Post May 1 update of workers’ situation in the Philippines

After almost three months since the implementation of lockdown due to COVID-19, the Filipino workers experiencing worsening political and economic woes amidst of pandemic. This is caused by the failure of government to provide comprehensive medical solution and economic relief to all affected sectors. And instead of listening to their critics and the outcry of Filipinos, the Duterte regime choose to suppress them by tagging them as rebels and terrorists.

The Philippines are now facing worsening job crisis because of COVID-19. The Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA) reported 7.3 million unemployed and 6.4 million underemployed in April 2020. And though the government reported that they already distributed P108.1 billion and reached around 19.3 million beneficiaries in all sectors, the majority of the said assistance were given on the 8th week of the lockdown with an average of P5,606 per beneficiary only. Nevertheless, majority from the 41 million labor force are complaining because they were not able to receive any workers assistance program of the government, specially contractual or temporary workers.

Now that the government eased the lockdown, not all businesses were able to resume operation. There are small businesses choose to permanently close because of the long loss of profit and uncertainty that they will recover. And those who resume their operations are facing all the burden of ensuring that their workplace is COVID-19 free. The government passed the responsibility to the private sector by stating that businesses should be the one conducting mass testing for their workers. While the workers not only fear for their health but also enduring the lack of mass transportation going to work. Most of the workers either walking tens of kilometers or waiting for a couple of hours to get a ride. This is caused by the limitation of government on public transport. The government allowed trains and several Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) but they can only aboard half of its capacity. Jeepneys, which are one of the most efficient and effective mode of transportation that serve the public, are not yet allowed leaving thousands of drivers and operators without source of income.

Workers may also suffer wage cuts since the government through Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) allows companies to negotiate wage cuts among their employees. Since the majority of workers are not unionized and not all unions have Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), this policy of the government are deemed to be abuse by companies in order to get maximum profit from the workers. This will further decrease the already reduced salary because of flexible work arrangement.

To make it worst, the government’s recovery plan are focus on boosting business profit in the expense of aiding the poor and low-income families. The government plans to give P667 billion worth of tax break and allocate P133.7 billion in loans and guarantees for big corporations. Though the government will allot P1.2 trillion for formal enterprises, only P135 billion will go to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) where most of the Filipinos work. And the fact that this will focus only in formal enterprises, this will also mean that it will not reach the informal earners and displaced workers.

Meanwhile, the political climate in the Philippines are getting worse day by day. The Duterte administration is trying its best to suppress dissents from its known critics and the rest of Filipinos. The government are now facing increasing criticism and discontent from its own people mainly because of poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, favoring big businesses and allied politicians, double standard in implementing laws and criminalizing dissent. Filipinos who aired their concerns and sentiments online and offline were either harassed, threatened, arrested or killed.

The current effort of the government in silencing their critics is the passing of the “Anti-Terror Bill” (ATB). The bill aims to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007 that fights terrorism. The bill allows the government through the Anti-Terrorism Council to arrest without warrant, jail for 14 days that can be extended for another 10 days and wiretap anyone for mere suspicion of becoming a terrorist and inciting terrorism. These enormous powers that the bill will give to the government and its armed minions are very dangerous because of their bloody record of extra-judicial killings. Because of the ATB is so bad, it is dubbed as “Terror Bill” instead.

The “Terror Bill” draw a lot of criticism from academe, church, activist and even ordinary people because of its content and the timing since the country is facing crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, President Duterte mark this bill as urgent.

As of writing, the ATB or the “Terror Bill” was already transmitted by the senate and congress to the president despite the ongoing retraction of YES votes of different congressmen and congresswomen prompted by the criticism and protests and only needs President’s signature to officially become a law. Whether the “Terror Bill” will pass or not, Filipinos are set to protest not only the bill but also the treachery of the Duterte regime this coming Philippine Independence Day on June 12, 2020.


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