Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Dissolution, privatization not the cure to Philhealth mess

Privatization or dissolution is a quack doctor's prescription.

Nagkaisa denounces the current moves to privatize or even dissolve Philhealth. The President’s latest instruction for Congress to abolish Philhealth has placed the full weight of this present crisis to the battered institution, rather than on individuals who were responsible for the crime.  Privatizing healthcare, even more, is a cure worse than the disease.

Privatizing Philhealth, or worse, dissolving it, based on allegations of massive corruption is not the solution. If privatization is the most sensible argument against corruption, incompetence, and patronage system in state bureaucracy, then most, if not all public institutions and government offices, should have been privatized or dissolved a long time ago.

The solution to the current mess in Philhealth is to thoroughly investigate allegations of massive and systemic corruption and hold both the appointees and the appointing powers accountable. We also fear that abolishing it may also wash down evidences of corruption in the agency as in the case of the privatization projects undertaken in the airline, water, power, and telecommunications industries, to name a few. 

Privatizing Philhealth would surely reverse our gains in institutionalizing universal health care. Privatization in most jurisdictions around the world has led to commodification of health services. Its commodification comes with higher costs of all health services as profit defines the corporations’ bottom line in rendering their services to the public.

Apart from investigating and holding to account all those responsible for draining Philhealth, what we need is:

- To repair the damage done by putting up a more effective management team

- Review its policies to plug the loopholes in the system

- Infuse more public funds to ensure the longevity of the institution

- Replace all the current sectoral reps with those who are truly representative of the sector. A strong workers' and employers'  voices from the most representative organizations of their sectors are called for.

- Develop a roadmap towards upgrading our public health system that would fully realize universal health care - from birth to death. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020


No one can deny the horrors, terrors and rampant looting of public funds during Martial Law, during the time of the conjugal dictatorship. 

The Duterte administration might be purportedly unfazed by the European Union's push for trade sanctions over what the EU lawmakers described as a "rapidly deteriorating human rights" situation and extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte but the Filipino workers’ courage to resist any further dictatorial tendency is bolstered by the recent EU pronouncement.

On the eve of the 48th year anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition is grateful for the EU support for the human rights struggle and once again reiterates the cry of the workers and their trade unions, "never again to martial law, never again to another dictatorship  like that of Marcos rule! Stop the killings! No to the continuing plunder of public funds!"

On September 21, at the CHR ground, together with the Movement Against the Yerrorism Act (MATA),  the trade unions and other civil society groups will remember the looting of public funds with alacrity by Marcos and his minions, the 36,000 documented tortures, 70,000 incarcerations and 3,257 known extra-judicial killings, among others,  from 1972 to 1986.

As we remember martial law, we are also prompted to ask, what is happening to our country today, Mr. President Duterte? Your administration has been manifesting a strong tendency towards another tyranny. Our institutions are now severely weakened as checks and balances are almost completely eroded. Our rights – social, economic, cultural, civil and political – are constantly attacked. And corruption is back with a vengeance. Even the PhilHealth was not spared to the reign of plunder and billions of pesos  were gone with impunity.

Once again, a reign of terror is upon us. Though estimates vary, killings everywhere are rampant and still on the rise.b The Human Rights Watch reported that based on police statistics, extra judicial killings went up by 50% in the first 4 months of the lockdown as compared to the months prior to the pandemic. Today, a total of 5,810 drug personalities have been killed as of January 2019. Human rights groups claim over 12,000 extra-judicial killings and increasing every day which do not spare 54 children. Other estimates over 20,000 have been killed.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague took cognizance of these killings and conducted preliminary hearings. The UN High Commission and the EU took initial actions on the death tolls and hundreds of human rights violations.

The Duterte administration is starting to institutionalize red-tagging. It is tagging a number of innocent workers as communists and asked to surrender otherwise they will be harmed, that in turn, bolsters their demand to increase its anti-communist intelligence fund without public audit.

We need to learn that “strong leadership is a myth.” Democracy requires active citizenship, not a strongman. We cannot afford to have another Marcos to plunder the economy and inflict harm on individual citizen and violate his or her rights. 

No amount of disinformation would erase the fact that the human rights violation of the Marcoses and the plunder of public funds were real. Republic of the Philippines vs Sandiganbayan and the Marcos estate (GR No. 152154, July 12, 2003), Marcos vs Republic of the Philippines (GR No. 189434, April 25, 2012) and Estate of Marcos vs Republic of the Philippines (GR No.  213027, Jan 18, 2017) are the three (3) landmark cases, among others, of unexplained wealth of Marcos involving billions of dollars have long been final and executory.

This is why the Human Rights Victims Compensation Board was created by Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The HRVCB itself said that 11,103 victims of human rights will receive monetary compensation for human rights compensation after a long and tedious process (Of course, there were more victims who did not apply for compensation and some are already dead). 

Join us at CHR ground, UP Diliman, at 8am, in marking the dark days of Martial Law. Amidst the pandemic, we collectively call: Trabaho at ayuda, Hindi Diktadura!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

NAGKAISA Welcomes Repeal of Labor Advisory No. 17

The Guidelines on Employment Preservation Upon Assumption of Business Operations under Labor Advisory No. 17, Series of 2020, or Labor Advisory No 17 (LA) was repealed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III when he recently signed LA 17-B.

It was unanimously recommended to be rescinded by both the employers' and workers' groups at the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) meeting last July 29.

Workers and their unions need to be vigilant and persistent to assert and protect their rights. All actions and collective efforts will make a difference.

Sec 4. and Sec 8 of LA 17-B categorically rescinded the whole of LA 17. NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition upon DOLE’s issuance of LA 17 and D.O 213 in May 2020 objected to their implementation as the issuances would further exploit workers who are already starving under ECQ.

LA 17 included Section 5 that allows employers and employees to “agree voluntarily and in writing to temporarily adjust employees’ wage and wage-related benefits.”

Nagkaisa also welcomes the amendments to D.O. 213 which earlier suspended labor proceedings including health and safety inspections before the DOLE and its bureaus and regional offices. D.O. 214 was recently issued to resume safety inspections, hearings and conferences, though done via zoom or on limited or skeletal basis

Nagkaisa has been holding that both LA 17 and D.O. 213 are contrary to existing laws and jurisprudence and highly disadvantageous to workers. D.O. 213 virtually paralyzed DOLE’s inspectorate power at a time that its action is most needed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coming from a long ECQ, during its implementation in the past months, workers, especially those who are unorganized, have no option except to follow the wishes of their employers alluded to in LA 17. Many unscrupulous employers simply had to threaten workers with dismissals or company closures if they don’t “voluntarily” agree to rollback their wages and other wage-related benefits.

Further, LA 17 was used to further contractualize the workplace and resulted to the dismissal of union leaders, active union members and regular workers in the name of flexible working arrangements.

NAGKAISA had been asserting that it would be difficult to reinstate the previous wage levels enjoyed by workers as the same offensive Section 5 allows employers to “review their agreement and may renew the same” after six months.

NAGKAISA has been calling the DOLE to rescind LA 17 as it has been giving employers a blank check to roll back the gains made by the unions and even pay their workers starvation wages!

The broadest labor Coalition argued that the state must never allow itself to become a party to employers' latest trick to shortchange their workers.

D.O. 213 was also recommended to be amended to resume DOLE visitorial and inspectorate power as a number of employers don't comply with labor standards as well as safety and health standards as workers grapple with the difficulties and hardships brought about by the pandemic.

DO 214 was likewise issued resuming limited inspections, and labor dispute hearings and conferences via zoom or on skeletal or limited basis.

In a tripartite meeting on July 29, NAGKAISA workers' representatives in the NTIPC called again to immediately rescind the Labor Advisory 17 and amend D.O. 213.

There was a tripartite consensus to do away with LA 17 and to amend D.O. 213 and the Office of the Secretary of Labor issued a new advisory (LA 17-A) rescinding and an amended Department Order (DO 214) to repeal the controversial LA 17 and to modify the subject D.O. 213, respectively.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Drop in unemployment rate encouraging but not enough

The reported drop in unemployment rate from 17.7% in April to 10% in July is natural because the economy opened. However, compared to unemployment in July 2019, the current level of unemployment remains high as a result of the economic crisis due to the pandemic and the government’s conservative approach to recovery.

The reported jobs recovery, especially those tied mainly to market responses, will not be enough to cut the unemployment rate further by the end of this year or until 2021 without more aggressive stimulus program.

First, wage and salary employment especially in private establishments remain short by 1.9 million compared to its level in July 2019 when economic conditions were normal. Second, jobs recovery occurred in self-employment and unpaid family work: self-employment increased by 563 thousand while unpaid family workers increased by 550 thousand. Third, underemployment is higher by 1.3 million in July 2020 compared to its level in July 2019. The fact that underemployment rate still increased from 13.6% in July 2019 to 17.3% in July 2020 and because this coincides with increase in self-employment means that although workers found employment, the income they earn from work is not enough so they are forced to look for additional work. These trends also imply that many firms have not yet recovered from the economic crisis.

A more aggressive public employment program (PEP) and support for struggling firms especially MSMEs , we believe, is the bold and necessary action the government must undertake to address massive job displacement, recover lost jobs and create new employment opportunities based on defined social needs.

The unemployment rate in NCR, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon remain in double digit, while the underemployment rate in most parts of the country hardly moved down. And we fear that both the unemployment and underemployment numbers may still be affected by business decisions this month when employers decide on whether to keep their workers floating or not as required under the 6-month rule under DOLE’s Labor Advisory No. 17.

Jobs generated under emergency employment being implemented under TUPAD, at this point in time, cannot significantly address the unemployment problem of displaced workers as it only provides 10 to not longer than 30 days of temporary employment. We demand that a more elaborate TUPAD, or a new adequately funded PEP that is attuned to new social tasks or imperatives be rolled out under the 2021 budget and the process in making this happen be made participatory.

PEPs have been an effective program in addressing unemployment and poverty many jurisdictions worldwide like in the case of India and South Africa. Lessons and best practices can be learned from their experience as well as with our own implementation of temporary employment programs since the 60s. A Bayanihan for Work can be specifically designed to address this need.

We also demand more aggressive support for struggling firms, many of which are MSMEs. The state must also extend support to firms to help them restructure their workplaces to ensure that they do not become transmission hotspots for COVID-19. We also urge the government to strictly impose health and safety regulations in workplaces, after all, COVID-19 remains a health crisis.


Source of data: PSA. Available at: https://psa.gov.ph/content/employment-situation-july-2020. Accessed 3 September 2020.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020


Violence against Muslims is unleashed again. The Nakaisa Labor Coalition condemns with no uncertain terms the massacre of 9 Moro farmers in Kabacan, North Cotabato. They were extra-legally killed at noontime on August 29, 2020. According to the regional director of the Commision of Human Rights in Region 12 (CHR-12), policemen were involved in the said killings.

CHR-12 reported that relatives of the ninth victim, identified as Nasher Guiaman, told CHR investigators before he died in the hospital that policemen stopped and shot them.

This dying declaration is admissible in evidence in a court of law. Testimony of the victim who managed to speak to his relatives before he died alleging policemen were behind the massacred is admissible in evidence under the rules of court.

The victims were identified as Kons Kalilangan, 35, married, farmer and resident of Aringay, Kabacan, Cotabato; Saganding Sailon, 30, farmer and resident of Osias, Kabacan; Benladin Dimanalao, 25, single, farmer and resident of Aleosan, Cotabato; Jaiden Musaid, 25, farmer and resident of Midsayap, Cotabato; Romeo Balatamay, 35, married, driver and resident of Aringay, Kabacan; Katindig Kagayawon, 25, farmer and resident of Buluan, Kabacan; Fahad Mandigan, 30, married, farmer resident of Sitio Agpa, Kayaga, Kabacan; Budsal Jakaria Lipusin, 37, married, farmer and resident of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao; and Tong Guiaman, 30.

The trade unions under Nagkaisa join the Catholic bishop of Kidapawan and the Bangsamoro Automous Region on Muslim Mindanao's calls for an “impartial investigation” into the killing of nine Muslim farmers.

The Nagkaisa is calling the DOJ to despatch NBI investigators to do the ground work to uncover the truth in said massacre of innocent civilians. The continuing killings it seems is calculated to foment Muslim-Christian conflict in Mindanao.

The biggest labor Coalition in the country can't discount that some groups or personalities are scheming to create a chaotic or volatile situation that would pave the way for the establishment of a revolutionary government.

Thus, our people must be vigilant and resist any attempt to create or put in place such a scenario.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Presidential Duty to Vacate His Office Now

A private citizen speaking or group of citizens discussing about the establishment of a Revolutionary Government (RevGov) might claim to be protected by the Constitutional right to freedom of expression.

However, a President elected under the 1987 Constitution proposing or suggesting a RevGov is manifesting his incompetence to run the existing Government that he heads. Duterte needs to resign from his post if he feels incompetent to steer his Administration. Last SONA, he even reiterated that he is inutile to assert and defend our sovereignty over the West Philippine seas and the islands there.

In 2017 and 2019 President Duterte had been proposing to declare a RevGov. Now, he is again saying that a the RevGov should not be discussed in sub rosa (in secrecy), but should be discussed publicly to include the military during his weekly addresses.

This is high treason on the part of the President for instigating to abandon the Constitution. RevGov will only work in his favor by exercising absolute power without any checks and balances. This is most repugnant to our democratic and republican form of government. Thus, we the people need to resist and correct the dictatorial tendency of Duterte.

Nagkaisa is highly disappointed with this recent presidential pronouncement.

Now, that the president has exercised his freedom to express, his duty to vacate his office has commenced!