Aquino no longer deserves any support from workers and trade unions #endcorporategreed

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THE workers and the trade unions throughout the world mark today the International Labor Day – 125th anniversary globally and 112th celebration here in the Philippines. This historic and revered day has been an enduring and stirring symbol for the working class despite serious setbacks caused by multipronged and systematic neoliberal attacks against the workers, the masses and their organizations, which have seriously threatened to dilute if not totally wipe out the hard-fought sociopolitical gains achieved by the labor movement in the past hundred years or so.

Our observance of May Day this year coincides with the Aquino government’s remaining one year in office highlighted by its legacies of an illusion of prosperity; selective anti-corruption drive; lackluster support if not outright rejection of many progressive proposals like the FOI (freedom of information) bill, deprivatization of public utilities, fast-tracking agrarian reform program, refusing neoliberal economic programs being imposed by multilateral institutions, among others; consenting to US interference in the country’s internal security policy; and rebuffing the trade unions and the civil society.

Mass poverty is deteriorating despite the overhyped economic “growths” or successive GDP (gross domestic product) increases since Benigno Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010. Ironically, the only thing constant in wealth issue here is that the majority poor are becoming poorer while the few rich are getting richer – the top 20-percent richest Filipinos own and control almost 50% percent (and counting) of the country’s wealth. What Aquino has attained is clearly not an inclusive growth as the GDP hikes are primarily translated into bigger profits for the country’s top corporations and increased assets for a handful of wealthy families every year.

FURTHER demonstrating this sham growth, the national economy has been unable to create sufficient, secure and decent jobs. Much of the employments claimed by the government in 2014 only are of poor quality. Hence, about 90 percent or 918,000 of the 1.02 million additional jobs last year were merely part-time work or those who worked for less than 40 hours. Still included here are self-employed workers (407,000) and those who worked without pay or unpaid family workers (292,000). No wonder millions of Filipinos seek better jobs and pays abroad despite the risks; thus, there would be many other Mary Jane Velosos to emerge.

The acclaims for Aquino’s so-called “tuwid na daan” anticorruption campaign and “reform agenda” will come to naught because of his stubborn loyalty to and tolerance of corrupt and incompetent subordinates. His efforts will be reduced to nothing but a “grand double standard show.”

What Aquino is saying is increasingly becoming contradictory to what he is actually doing. For instance, while declaring “war” against corruption and other anomalies, he miserably failed to actively back the passage of the FOI bill – it could have greatly assisted in prosecuting or even preventing graft and corruption – which has been languishing for years in Congress. Likewise, he kept on parroting the worn out “free market” mantra in rejecting government intervention in inept public utility firms run by private companies (MRT-LRT, for example), which, for their bungling services, wanted the consumers to pay more! As expected, he has been abiding by the key neoliberal economic programs dictated by the likes of the World Trade Organization (WTO). And remember the land distribution under the agrarian reform program? Decades after it was launched by his mother in the late ’80s and a little one year left in his term, tens of thousands of hectares of lands are yet to be given to beneficiaries.

The Mamasapano incident has exposed the very obvious direct role of and cover-up attempts by Aquino in this tragedy, which resulted to the tragic and needless deaths of dozens of police troopers, Moro fighters and innocent civilians. It also utterly disregarded all the ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF and thus gravely jeopardizing the hard earned peace process. In fact, it enabled rightwing hawks and demagogues to fan the flames of Islamophobia and knee-jerk call to arms, and to demand the scrapping of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Finally, it confirmed – although still downplayed – the undue influence or even unconstitutional engagements of the US on our foreign policy and internal security policy.

MOREOVER, SENTRO and its allied organizations in the labor movement, especially the NAGKAISA labor coalition, have through the years been dismayed by Aquino’s penchant to easily rebuff, if not show contempt for, our key labor, trade union and social demands.

From the very outset, Aquino practically ridiculed the SOT (security of tenure) bill in Congress, which could have significantly arrested the worsening contractualization that in turn perpetrates precarious work, cheap wages, measly benefits, and rampant violations of a long list of labor and trade union rights. He even claimed – and copied the wild theory devoid of empirical data – that 10 million workers would lose their jobs if the SOT bill is enacted into law! As a result, the predominantly pro-capitalist and pro-Aquino legislators have sat on the bill and thus it remains pending.

Unlike Aquino’s absurd theory on SOT, there is a study – ironically by the IMF or the International Monetary Fund no less – with empirical data to boot, which links rising inequality to the declining trade union membership. Falling number of union members is one of the principal effects of the absence of security of tenure since only regular workers (not contractuals) are allowed to join unions. The research’s (“Power from the People,” Finance and Development, March 2015, Vol. 52, No. 1) apparently simple but highly logical explanation is that with less union members, less workers are covered by CBAs (collective bargaining agreements). With less CBA coverage, fewer workers enjoy the benefits of supposed economic growth resulting to greater inequality. Likewise, fewer workers benefiting from this growth means fewer workers are effectively participating in the economy, which ultimately means a weaker economy.

THEREFORE, by persistently repudiating the SOT bill – as well as other pro-worker and pro-union policies – Aquino has actually exacerbated the inequality in the country!

Aquino has also openly reneged on his promise – during the elections and upon occupying Malacañang – that he would regularly sit down with labor representatives to prove that his “tuwid na daan” governance truly addresses the issues and concerns of the workers. In particular, Aquino vowed that there would be at least one labor-government meeting every quarter of each year. As it turned out, Aquino’s “dialogue” with labor leaders in April 2014 (preceded by a May 2012 meeting) was only their third and last meeting – with just a little over a year left in his term!

This could have likely prompted the eventual failure of labor’s key legislative and social demands to be certified as urgent measures by Malacañang and Congress: the SOT and FOI bills (as already cited); reasonable not almost worthless wage increases; substantial tax breaks for minimum wage earners; lowering the costs of electricity, transportation fares and other basic services and commodities; firm resolve to end the rising extrajudicial killings (EJKs), especially of trade union and social activists, journalists, etc.

ON THIS HALLOWED DAY for all workers and the organized labor, SENTRO, together with the NAGKAISA, will reassert our final break with the government of Aquino for his dismal record on promoting and protecting labor and trade union rights, and for turning his back on us by breaking his promises to us during his presidential campaign and early into his term when he needed us most. The workers and other basic sectors of society and their organizations hereby end any cooperation to his administration.

Let us take control again of the streets of Manila, Lipa, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Cotabato and elsewhere to project working class unity and reaffirm our commitment to the historic mission of the working class to build a better world.

Mabuhay ang SENTRO!
Mabuhay ang NAGKAISA!
Mabuhay ang pagdiriwang ng Mayo Uno, ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Paggawa!
Mabuhay ang kilusang paggawa sa Pilipinas at sa buong mundo!
Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa!
Uring manggagawa, hukbong mapagpalaya!

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Abad should irrevocably resign now; promptly convict Napoles and all her cohorts, including top gov’t officials; full auditing of DAP; abolish all pork barrels

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BUDGET Secretary Florencio Abad must irrevocably resign now to ensure an impartial investigation and full audit of the illegal presidential Disbursement Acceleration Program, which should pave the way for abolishing all forms of pork barrel and prosecuting all those who plundered and misused the public funds, including Janet Lim-Napoles and her cohorts who looted both the DAP and its congressional counterpart, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

This was reiterated by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa while President Aquino expectedly reaffirms his intransigence in defending Abad and the DAP during today’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) overshadowing his usual economic “growth” reports – despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that essentially declared DAP as unconstitutional.

“There must be full, honest and independent accounting of the DAP, which requires a complete and untainted list and description of DAP projects to be scrutinized, as well as who requested or received or managed the funds that were released,” Frank Mero, Sentro chair, emphasized.

Sentro also expressed its suspicion on the belated and piecemeal approach of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in issuing lists of DAP projects both on its website and press releases, and more so why it continues to withhold disclosing all the DAP project proponents, especially Aquino’s partymates and other political allies.

Reports said that this enormous and potent presidential discretionary fund allegedly reached close to P353 billion “illegally” sourced from state savings and unprogrammed funds in two years only or from 2011, when the DAP was started, to 2012.

The DBM countered that the available fund in that period was P136.75 billion “only” and a total of P114.57 billion was actually used. However, revealing its inconsistency, the DBM later reported that it released DAP funds amounting to P75.1 billion in 2011 and P53.2 billion in 2012 – or a total of P128.3 billion – aside from P16 billion in 2013.

Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, retorted that whatever the amount and legally aside, “the DAP and all other ‘pork’ for that matter are primarily if not exclusively geared towards political patronage, and not really to pump-prime the economy but to curry favor with the senators, congressmen and other politicians to achieve vested personal or political interests.”

Sentro earlier posted on its website a more detailed statement analyzing the DAP issue – SENTRO STATEMENT ON P-NOY’S ‘PORK’

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition Demand Aquino to Fulfill Promises to Workers and Account for Workers’ Money Utilized in DAP

A coalition of 49 labor centers, federations and workers’ organizations to promote workers’ interest, the Nagkaisa today issued a statement to give labor groups’ perspective on the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III tomorrow, Monday, July 28th. Below is the coalition’s pre-SONA statement:

“Millions of Filipino workers and their families remains deprived of the benefits of the inclusive growth they deserve from the so-called high Philippine economic growth they helped built since 2010. It is shameful that the President in Benigno Simeon Aquino III they elected in power four years ago, has tactfully failed them.

With around 700 days left in office, there are bold indications that the man in Pnoythey thought could lead them out of vicious pit of poverty and help them cope with the rising prices of commodities caused by a liberalizing economy is, in fact, slowly abandoning the hope of the working people.

Siding with employers’ interest, President Aquino deliberately refused to break the cycle of poverty by freeing up a large segment of 25 million contractual workers when he turned down outright the Nagkaisa plead to certify the pending Security of Tenure (SOT) bill designed to responsibly eliminate the very backward contractualization work scheme imposed by the business elites.

Aquino is just staring at workers being mangled by a very exorbitant and world class electricity rates controlled by a monopsony cartel of a very few families despite persistent advice from Nagkaisa to act, form and lead a multi-agency, multi-sectoral task force that will figure out within two-year period a secure power supply and a competitive electricity rate.

The stakes just get higher with the ominous crisis in power supply.The hiatus is so real that it would reckon businesses to make significant retrenchments of workers and render the country uncompetitive and unattractive to investments that are necessary to create more new jobs.

The absence of a national strategic plan on power will surely force the state to make knee-jerk but expensive fixes that, in the end, workers, especially minimum wage earners, would have to pay more from their take home pay—reminiscent of the same blunder committed by his mother the late President Cory Aquino.

Aquino is doing nothing while watching workers profusely bleed from the day-to-day stab of recent man-made and phenomenal sudden price increase of rice, garlic and ginger.

Without any significant increase in wages amid hikes in prices and costs of other basic commodities and services during his tenure, he has, in fact,coldly insulted the workers by issuing an executive order that would raise by P10,000 the disability and burial benefits of workers the moment concerned government agencies accrue excess funds.

He has reneged on his promise to “get back” a month later with presidential response on important laborpolicy issues raised by Nagkaisa labor leaders he invited to a pre-labor day breakfast dialogue inside Malacanang Palace on April 30th.

In the light of the controversial discovery of the Disbursement Allocation Program DAP), Mr. Aquino and cohorts should account for every single centavo in the billions of pesos of workers’ money in the scheme.The Nagkaisa demand Mr. Aquino to prove that the people’s money was not siphoned off to ghost projects and illusory expenditures as payoff for political patronage.

Mr. Aquino has squandered all opportunities to make a difference in the lives of workers especially those of the rank-and-file. He has failed to commiserate with the warm bodies that broke their back in earning a living while building the economy. The Nagkaisa has performed its critical part in bringing the case to the table. Now, it cannot entirely put the blame on workers who will claim their piece of social justice on the streets.

UNITY STATEMENT OF THE 6.12.14 Protest Coalition

 

6.12.14 Protest Coalition

“The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” – Article II, Section 1, The Philippine Constitution.

The painfully slow progress in the investigation and prosecution of the pork scandals involving Janet Lim-Napoles’ network, among others, robs the nation blind in the realms of justice and transparency, and steals energy that could otherwise be focused on development tasks.

The expanse and breadth of the corruption linked to pork shakes the very foundation of Filipino society. The delays and theatrics, whether by the current crop of suspects or the incumbent administration, make a mockery of the basic tenets of Philippine democracy.

The Filipino people have been given the run-around. Several reports and lists — from the Commission on Audit, to those collated by Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers, to the various Napoles lists — show a vast number of legislators and executive department officials involved in pork-related corruption.

All these sectors seemingly use and discard lists or delete names according to their interests. Until now, we have yet to see a hint of resolution of this controversy. From the camps of those already named in plunder cases, all the way to President Aquino, what we see are efforts to tar enemies but coddle allies.

TAMA NA! The Filipino people demand full transparency and accountability from all branches of the government.

From now on, ZERO TOLERANCE for any aspect of the culture of corruption. We demand that the government probe, prosecute and JAIL ALL found guilty of stealing and misusing the people’s money and abusing the people’s trust. No one must be spared.

We call on each and every Filipino to come out and join this UNIFIED EXPRESSION OF OUTRAGE AND DISGUST. TOGETHER, LET US ALL DEMAND OUR FREEDOM FROM CORRUPTION – 6.12.14

There is nothing hard to understand about “ALL.” If you refuse to even start an investigation, then you are coddling the corrupt. We address this to you, President Aquino: Start acting like the President of the nation, not just of your friends. Let the wheels of justice turn and give much-needed closure to this travesty.

We are counting on you, Mr. President. Are you with us? Or against us?