Words by EJ Lasanas
“Hindi ako nangangako. Ang track record natin ang magsasabi kung ano ang ginawa ko sa past years […] Aking inalay yung aking maraming panahon sa kilusang paggawa at iba pang batayang sektor ng lipunan sa mahabang panahong paglilingkod.”
[“I do not promise. My track record will speak for what I’ve done in the past years… I offered much of my time to the labor movement and other primary sectors of the society in a long period of service.”]
This was the statement of senatorial candidate Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog in an interview with Perspective Live last February 12, where he also shared his plans once elected as senator in the coming elections.
Ka Bong, who is the current chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), shared that his first action to combat the unemployment in the country is the junking of Republic Act (RA) 6715 or the Labor Code of the Philippines and RA 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act.
“Ang aking agad na isasampa ay yung pagbasura sa RA 6715 at RA 6727. ‘Yan yung magkaugnay na batas hinggil sa regionalization of wages at massive contractualization at endo [end-of-contract]. Kailangan matapos ito upang mabigyan naman ng magandang buhay ang mga kamanggagawa natin, na ‘pag kontraktwal ay wala kang katiyakan sa trabaho, walang disenteng pamumuhay,” Ka Bong said.
[“My first action is to junk RA 6715 and RA 6727. These are the two related laws about regionalization of wages and massive contractualization and endo. This should be ended now to give our workers a good life, especially contractual workers with no job assurance and who cannot live a decent life.”]
In an article by CNN Philippines last October, Ka Bong said that the Labor Code has been amended multiple times to solve endo, but there are still around 10 million contractual workers, according to the International Labor Organization. Ka Bong added that contractualization “deprives workers of job security”.
Under endo, workers are hired under six months so employers would not have to regularize them. Because of this, millions of workers do not receive the same benefits granted to regular employees.
Ka Bong further stated that the government has the highest number of contractual workers, solidifying his aim to pursue a bill that will end endo in the Philippines.
“Ang private sector employees ay covered ng labor code at yung kamanggagawa natin sa gobyerno ay under sa civil service code, so kailangan na ng magkatambal na batas na nananawagang tapusin na ang eskemang endo at kontraktwalisasyon […] Sadly, ang pinakamalaking employer ng contractual labor o contractual employment ay gobyerno mismo,” Ka Bong said.
[Private sector employees are covered by the labor code while government workers are under the civil service code, so we need twin laws that would call to end the schemes of endo and contractualization… Sadly, the biggest employer of contractual labor or employment is the government itself.”]
Junking neoliberal policies
[P] Live anchors also asked Ka Bong about his views regarding the situation of employees who work outside their residence region earning low income due to RA 6727 or Wage Rationalization Act, which sets regional wages.
“Habang lumalayo ka sa paanan ni Gat Andres Bonifacio at Jose Rizal, pababa nang pababa ang sahod ni Juan dela Cruz,” Ka Bong said.
[“As you go farther from the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal, the rate of Filipinos’ wages decline.”]
He further explained that the tandem of RA 6727 and RA 6715 are neoliberal beliefs of the government to acquire foreign investment and boost the country’s economy. However, Ka Bong emphasized that there is still no growth and improvement in the wage and benefits for local workers both in the public and private workplace.
“I think sa early beginnings ng RA 6727, may mga naganap na ganyan [acquisition of foreign investment] particularly sa Mariveles and some areas of Mindanao. Pero hindi rin ito nagpatuloy kasi ang hinahanap ng mga investors ay yung sufficient infrastructure to do business,” he added.
[“I think that in the early beginning of RA 6727, there have been acquisitions of foreign investments that happened particularly in Mariveles and some areas of Mindanao. However, it did not continue because what investors try to find are more sufficient infrastructure to do business.”]
“Hindi talaga ito makatwiran at makatarungan. Dapat lang talaga na ibasura itong twin laws na ito na talagang masyadong dumadagan sa kagalingan at karapatan ng mga manggagawang Pilipino,” he concluded.
[“This is not reasonable and just. These twin laws that obstruct the welfare and rights of Filipino workers must be junked.”]
Ka Bong added that even before his candidacy as senator, he was already fighting to end endo and contractualization.
In November 2020, KMU, where Ka Bong serves as chairperson, had condemned the passing of the Security of Tenure Bill in its second reading without any amendments and interpellation, calling it a “misnomer, deceptive and dangerous” to workers.
KMU said that the version of the bill “circumvents the Labor Code by limiting the scope of labor-only-contracting, and in effect allows the unabated proliferation of contractual labor”.
Meanwhile, Ka Bong also said that he would legislate a law that will ensure the tandem of salary and employment with security of tenure, as well as enough wage for all Filipino workers.
He added that he would continue to fight for just distribution of “ayuda”, mainly since the pandemic severely affected the labor sector.
In October 2021, according to IBON Foundation, the Duterte administration rushed the 2022 national budget without including aid for severely affected families who are suffering from unemployment and lockdown imposition in the country.
After the rushed approval of the 2022 national budget, the Makabayan Bloc proposed amendments to the budget to include P240 billion for P10,000 cash assistance to families and P100 billion for unemployment subsidies and direct financial assistance.
For a free, democratized education system
Ka Bong was also asked regarding his views on graduates being unprepared in the workplace due to lack of immersion training and skills.
Ka Bong responded that it is a manifestation that the K-12 program is a failure.
“Ito ay isang patotoo na ang K-12 Program na iginigiit ng gobyerno ay palpak at ‘di talaga nagluluwal isang malaya, libre, at siyentipikong pagtataguyod ng educational system natin,” Ka Bong added.
[“This proves that the K-12 Program that our government pushed for is a failure. It did not deliver a free and scientific institution of the education system.”]
Consequently, Ka Bong stated that he will first focus on uplifting the country’s standing in science and mathematics, underscoring an accessible and democratized educational system, unlike K-12 that segregates students’ future profession.
“Kailangan i-underscore na kailangan libre at democratized ang educational system, hindi kagaya ng K-12 na ang layunin ay i-segregate yung managerial employees covered by various scholarships ng mga malalaking kompanya at i-segregate yung pangkontraktwal, pang-trade, pangkonstruksiyon, e hindi ‘yan,” Ka Bong said.
[“We need to underscore that our educational system is free and democratized, unlike K-12 that segregates the managerial employees covered by various scholarships of big companies, from those of contractual, trade, construction employees, which should not be the case.”]
Meanwhile, Ka Bong also warned the youth of a future where there is no unity among them, if they will not act accordingly to positively create change in the society.
“Gusto kong i-rundown kayo doon sa kalagayan ng mga maliliit na mga batang lansangan. Siguro nakikita rin ito na mga madudungis na nasa lansangan; wake-up call ‘yan sa youth of today. ‘Yan ang magiging larawan ng ating kinabukasan kung hindi tayo magkakaisa at mag-effect ng change sa ating lipunan,” said Ka Bong.
[“I want to run you down in the situation of street children. People view those who live in the streets as unclean. This is a wake-up call to the youth of today. That is possibly the picture of our future if we will not uphold unity with each other and make a change in our society.”]
Furthermore, he also encouraged the youth to educate themselves and harbor a culture that serves the people and the country.
“Malaking papel ang ginagampanan ng sistema at patakaran natin sa edukasyon at kultura. Eh yung kultura natin, kultura ng hiphop, kulturang banyaga, imbis na yung kulturang itaguyod ay yung nagsisilbi sa kinakailangan ng higit na nakararaming batayang masa sa ating bansa,” Ka Bong said.
[“Systems and policies of our education and culture have major roles to play. But our culture is a hip-hop culture, a foreign culture, instead of the culture that must serve the needs of the masses in our country.”]
Finally, Ka Bong said that he will continue pushing for a free, democratized, and scientifically-based education system.
“Magkakaugnay ang pangkalahatang kalagayan ng mamamayan at yung pagtutulak natin ng malaya, libre, demokratikong edukasyon, at siyentipiko. ‘Yun ang matagal na nating pinagtutulungan itaguyod sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas at iba-iba pang mga paaralan sa ating bansa,” he added.
[“The situation of our citizens is related to our calls for a free, democratic, and scientific education. That is what we have been working on together at the University of the Philippines and other schools in the country.”]
On vanquishing fascism, imperialism
Ka Bong has also been asked for his thoughts on Makabayan Bloc’s endorsement of the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem, despite not being on the senatorial slate of the candidates.
“Siguro, magiging plastik naman ako kung di ko sasabihing dapat kasama tayo sa senatorial slate. In the first place, nag-endorso na tayo sa ating kaalyado. Hook, line and sinker nating itinaya yung MAKABAYAN organization […] So, we expect that in works and deeds, sumalubong din sila,” Ka Bong said.
[“I would be lying if I do not say that we should have been part of their senatorial slate. In the first place, we have already endorsed them through the MAKABAYAN organization… So, we expect that their works and deeds will be aligned with ours.”]
Last October, when MAKABAYAN senatoriables failed to be included in the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem’s slate, Kabataan Partylist-Southern Tagalog (KPL-ST) regional coordinator and KPL’s 4th House of Representatives nominee Jianred Faustino questioned what Robredo meant by a “united opposition”.
While MAKABAYAN senatoriables were excluded, candidates Richard “Dick” Gordon, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri, who voted in favor of the Terror Law, landed Robredo’s senate slate.
“If there is anyone vying for a senatorial position na kakampi natin sa pagtaguyod ng ating karapatan at makabagong pulitika, ‘yan ay sina Atty. Neri Colmenares at Ka Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog,” Faustino said.
[“If there is anyone vying for a senatorial position who are our allies in upholding our rights and progressive politics, these are Atty. Neri Colmenares and Ka Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog.”]
Despite their exclusion, Ka Bong emphasized that what is most important is that there is a clear unity between them to vanquish the existing fascism and imperialism. He further stated that leadership with a wholehearted commitment is vital to end the current crisis in society.
“Dapat ay wholeheartedly magtulungan upang maging mas masigla. Mas inspirado ang masa kapag nakikita nila na matibay at sabay-sabay na nagmamarsta yung liderato na kumukumpas sa buong bansa. Ito yung battle cry natin na ayaw na natin ng bulok at tuloy-tuloy na nagaganap na mga pamamaslang, red-tagging, and yet nasa severe crisis yung health system at ang ating economic system,” Ka Bong said.
[We must wholeheartedly work together and be more passionate. The masses are more inspired if they see that the leadership is strong. Our battle cry is to denounce a rotten and continuous acts of killing, red-tagging, while we are on severe health and economic crisis.”] [P]
Photo from Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog / Official Facebook page