[On Duterte’s first 100 days] Turn anti-US stance into pro-Filipino economic policies – KMU

 

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This is the Filipino workers’ challenge to Duterte after his first one hundred days in office: translate your independent foreign policy towards a pro-Filipino economic framework. By this we mean working towards a self-reliant economy through national industrialization and genuine land reform.

 

Workers fully support the President’s assertion of the country’s sovereignty against foreign intervention. We urge Duterte to immediately put into writing his assertions for an independent foreign policy. He can start by issuing an order to junk the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which allow increased US military presence and permanent basing in the country in gross violation of our sovereignty.

 

However, the President’s independent foreign policy cannot be fully realized if his administration’s economic framework remain subservient to US dictated neoliberal policies of privatization, liberalization, deregulation and denationalization. Such policies have subjected Filipino workers and people to decades of worsening hunger and poverty.

 

We strongly urge President Duterte to junk his administration’s 10-point economic agenda which blatantly negates his pro-worker, pro-people and patriotic sentiments. The programs drafted by his economic managers are mere photocopies of previous administration’s neoliberal economic policies that paved the way for widespread labor contractualization and further pressing down of workers’ wages through wage rationalization.

 

President Duterte can choose to take the path towards developing a genuinely self-reliant national economy by adopting as his economic development program the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’s draft for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) of National Industrialization and Genuine Land Reform. The administration can draft policies to assert majority Filipino ownership of vital industries and enterprises with rural agro-industrial development as its backbone.

On Dee’s tirades against Usec Maglunsod

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We condemn Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) chairman emeritus Donald Dee for resorting to tirades against Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod to undermine workers’ demands for a significant wage hike.

 

As a known despotic anti-worker and anti-poor capitalist, it is not surprising that Mr. Dee would reject Maglunsod’s proposal for a General Wage Increase through a P125 across-the-board wage hike. What enrages us most is that he is resorting to arrogant and senseless tirades against a pro-worker government official to desperately assert the ECOP’s age-old absurd argument of pitting jobs against wages which have long been debunked by workers and labor researchers.

 

A significant wage hike can and should be given to workers. Increasing workers’ wages would not result in loss of jobs if it would be deducted from capitalists’ ever-increasing profits.

 

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 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, P481 in the NCR, does not even come half of the estimated P1,096 family living wage. A P125 across-the-board wage hike has been long overdue and already falls short to give immediate relief to workers.

 

Workers are now calling for a significant wage hike through the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of P750 a day for private sector workers. This would serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst their worsening hunger and poverty. It would also counter the disparity of wages in the caused by the Wage Rationalization Law and bring the current minimum wage closer to the Family Living Wage.

 

The problem with Mr. Dee is that he is too greedy. He is sticking with their lie that increasing wages would result in job loss while denying the fact that a significant wage hike, through the National Minimum Wage of P750, would only be a 30% decrease in their profits as per independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s research. This leaves them with 70% of clean profits to pocket.

 

Studies also show that workers’ wages are at the least of the worries even of small businesses in the country as labor costs only amounts to 10% of their total production costs. The high cost of electricity, poor infrastructure, red tape in the government and widespread smuggling and influx of cheap imports remain the major deterrents in businesses in the country.

 

Another glaring fact Mr. Dee refuses to recognize is that there has been no significant wage hike for decades yet unemployment in the country has drastically worsened. Workers’ wages have already been left out by the ever-increasing prices of goods and services while capitalists’ profits have been constantly increasing at unprecedented rates.

 

Chronic unemployment is a result of widespread landlessness in the countrysides and the backward and import-dependent Philippine economy. The only way to address this is through genuine land reform and national industrialization which are the main socio-economic reforms being pushed by workers in the on-going peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

 

Oligarchs and foreign big businesses represented by Mr. Dee are threatened by President Duterte’s pro-worker and pro-people initiatives. Mr. Dee is using Maglungsod’s appointment as an excuse to defy the Presidents’ marching orders to end contractualization and to implement a National Minimum Wage.

 

We urge President Duterte to stand for Usec Maglunsod against the anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-Filipino oligarchs such as Mr. Dee and his foreign big business masters.

Put anti-EDCA and anti-Balikatan statements to writing, Duterte urged

 

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno urged President Rodrigo Duterte to put into writing his consistent statements against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the US-RP Balikatan Exercises.

 

“We support President Duterte’s assertion against EDCA and to end the US-RP Balikatan Exercises. It has long been a demand of Filipino workers to end these unequal treaties that allows the US and other foreign powers to violate our sovereignty and meddle with internal affairs” KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

 

In a protest at the US embassy in time for the opening of the US-RP Balikatan Exercises in Subic, the KMU called on President Duterte to immediately issue an executive order terminating the EDCA which workers claim allows increased deployment and permanent basing of US troops in the country.

 

“The President can immediately junk the EDCA as it is mere executive agreement entered by the previous US lackey Aquino government. EDCA has allowed the US to re-occupy the Philippines by increased troop deployment and establishment of their permanent bases in the country” Labog said.

 

The labor leader meanwhile condemned National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay for contradicting the Presidents’ assertion to end the Balikatan Exercises calling Esperon and Yasay’s statements as a “shameless revision” of Duterte’s patriotic stance.

 

“It is alarming that some officials in the Duterte administration is singing a different tune from the President. To avoid defiance by pro-US officials in his administration, Duterte should turn his assertion of an independent foreign policy into concrete and written declarations” Labog said.

 

KMU assured Duterte that Filipino workers are willing to support his assertion of an independent foreign policy against pro-US oligarchs and officials from outside and within his administration.

 

“The US will use all its power to undermine Duterte’s assertion of an independent foreign policy. Pro-US elements are deeply embedded in institutions outside and even within his administration. If Duterte cannot get support from his officials, we assure him that Filipino workers are willing to back his assertion of our sovereignty against US and other foreign intervention once he has turned it into actual, concrete and written policies” Labog said.

 

 

Labog however insisted that the President’s assertion of an independent foreign policy should also be reflected in the administrations’ economic agenda and should be aimed at promoting workers’ rights and welfare against US-dictated neoliberal economic policies.

 

“Duterte’s foreign policy shift should also be aimed at rejecting US-dictated economic policies of promoting cheap, contractual and docile labor by implementing a National Minimum Wage and ending contractualization. In the long run, Duterte should adopt National Industrialization and genuine land reform as an economic policy to promote an independent, pro-people and developed national economy” said Labog.

On DOLE’s first 100 days, still no concrete step to end contractualization  

 

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Hundreds of workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno trooped the Department of Labor and Employment’s office to present their critique on the labor department’s first 100 days.

 

In a protest held in time for the DOLE’s labor sector dialogue on labor issues and policies, the KMU insisted that until now, the labor department has taken no concrete step towards fulfilling President Duterte’s commitment to end contractualization.

 

“We weighed the DOLE’s efforts to heed our workers’ pressing demand to end contractualization. Clearly, the labor department has taken no concrete steps to fulfill the President’s commitment,” Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, said.

 

The labor leader claimed that the labor department’s efforts to address contractualization does not directly respond to our workers’ demands for regular jobs.

 

“The recently issued Department Order 162 and Labor Advisory 10 are not aimed at ending contractualization. These merely reiterates the provisions of the DO 18-A which workers have long been demanding to be junked for institutionalizing labor contractualization” Labog said.

 

During the labor dialogue, KMU presented a draft of workers’ proposed Department Order to replace the “anti-worker” DO 18-A. According to Labog, their proposed DO aims to “strengthen workers’ rights to security of tenure by asserting that principal employers should have full responsibility for their workers while labor contractors should be considered as mere agents”.

 

The KMU also slammed the government’s so-called “win-win” solution to contractualization saying it would surely be a “lose-lose” situation for workers.

 

“Regularization through labor contractors further weakens workers’ security of tenure as it ceases any employer-employee relationship between workers and the principal employer,” said Labog.

 

Labog meanwhile expressed alarm over the appointment of well-known management lawyers in key positions in the DOLE saying these officials are out to sabotage the Filipino workers’ unity with President Duterte to end contractualization.

 

“We urge secretary Bello not to listen to, and if possible kick-out, these scumbags from the DOLE! These pro-capitalists lawyers are openly defying the Presidents’ marching orders by rejecting our workers’ legitimate demands to end contractualization in order to protect their personal and business interests,” Labog said.

 

On the other hand, KMU is looking forward a positive unity with the DOLE in implementing a National Minimum Wage of seven-hundred and fifty pesos a day for public sector workers saying it could serve as an immediate relief amidst the worsening hunger and poverty among workers.

 

“We are glad that the Duterte administration is one with workers in seeking to implement a national minimum wage to par wages in provinces to wages in Metro Manila. However, we will be vigilant and assertive in demanding concrete steps to make sure this will be implemented as soon as possible” Labog said.

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.