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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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