Terrorist tag vs. CPP-NPA should not hinder detainees’ release – KMU

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Today, we hold a protest in front of Camp Crame in time for a hearing on the trumped-up charges against Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and alleged senior cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

The US government’s recent tagging of the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations should not hinder the release of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and other detained labor rights defenders and political detainees as promised by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

The US government again labelled the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations in order to block the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDFP, which was promised by Duterte. It also made the declaration in order to prevent the release of detained labor rights defenders and political detainees like the Tiamzons.

In the first place, it is the US government, not the CPP-NPA, which is the terrorist organization. It has been responsible for the death of millions of workers and people in the Philippines and the world because of its wars of aggression. It tags as “terrorist” organizations like the CPP-NPA which struggle against its wars of aggression and plunder of economies of underdeveloped countries like the Philippines.

The Tiamzons and other labor rights defenders and political detainees should not have been arrested in the first place. The Tiamzons should have been immune from arrest, because they are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG between the government and the NDFP. They are consultants in the peace talks between the government and the NDFP and were unarmed at the time of their arrest.

The cases filed against the Tiamzons and other detained labor rights defenders and political detainees are fake and were created with the aim of justifying their illegal detention by the government. These were filed by the now-defunct Inter-Agency Legal Action Group or IALAG, which was created precisely to file fake charges against NDFP consultants and leaders of revolutionary and progressive organizations.

The bones that were presented before the court as evidence against the Tiamzons and other detained labor rights defenders and political detainees were questioned at the most recent court hearing. It appears that these do not belong to humans, but to animals, and that prosecutors were not able to establish whose bones these are.

OJT irregularities at PSU should be probed – KMU

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We are calling for an investigation into an anomaly in the On-the-Job training program of the Pangasinan State University. We are also calling for support for Dharel dela Cruz, a business administration student of the university, who is a victim and the whistleblower in the anomaly.

Dela Cruz, a business administration student of the university, has been hospitalized because his lungs collapsed due to a respiratory ailment resulting from his OJT program at a pharmaceutical factory in Laguna.

Dela Cruz was not treated as a trainee, but as a contractual employee. His OJT program was facilitated by JIF Manpower and Referral Services. PSU administrators are washing their hands over the issue.

The incident exposes the following:
(1) Unsafe workplace conditions in the pharmaceutical factory that are unfit even for workers,
(2) The common practice of capitalists of assigning student trainees and contractuals to the most unsafe jobs,
(3) The use of labor contractors for shady transactions aimed at shielding capitalists, and now school administrators, from responsibility,
(4) The task of school administrators of guaranteeing their students’ safety in their OJT programs and ensuring that OJT programs should be about education, not capitalist exploitation, and
(5) The prevailing thrust of OJT programs to exploit students as workers.

The general objective of OJT programs should be clarified. They should aim at enabling students to learn jobs, not at enabling capitalists to exploit students. While only a thin line exists between the two in a society dominated by big foreign and local capitalists, the emphasis should be clear. This has implications for the intensity of the trainings and the setup for their implementation.

Labor agencies should be abolished in line with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of ending contractualization. Their continued existence in the modus operandi for carrying out contractualization is a bane to Filipino workers. The distinction between legitimate and fly-by-night contractors should be abandoned, together with the distinction between labor-only contracting and job contracting.

Duterte urged to stop Fabella privatization

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File Photo.

Joining protests in time for the scheduled eviction of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno appealed to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to speak out against the hospital’s eviction and impending privatization.

The labor group said Health Secretary Janette Garin and Pres. Noynoy Aquino leave defenders of the country’s biggest maternity hospital with no other option but to seek help from the president-elect.

“Unlike Aquino and Garin, Duterte has shown willingness to listen to the clamor of workers and the poor. We are calling on the president-elect to do everything he can to stop the closure and privatization of Fabella, which is very important for workers and the poor,” said Nitz Gonzaga, KMU vice-chair for women’s affairs.

While a news item stating that Duterte has already spoken out against the hospital’s eviction has been circulating in social media, the Save Fabella Hospital Movement claims that it has yet to receive a formal response to its letter addressed to the president-elect.

“Those who are saying that Fabella’s buildings are unsound are the same people who allowed the hospital’s structure to rot for years. They are the advocates of the hospital’s privatization and the denial of affordable maternal and prenatal care from workers and the poor,” added Gonzaga.

The labor leader said only four out of Fabella’s eight buildings were found to be unsafe, but all eight buildings are scheduled to be demolished, and that the hospital will be transferred to a piece of land also not owned by it.

“What the government should do is stop the eviction, stop the demolition, give the land to the hospital, and fund the hospital’s improvement. What we have been seeing is the government committing crime after crime against the hospital and its patients, the climax of which is the hospital’s eviction,” Gonzaga stated.

Clenched-fist salute to Muhammad Ali

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“I am the greatest,” so Muhammad Ali declared.

And he was, not just in evading punches and delivering them, but in using the platforms available to him to speak out for African-Americans and against the US government’s imperialist wars of aggression.

To African-Americans of his generation, Ali’s refusal to serve in the US army to fight in Vietnam articulated what most of them were feeling: How dare the US government order them to burn, kill, and pillage small villages half a world away when in their own country they were treated as subhumans?

How can the US government bring about freedom and democracy in other countries when it is inflicting iron-fist rule of monopoly-capitalists on African-Americans and the majority in its very country?

Ali shunned his given name Cassius Marcellus Clay, saying it was his slave name and changed it to Muhammad Ali after joining the militant Nation of Islam. Because of his political leanings, he endured harrasments by the government. His boxing license was revoked during the prime of his career and was jailed. He was also targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency. Yet he remained steadfast in his progressive views.

We hope that athletes and sports heroes in the Philippines and the world over will follow the shining example set by Muhammad Ali. It takes more, much more than brilliance in one’s field of sports to be a champion for the workers and peoples of the world. It takes the courage to stand up for what is right, to stand up against the wealthy and the powerful who rule unjustly over the world.

The workers of the Philippines raise our clenched fists in honoring Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.

SSS pension hike rejection by 16th Congress hit

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We condemn House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and the entire leadership of the House of Representatives for rejecting the move to override Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s veto of the P2,000 hike in Social Security System pensions.

Belmonte and the House leadership acted like Aquino’s stooge until the very end. They remained true to Aquino’s thrust of refusing or thwarting any form of immediate relief for ordinary Filipinos. They refused to heed workers’ and Filipinos’ clamor for change until the very end. Their rejection of the override, while predictable, is still revolting for SSS pensioners, workers, and all Filipinos.

We reiterate our praise for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to implement the P2,000 SSS pension hike. We urge him to take the fastest route towards granting the pension hike. If he grants the pension hike immediately, he will further emphasize his difference from the heartless Aquino, the end of whose anti-worker and anti-poor reign most Filipinos are eagerly waiting for.

Protests held in SSS offices nationwide

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Several offices of the Social Security System across the country were picketed this morning by pensioners, senior citizens, their families, workers and other sectors of society calling for a P2,000 across-the-board hike in pensions, which Pres. Noynoy Aquino vetoed two weeks ago.

The protestors, led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, held pickets in front of SSS offices in Quezon City, Baguio, Calamba, Legaspi, Iloilo, Kalibo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Davao cities and claimed that they won’t stop holding protests until the pension hike is implemented.

Calling their action “Kalampagin ang SSS,” the protestors called on senior citizens lining up for their pensions inside the SSS offices to join them and banged empty pots and pans as they shouted their call “Pensyon sa SSS, dagdagan, dagdagan! Across-the-board, two thousand!”

“No amount of silence from Aquino and no amount of lies from his publicists would stop the clamor for a P2,000 pension hike. Those in favor of the pension hike are getting angrier and eager to join protests and other activities to speak out,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader said many of those who have been following the issue were not convinced with Aquino’s excuse that the SSS would go bankrupt if the pension hike is approved.

“Many of those who have an interest in this issue know that the SSS has the funds for the pension hike, that the SSS can and must do a lot of things to extend its fund life, and that the government can even subsidize the pension hike. There’s no way Aquino can convince pensioners and their supporters to give up,” Soluta added.

KMU called on pensioners and all workers and Filipinos to join the January 30 activity at the Quezon City Memorial Circle titled “Sama-Samang Sigaw” which is expected to be the biggest gathering so far of those clamoring for a pension hike.

SSS veto naysayers belittled by workers

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, together with other progressive organizations, picketed the House of Representatives this morning to call on lawmakers to override Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s veto of the P2,000 hike in Social Security System pensions.

The labor group claimed that statements like those of House Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s, who said that the override is “unlikely,” are only further fanning the flames of anger of SSS pensioners, senior citizens, their families, workers and all Filipinos.

“We condemn those who say that the veto override is not possible. Contrary to their intention, they are inciting Filipinos to make the clamor for a P2,000 across-the-board pension hike even louder,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader called on SSS pensioners, senior citizens, their families, workers and all Filipinos to join upcoming protests aimed at displaying the broad clamor for the demand.

“If all Filipinos who favor the pension hike would only speak out, unite, and act, nothing is impossible. Aquino and his naysayers want the clamor to stop, but the fight is just starting for many Filipinos,” Soluta added.

KMU, the Action against Contractualization and Towards a Significant Wage Increase Now! (ACT2WIN!), the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and senior citizen groups are calling on Filipinos to join a January 30 protest in Quezon City Memorial Circle.

A nationwide protest in front of SSS offices is also being planned on January 28 to show widespread disgust over SSS executives’ defense of the veto despite the millions of pesos that they pocketed in salaries and bonuses.

“We are calling on all SSS pensioners, senior citizens, their families, workers and Filipinnos to join the said protests. Now is the time to be heard. Let us intensify the fight until we get our legitimate demand,” Soluta stated.

KMU is also leading a “Zero Vote” campaign against presidentiable Mar Roxas, vice-presidentiable Leni Robredo, senatoriable and PhilHealth director Risa Hontiveros, and partylist Akbayan, a member of the Daang Matuwid coalition.

Justice for Mamasapano deaths!

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Today, we mark the first anniversary of the Mamasapano bloodbath by joining protests calling for justice.

We point to the US government, Pres. Noynoy Aquino and his chief accomplice in the Philippine National Police, Alan Purisima, as the masterminds behind this crime. The regime’s lies have failed to insulate the main culprits from blame in the eyes of the Filipino workers and people.

We demand the jailing of Aquino and Purisima over this crime. Former Department of Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas did not at the very least condemn Aquino and Purisima for bypassing him in launching the botched operation. He deserves to lose his presidential bid for this.

We demand the junking of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, and other agreements that legalize US military presence in the country. Ultimately, we seek to rid the country of the domination of the US and its allies among the ruling classes.

Mamasapano shows the real face of the so-called “war on terror” of the US. The target was spawned by decades of US brutality towards Muslims and the oppressed workers and peoples of the world. It entailed the violation of the sovereignty of a puppet state and the death of military forces and native populations of the neocolony.

Aquino will go down in history as one of Philippine presidents who are most subservient to the US. We condemn him for allowing the unhampered flight of US drones in Philippine airspace and entry of US ships into Philippine territory. We condemn him for allowing the participation of US troops in combat operations and approving an agreement that legalizes the building of US bases all over the country.

Fare rollback should stop at P7.00

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The big-time rollback in global oil prices and even the meager rollbacks in domestic oil prices indeed deserve a rollback in jeepney fares. But unless a big-time rollback in domestic oil prices in the vicinity of P5.00 per liter is carried out, we believe that the rollback in the basic jeepney fares should stop at P7.00.

We should exercise compassion towards the country’s jeepney drivers. They are some of the hardest working Filipinos and are some of the hardest on cash. Before the latest rollback, most of the jeepney drivers in Metro Manila were taking home no more than P400 a day, below the P481 minimum wage in the region.

The rollback in jeepney fares is just crumbs compared with the effects of more important measures that the government should take in response to the big-time rollbacks in oil prices worldwide:

(1) It should order the Big 3 oil cartel to implement an even bigger price rollbacks. Studies show that they should have lowered their the per liter prices of diesel and gasoline by P8.00 and P15.00 respectively but have refused to do so until now.

(2) It should order a rollback in fares for the MRT and LRT, which depend on oil for their operation. The fact that MRT and LRT fares are unresponsive to oil prices exposes the layers upon layers of anomalous privatization contracts that are burdensome to all Filipinos.

(3) It should order a rollback in power and water rates. This is also another area where anomalous privatization contracts that are burdensome to Filipinos hinder service rates from being responsive to lower oil prices.

While domestic oil prices have been decreasing, vehicular traffic, especially in Metro Manila, has been getting worse. The unbearable traffic, which has been worsened by the Aquino government’s policies, is taking its toll on the earnings of jeepney drivers.

Si Aquino, ang kinakaya-kaya lagi ay ang mga drayber, manggagawa at maralita sa pagtatanggol sa interes ng malalaking kapitalista at haciendero (Aquino has always been thugging up on jeepney drivers, workers and the poor in defending the interests of big capitalists and landlords).

Labor conditions worse, DOLE lying

labor worse
The Department of Labor and Employment is lying in saying that labor conditions in the country have improved. The condition of  wages, employment, trade-union rights and workplace safety remain dire.

Even if the DOLE’s claims about more frequent labor inspections and faster resolution of labor cases are true, these have not significantly altered the prevalence of low wages, contractual employment, and violations of trade-union rights and Occupational Health and Safety Standards.

Even if the DOLE’s claims about summer employment programs for the youth and the availability of information on jobs in the Internet are true, these have not brought about a better employment condition in the country.

It appears that the DOLE made the fantastic claim that labor conditions have improved in the country in order to please the International Labor Organization, the Asian Development Bank, the Canadian government, and other funders of its programs.

The truth is that labor conditions have worsened in the past years. Funding from foreign governments and institutions can do little to improve the plight of Filipino workers, but they can at least be used to expose this plight. The DOLE’s failure to truthfully present the condition of workers indicates that funds may have been pocketed by its top officials.

Wages. Independent think-tank Ibon Foundation has said this month that the minimum wage was barely increased under Pres. Noynoy Aquino and that its gap with the Family Living Wage grew in recent years.

We ask the DOLE: What happened to companies’ compliance with the minimum wage? The October 2011 National Labor Force Survey showed that 46 percent of the country’s wage and salary workers were receiving wages below the minimum.

Contractualization. The DOLE itself has not updated data on contractualization and we have every reason to believe that contractuals now comprise the majority of workers, both in the private and public sectors.

Employment. In a July 2015 study, Ibon Foundation said that the country is experiencing the worst jobs crisis in history, with 4.3 million unemployed and 7.9 million underemployed.

Union busting. When workers try to form unions, they are massively retrenched. How many capitalists have the DOLE punished for this widespread crime? What has the DOLE done to render justice to the workers of Tanduay Distillers, Inc., Pentagon Steel Corporation, and other companies who faced violence in their picket lines?

Occupational Health and Safety. Even the DOLE’s inspection failed to prevent the death of more than 72 workers in the factory fire that gutted Kentex Manufacturing Corporation last May 13, 2015. The agency has so refused to aid victims in their quest for justice.