THE socialist labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) expressed trepidation as former president Gloria Arroyo wrested control over the leadership of the House of Representatives.
Workers fear that all pending pro-labor bills will not move an inch with Arroyo as speaker. They also foresee the wholesale assault on the remaining protectionist provisions of the constitution as they view her as President Duterte’s co-navigator of the Cha-Cha ship.
“Arroyo’s past attempts to change the charter are still fresh in the memory of many. As she admitted herself, she would push for the legislative agenda of the president – to steer Congress into convening as a constituent assembly. With Arroyo at the helm, our rights are in constant peril,” said Luke Espiritu, president of BMP.
“A Duterte-Arroyo combo is the sum of all the fears of organized labor,” he added.
BMP noted that Arroyo’s track record for being anti-labor is long and plentiful. It was during her term, the DOLE failed to issue a department order to interpret and implement Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code on contracting and subcontracting arrangements.
It was also during her watch when the army and the police open fire at striking workers of Hacienda Luisita in 2004, prompting the BMP to siege the DOLE offices in Intramuros.
Duterte’s hand in a power grab
The group also claimed that the president played Pontius Pilate in the power grab in the House of Representatives, causing a delay in his annual address, as he reportedly berated her daughter Inday Sara for orchestrating the ouster of Pantaleon Alvarez.
“Even if Duterte allowed Alvarez to sit beside him at his third SONA, the sullen face of the former speaker throughout his speech reveals that the proverbial ax had fallen even before the joint session was convened,” Espiritu alleges.
“Duterte did not lift a finger to save Alvarez because, with the assumption of Gloria Arroyo –much-hated by the people but trusted by the elite for her reputation to take charge – he gained a reliable first mate that could steer the ship to towards Charter Change”, the labor lawyer explained.
He noted that during her nine-year term as president, Arroyo attempted to change the charter. In her 2005 SONA, she declared to “start the great debate on Charter Change” although her plans were waylaid by the infamous ‘Hello Garci’ scandal and again 2008.
During her term, Arroyo and legislative allies utilized various legal means to change the Constitution – People’s Initiative in 2006, Constituent Assembly in 2008 and a Constitutional Convention in 2009.
“As a rabid bourgeois economist, who toes the line of the neoliberal capitalist doctrine of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and labor flexibility, Arroyo as House Speaker will not hesitate to demolish all protectionist measures of the national economy to favor the Chinese and American monopolies in order to attract foreign investments,” he added.
An Arroyo-led Batasan will not end endo
The group likewise sees no end to the scourge of contractualization despite Duterte’s reiteration in his SONA speech to enact a law to prohibit contractualization.
“We expect nothing but further circumvention of our rights through the institutionalization of trilateral contracting work arrangements. More misery awaits working-class families,” he said.
“Duterte’s call on Congress to enact a law on contractualization is just as bogus as his Executive Order 51. He merely copy-pasted what was already the law, preserving the status quo of poverty inducing contractual employment,” he concluded.