show Aquino and Roxas’ desperation to make Roxas win in 2016 by hook or by crook. The Filipino workers and people are consistent in showing their rejection of Roxas’ attempt to become president,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chair for external and political affairs.

The labor leader said it appears that for Aquino and Roxas, there’s no chance for Roxas to win except by attacking the candidacy of Poe and other presidentiables, whether legally or in the field of public opinion.

“Aquino and Roxas want to enjoy impunity for their crimes beyond 2016. Worse, they want to continue a brand of leadership that serves their ‘bosses’ – big foreign and local capitalists and big landlords to the detriment of workers and poor Filipinos,” Ustarez said.

KMU has been accusing of Aquino and Roxas of plunder of public funds through the pork barrel scheme, of criminal neglect in relation to the deaths caused by super typhoon Yolanda, criminal responsibility for the death of many Filipinos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, among others.

“We believe that the Comelec’s Second Division made the decision not on the basis of provisions of the law but of Roxas’ overweening desire to become president. Its members should be investigated for possible close ties to Aquino and Roxas,” Ustarez stated.

Ustarez cited the opinion of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban that “Senator Poe does not derive her natural-born citizenship from her adoption but from generally accepted principles of international law on the presumed citizenship of foundlings.”

DOJ told: jail Pemberton, free detained labor advocates

12316663_1642916719315919_7034210954202009209_n
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the Justice Department’s main office and then marched to Mendiola in Manila this morning to condemn the special treatment being given to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton and to call for the immediate release of two labor advocates who have been imprisoned for three years today.

The labor group said it is a huge injustice that Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide for killing Filipina transvestite Jennifer Laude in October 2014, is able to evade imprisonment in the National Bilibid Prison while Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, organizers of government employees’ unions, have been languishing in jail since Dec. 3, 2012.

KMU asserted that Camposano and Vegas, organizers of public sector union center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or COURAGE, are innocent of the charges filed against them and are labor advocates being prevented by the government from organizing government unions.

“An American soldier who was convicted by the courts for killing a Filipina is able to evade imprisonment in Philippine jails while labor activists have been languishing in jail for years now. That shows you how rotten the so-called justice system in the country is,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader condemned the Department of Justice for bowing down to the US’ assertion that Pemberton remain with his American escorts and not be surrendered to the Philippine National Police and that he remain in Camp Aguinaldo and not brought to the NBP.

“A Republikang Basahan (Rag of a Republic) cannot possibly have a real justice system. It will always defend foreign troops who oppress its people and it will always oppress activists who are trying to defend its people,” Labog added.

KMU reiterated its demand that the “2012 Ifugao” trumped-up case, which accuses activists of participating in a New People’s Army ambush in the province in the said year, be junked immediately.

The case is also responsible for the imprisonment of Virgilio Corpuz of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON and Rene Boy Abiva of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT, both of Cagayan Valley since January 2013.

“These labor rights defenders do not deserve to stay in prison any minute longer. The trumped-up charges that were filed against them should be junked and they should be set free immediately,” Labog stated.

Bonifacio Day protest for P125 wage hike held

DSC_8870

To mark the 152nd birthday of working-class hero Andres Bonifacio, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno together with sectoral organizations under umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan marched to Mendiola this morning to call for a P125 across-the-board wage hike.

The protestors called on workers to emulate Bonifacio, who led the revolution against Spanish colonialism, and fight for their economic interests such as higher wages, an end to contractual employment, and the free exercise of trade-union rights.

They also called on workers to fight to end the new form of colonialism which they say still dominates the country, as shown by the thrust of the recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit held in the Philippines of serving the interests of big foreign capitalists to the detriment of workers and Filipinos.

“One hundred fifty-two years after Bonifacio was born, Filipino workers are suffering from worsening hunger, poverty and indebtedness as a result of starvation wages. And the Philippines continues to be treated as a colony of big foreign powers,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said that had Bonifacio been alive today, he would surely champion the workers’ call for a P125 across-the-board wage hike, which seeks to correct the decades of meager adjustments approved by the country’s wage boards amidst the soaring prices of basic goods and payments for services.

“We are calling on workers to emulate the heroism of Bonifacio and fight for our economic and political interests and for our motherland. Filipino workers will continue to be exploited and oppressed until the country is set free from present-day colonialism,” added Labog.

The protestors wore red scarves like those worn by members of the Katipunan, the secret society that was formed and led by Bonifacio, to signify their pledge to fight for workers’ rights and for national liberation.

Workers didn’t feel 6% GDP growth – KMU

P1190264
“What growth?”

This was national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno’s response to the 6 percent expansion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in this year’s third quarter, saying workers did not feel the reported growth in their wages, job security and trade-union rights.

The labor group said working conditions continue to deteriorate as wages continue to be pressed down, contractual employment continues to be promoted, and trade-union rights continue to be violated.

It cited flag carrier Philippine Airlines’ retrenchment of 117 workers in September, who will be replaced by agency workers despite PAL Holdings’ reported P5.8 billion net income in the first half of 2015. The amount is a ten-fold increase from P560 million in the same period in 2014.

“Without a significant wage increase, without the regularization of contractuals, and without the free exercise of trade-union rights, GDP growth means nothing to workers. It could only mean growth for the economic elite,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader reiterated workers’ demands for a P125 across-the-board wage hike, the enactment of a National Minimum Wage in the amount of P750 for private-sector workers, the banning of contractualization, and a stop to union busting.

“Workers’ demands for improvements in working conditions remain unheeded by the government. The overall effect is not growth but worsening hunger, poverty and indebtedness among workers and most Filipinos,” Labog added.

KMU cited independent think-tank Ibon Foundation’s claim that the GDP growth is still exclusionary for failing to solve the country’s job crisis, with unemployed and underemployed Filipinos numbering at 12.3 million in July 2015.

“The government and big capitalists claim that workers have to accept lower wages, contractual employment and trade-union repression so that the country can create more jobs. The country’s economic policies are clearly flawed because they result in worsening unemployment and worsening working conditions,” Labog stated.

Labog also said that only a shift in government policy towards land reform and building national industries can solve unemployment and at the same time improve working conditions for Filipinos.

Aquino gov’t, enemy of tax relief for ordinary Filipinos

12308833_1640736079533983_1786755657116704118_n

Last Tuesday, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said moves to decrease ordinary Filipinos’ income taxes will no longer prosper in Congress. He said Congress does not have enough time for the measures and that it “should have more time for bigger reform.”

Lack of time is a lame excuse for not passing bills seeking lower income taxes. The truth is that the Aquino government is an enemy of tax relief for ordinary Filipinos. Pres. Noynoy Aquino himself demanded that proponents of tax relief come up with proposals to replace the P30-billion revenue which the government will supposedly lose if tax relief measures are approved.

The recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit surely has something to do with the Aquino government’s firmer opposition to tax relief measures. APEC surely reiterated the dictates of big foreign capitalists and financial institutions to governments of underdeveloped countries to carry out fiscal austerity.

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, among other financial institutions want the government to increase tax collection so it can put more money to paying the foreign debt.

This, despite the fact that Filipinos are shouldering some of the biggest income taxes in Southeast Asia, even as the country has the third lowest per-capita income among APEC countries.

The call for tax relief for ordinary Filipinos is most just. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares’ House Bill 5401 or the Personal Income Tax Reform Bill, which seeks to reduce the income taxes of the middle class, and exempt low-income families earning a maximum of P396,000 annually from income tax, should be passed immediately.

Ordinary workers and employees are overworked, underpaid and overtaxed. Congress should work double time to pass the Personal Income Tax Reform Bill before it adjourns. This bill’s passage is much-needed by Filipinos and is long overdue.

Suppression of APEC protests hit

Photo from philstar.com AP/Bullit Marquez
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the suppression of protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, claiming the government defended those responsible for the country’s poverty and underdevelopment against the condemnation of workers and the poor.

The labor group said that from November 16 to 19, the Philippine National Police used an increasing amount of force against protestors and that the agency is “makapal ang mukha (shameless)” for threatening protest leaders with lawsuits.

“Instead of respecting the Filipino workers’ and people’s right to assert that their demands be heard, the Aquino government responded with an overkill amount of force. It clearly sided with big capitalists and powerful governments against Filipinos,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said eight activists from the labor sector were wounded or seriously hurt or both in the protest last Thursday along Buendia Avenue in Pasay City, against which the police used truncheons.

Among these are: Steve Ranjo and Genero Paredog of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON and Bironico Pardillo, Nilo Juayang, Sonny Aguinaldo, and Allan Bacara, strikers of Golden Fortune Techno Built, Inc.

Also wounded and seriously hurt were Bonifacio Cuello of the NXPSCI Workers’ Union and Rea Alegre, spokesperson of broad campaign network All Workers’ Unity. Ranjo and Alegre suffered head wounds after being hit by stones thrown from the ranks of the police.

“We condemn the Aquino government and the PNP for their use of violence against protestors. We are studying the possibility of filing administrative charges against government and police officials involved before the Ombudsman,” Adonis added.

KMU also condemned the PNP’s use of a loud speaker which played dance music to try to counter the sound coming from last Thursday’s protest and to try to disrupt the protestors’ program.

“The Aquino government continues to use new ways of suppressing dissent because it fails to come up with answers to the demands of workers and the people. Stifling the voices of workers and the people has never been, and will never be, music to our ears,” Adonis stated.

APEC declaration: intensifying war vs. workers, peoples of the world

P1190298 (2)
The “23rd Declaration of APEC Leaders” is no less than a declaration of intensifying war against the workers and peoples of the world.

It professes loyalty to neoliberal “globalization” policies that favor big foreign capitalists, especially financial capitalists, to the detriment of workers and ordinary peoples. It reaffirms APEC’s commitment to the widely-discredited World Trade Organization and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which subjects member-countries to neoliberal economic policies more forcefully.

It professes loyalty to the US’ “war on terror” and “Pivot to Asia,” which means greater US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and support for the US’ wars of aggression against governments and political forces that stand in the way of the US’ economic and geo-political interests. For the Philippines, it will mean more human-rights violations by the US-backed Philippine military.

APEC 2015 will worsen the effects of APEC 1996 on the economy of the Philippines. It will further weaken the country’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors, which are key to generating employment, in favor of the services sector. It will therefore result in greater joblessness and lower quality of jobs for Filipinos. Wages will continue to be depressed, contractual jobs will continue to be promoted, and trade-union rights will continue to be attacked and violated.

APEC 2015’s stated commitment to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises is worrisome for workers. In the past, MSMEs have been used by big capitalists as excuse to further press down wages, spread contractual employment, and stop unions from being formed. At the same time, the problems which MSMEs really confronted were ignored: high power and water rates, huge taxes and government kickbacks, wanton trade liberalization and smuggling, and poor infrastructure.

APEC 2015’s statements on disaster preparedness look good on paper, but are too little and too late when compared with the demands from people’s organizations and non-government organizations. No amount of declarations on disaster preparedness will save lives and rebuild communities if governments, like that of Aquino, are corrupt to the core and indifferent to the suffering of the people. This government has only used “disaster preparedness” to pocket international donations.

Needless to say, the sacrifices which the Filipino workers and people were asked to endure are not “temporary disruptions” but a foretaste of the bigger suffering that APEC will bring in the coming years and decades.

The future of the Filipino workers and people under APEC is bleak. We therefore call on workers and all Filipinos to intensify our struggle against neoliberal policies, all of which are anti-worker and anti-poor. Let us intensify our struggle for land, higher wages, job security and free exercise of trade-union rights. Let us intensify our struggle for national and social liberation. There can be no genuine development for a country that continues to be shackled to neocolonial rule.