Archive for April, 2008


The Blas F. Ople Policy Center (Labor Concerns)

Susan ‘Toots’ Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center sent a list of alternatives benefits to somehow address the plight of our workers. Join us in spreading this to all.

News Release
Blas F. Ople Policy Center
April 27, 2008

Ople Center recommends additional non-wage benefits for May 1

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center proposed five specific non-wage benefits that the government can study as part of its package of benefits to workers on Thursday, May 1 also known as Labor Day.

Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, who heads the BFO Policy Center, said high costs of rice, food and oil should encourage the government to think about urgent ways to help workers around the country cope with inflation and the erosion of their purchasing power.

The Center recommends that the government consider:

  1. Declaring a temporary yet mandatory four-day work week for all government agencies except for those dealing with public health and national security. A four-day work week will enable government workers to save on transportation and food costs while giving them a three-day weekend that they could use to be with their families or to jumpstart micro enterprises. This would also help ease traffic on Fridays which could in turn alleviate stress on the part of the driving and riding public. This will also help government save on its energy costs.
  2. Citing occupational health and safety standards as a way to compel the Business Processing and Outsourcing industry to invest in free shuttle services for their employees. Night shift call center agents, especially young women, have to pay extra for taxi fare to ensure their own personal security while going to or leaving their place of work everyday. Given the substantial earnings of the biggest call center companies in Metro Manila and other urban cities, such investments would go a long way in promoting the well-being of their employees. As an alternative, successful BPOs should provide daily transport allowances to night-shift employees and workers on top of their regular pay.
  3. The government can also expand and maximize the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) during the summer break. Very few employers and students are aware of this program and yet it represents a good vehicle for skills training and development. On the part of the students, the SPES under DOLE’s supervision, enables them to gain work experience while at the same time saving up for their tuition fees in the forthcoming semesters. SPES deserves a re-launch with the full participation of the different chambers of commerce.
  4. Fast-track an emergency employment program that would tap jobless yet experienced ex-OFWs and early retirees who have certain skills sets and good work ethics honed through the years. For example, in nearly every department, there is always a backlog of data and information that needs to be encoded and digitized. The hiring of qualified ex-OFWs and early retirees from the private and public sectors to help meet such backlogs can form part of this program which is geared towards enhancing productivity of the workforce and stimulating the economy.
  5. Develop employment opportunities in the creative economy through outsourcing. This is something that can easily be done at the national and local levels. The different departments can stimulate the economy by outsourcing programs and projects that qualified NGOs and freelance creative groups and individuals can do. Rather than just putting out bidding announcements for equipments and supplies, the government must also learn to look outwards by encouraging department heads to outsource certain programs to the private sector. This will help stimulate government interaction with young creative minds and dynamic civil society groups. This would also expose bureaucrats to market and technology-driven concepts and realities. Government outsourcing requires a new mindset that now prevails in many bureaucracies around the world.

Ople said the five points can be fleshed out by the government through the labor department with representatives of big business and civil society.

“We need fresh perspectives on how to combine public policy with the government’s clout as an employment-innovator. If done right, the public sector can assume a leading role in job generation, even if these are work assignments that are time-bound and objectives-driven,” the BFO Center stressed.

The BFO Policy Center said it would submit a memo to Labor Secretary Marianito Roque containing the five unsolicited recommendations. “If one or two of them are considered, then that is already a positive contribution of the Center to Labor Day,” Ople said.

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center is a non-government organization formed in honor of the memory of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople. It was during Ople’s time as labor secretary that the overseas employment program was created. He is also acknowledged as the Father of the Philippine Labor Code.


Government Insincerity In The Midst Of A Crisis

While long queues of people line up to get their daily ration of NFA rice, somewhere in the south of Manila, fate of farmers hang in the balance. As the saga of the Sumilao farmers end, a new battle looms in the horizon. This time around, farmers of Calatagan, Batangas are about to lose their lands. These lands that they have toiled on and have paid fully are now about to be turned into mines. So it seems that it becomes more and more apparent that this administration lacks political will, even becoming hatchet men of the rich. While there are calls for a stop to land conversion, those that are under dispute are not covered by this call.

The case of the Calatagan farmers stemmed from an unlawful order backed by an antiquated report by both the Dept. of Agrarian Reform and the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources. Food security has been abandoned in the name of environmental destruction. The Dept. of Agrarian Reform has time and again taken the side of the rich than do what is mandated by law. The DAR is supposed to address social justice and not pure injustice. Perhaps those who crafted the CARP never intended to address the plight of the poor. Provisions were inserted that weakened and undermined the true essence land reform and social justice.

The gravity of the implications of the Calatagan case cannot be denied. This is a human rights violation in its purest form. Some thirty-six farmers joined the Sumilao farmers in their walk last year, this time around, they started their own march for justice. Lakbay-Kalampag para sa Lupang Sakahan, Hindi Minahan hope to finally end the ten years of uncertainty which gripped the beneficiaries of the land dispute in Calatagan. Self determination and equal opportunity is what the agrarian reform is supposed to achieve. It is high time the government do what is morally and humanely just.

This time around, the issue is closer to the seat of power. The issue of food security must be our priority now more than ever. A progressive country relies on food to harness development and progress. Unless we set our priorities right, we may end up like the country of Nauru, mining is about to drive them into extinction. Please visit CALATAGAN MARCH for the background of the case. I hope that those who fought for the Sumilao cause will again join me and show their support for the hapless farmers of Calatagan. “We are after all our brothers’ keepers.”


Filipino Voices Is Up And Running

Finally, the master has finished his Obra. Nick of Tingog has launched the Filipino Voices. It’s a collaborative blog that will tackle issues that few would dare delve into. It would showcase writings of my fellow bloggers, journalists and idealists. For sure it would be an exciting blog as diverse views of every writer will be expressed. It covers a broad spectrum of views. From the centrist to hopefully the extreme so that we may give you the sentiments of both sides of the not only the political fence but by society in general.

Yours truly is one of those lucky enough to be invited to write for this new blog. I hope that we at Filipino Voices would be able to reach out to all of you so that issues besetting our beloved country would be properly explained and dissected. Let the fun games begin. I hope that all of you would take time out to visit the site and share with us your thoughts and sentiments.

The writing team is composed of Nick (, Arbet Bernardo (AWB Holdings), J (The Nutbox), Dean Jorge Bocobo (Philippine Commentary), Manuel Buencamino (Uniffors),
Cocoy (Big Mango), Jester (The Jester in Exile), Lester Cavestany, Rom Sedona (Smoke), Butch (The Warrior Lawyer) and Patricio Mangubat (New Philippine Revolution). I hope you enjoy our writings.


Of Roses And Surveys

It is now clear why the nine Magdalo soldiers changed their plea to guilty. The real score was to make Gloria Arroyo and Hermogenes Esperon smell like roses. In the guise of POLITICAL reconciliation, Gloria is set to pardon them. Regardless whether it would be a conditional one, the end result is the freedom for the nine and the image building for Gloria and Esperon. Esperon is about to retire and he would like to come out deodorized. As for GMA, she will boost her image among the men in uniform. Gloria’s operator Ronaldo Puno seems to be pulling the strings again just like how he orchestrated Erap’s pardon.

So the stage has been set for the spin meisters and propagandists of the palace. The nine will be made political props in Gloria’s drama. Like rabbits ganging on a carrot, I am sure the nine soldiers will look back and suffer the consequences of their decision. Of course we cannot judge for they have families to protect and futures to secure. With the impending pardon, many of their grievances have yet to be addressed in earnest. Everything has only been a window dressing of sorts. The “bata-bata system” continues and only those close to GMA and Esperon enjoy real perks.

It’s all about Gloria’s and Esperon’s image. Both wants to show how humane(?) they can be.

So the latest surveys are out, Gloria’s ratings continue to spiral. While the palace dogs debunk this, perception is equivalent to sentiments. Anthony Golez counters by saying that surveys are not absolute, what counts is the continuing rise of our economy. So they now go back to our booming economy(?). Despite the staggering cost of living, the impending rice shortage, the weekly increases in oil products, the threat of a new round of hikes in electricity and water and the increases in tuition this coming school year, they still claim a progressive economy.

When Filipinos continue to leave in the thousands everyday to seek jobs abroad, the only growth is in remittances and the unabated corruption in government. Let’s go back to the surveys. If you ask those who benefit from Gloria’s reign, then the economy is booming. If you ask the ordinary laborer who has to make ends meet, life is getting harder everyday. When a government makes it a policy to export its citizens, life is not good as they want us to believe. When a government has employment programs for kids as young as 15, then something is definitely wrong.

This administration survives on rhetorics, terror and lies. I throw this statement back to Gloria, “No political posturing will put food on the table. No headlines will produce jobs.” Gloria’s politics is becoming personal. It has touched the empty stomachs and wallets of the people. Soon the surveys will result in actions, actions that this administration will not want to face. Resignation or ouster through peaceful means might be more palatable than be dragged out of Malacañang by the hair.


Faking And Exploiting Crises

I have heard of speculations about the crises that had engulfed this country. Are these imagined or real? Some would argue that these could be factual in more ways than one. With the distrust ratings of Gloria’s administration, everything is probable and plausible. Let’s just take the issue of the rice shortage. Is there really a shortage or was is made to look like one? There has been talks of a BIG personality who had imported a huge shipment of rice. But because importation of rice has been strictly controlled, the huge shipment could not be taken out. The BIG personality stands to lose a lot.

Now to facilitate its release without attracting attention, rice importation has to be lifted. This would expedite the release and the BIG personality would be laughing his way to the bank. His profit would be so big because of the skyrocketing price of the Filipinos’ staple food. Fantastic way of legalizing smuggling. Just create a scenario of panic and viola, instant profit. This is of course just a speculation by some that this is in preparation of something bigger. Let’s say, in preparation for 2010.

I too wonder if there really is a shortage as a friend from the north told me that rice is abundant and that if I would like, he would buy rice in the province for me. If what my friend is true, then we have all been taken for a big ride. The other scenario would to incite panic among the populace. With the prices of basic commodities reaching the stratosphere and with utilities costing more, clamor for Gloria to take extreme action could be pushed by unscrupulous allies. Talks of emergency powers are now being floated and for what reason we really cannot tell.

What if parties with vested interests are doing this deliberately to build an atmosphere of lawlessness that could give Gloria enough reason to declare martial law? Who would benefit from it and who has the numbers to make such declaration legit? With the lower house and now the Supreme Court teeming with GMA’s allies, anything is possible. Just imagine, Gloria would not have to spend for another people’s initiative or even lock horns with the senate. She could easily steamroll her way to an undetermined term. We all know how she and her advisers operate, nothing can be discounted with them around.

The crisis should now be viewed with skepticism. We could be playing into one of her traps. Could this be the reason why we see pictures of long queues for NFA rice? Could this be the reason why threats of impending hikes on utilities continue to be floated? Just imagine if all hell breaks loose and Gloria can now legitimately declare martial rule? Whether this crisis was done to cloak another scam or to perpetuate Gloria’s hold to power, we should now double, even triple our vigilance. We shouldn’t be complacent when GMA and her gang are desperate.


Birthday Greetings

My ‘sister’ in activism, Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement is celebrating her birthday today. The lovely lass with an enchanting voice left the entertainment limelight to lend her voice in our people’s fight for democracy. Tireless and more beautiful than ever, Leah is another voice in the wilderness who inspires us to stand up for our rights and secure a brighter future for our youth.

Sis, a toast to you and may your tribe increase. I am proud to be your ‘brother’. I hope that the Lord will shower you with more blessings and give you strength to continue your advocacies. A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, and may you have more birthdays to come.


A Tale Of Two Justices

Former justices Artemio Panganiban and Hilario Davide have one thing in common, they are both responsible for putting Gloria Arroyo in the seat of power. But this is where their similarity ends. Davide went on and was named by GMA as our permanent ambassador to the United Nations. Panagniban retired and is now a private citizen. Davide played a major role during Erap’s impeachment and Gloria’s ascension to power which gave him an edge over Panganiban.

After the Gloria’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Neri, both former justices came out to give their views on the decision. Davide naturally sided with Team GMA saying that we should all respect the SC’s decision. Panganiban went the other way. Short of calling the SC as GMA’s Supreme Court, he points out that the SC made a grave mistake in favoring Neri. He explicitly gave weight on transparency and accountability. He pointed out how presidential abuse is now legitimized. Panganiban, untainted by Gloria’s Midas touch is an outsider looking in which gave him an objective view of the situation.

Davide once rode high and was respected by the people. He now lies in the gutter with his benefactor, GMA. He clearly lost his objectivity and sense of justice. He could have kept his credibility if only he stayed away from the grasps of Gloria’s corrupting clutches. He seems to now have a clouded mind which has led to his misinterpretation of the limits of executive privilege. He has sided with the criminals who continue to cover up Gloria’s crimes.

Justice Panganiban is a true justice. He clearly knows his constitution. He knows what limits the legislative and the executive have. He is a man of honor and integrity. Keeping his independence, how I wish that the Supreme Court had more like him. He may have been one of those who legitimized GMA’s power grab, he more than made up for it by pointing out the great injustice the nine justices brought upon the nation.

Now that a motion for reconsideration has been filed by the senate, I hope the SC would agree with the views of Panganiban. I hope they do, or not only would history judge them unkindly, they may suffer a worst fate in the hands of the people.

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April 2008
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