GMA platitudes full of hypocrisy; insensitivity to masses’ plight dooms rest of GMA term

May 2, 2005
Photo by Roger Ranada - Manila Times If President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were truly interested in promoting workers’ rights and advancing their demands, then she would have long ago addressed workers’ concerns instead of again using these to try to have some kind of glossy packaging for her Labor Day speech. Arroyo’s words are therefore to be met with grave suspicion.

In the first place, if she truly wanted to listen to the grievances of more than 20,000 protesting workers and other sectors at the Welcome Rotunda yesterday, then why send instead about a thousand policemen, three personnel trucks and two fire-trucks against a peaceful assembly where workers were exercising their legitimate and constitutional right to seek redress and express their opinions?

We denounce the unjustified, illegal and overkill use of police forces to block a peaceful assembly from proceeding to Mendiola, with the police beating up protestors.

Because of this refusal to truly listen and hear what workers want, GMA again commits a faux pas when she said that she would order the regional wage boards to decide by the end of May how much minimum wage adjustments would be given to workers everywhere. She is obviously ignorant of the workers’ demands that a wage increase in itself would not suffice. This is again nothing more than a political gimmick aimed at dampening the growing public disgust over government’s inability to control unemployment, decreasing incomes and the rising costs of utilities and therefore of living.

What is needed is not a minimum wage adjustment in the regional level but the establishment of a singular minimum wage level at the national level that approximates the constitutional mandate for a living wage. Any minimum wage increase granted through the inutile wage boards would be practically useless. Experience shows that only a handful of workers, if any at all, actually benefited from wage orders issued by the wage boards because these are not implemented across the board and contain too many exemptions that automatically excludes at least 90% of the working people. Worse, the Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise law (BMPE) also excludes workers in micro-enterprises.

Any amount of minimum wage adjustment will never suffice so long as government does not at the same time control oil prices, and water and electricity rates. And if PGMA would have her way, an increased and expanded VAT would wipe out not only any gain in terms of wage increase, but make workers even poorer than before.

Secondly, putting the National Labor Relations Commission under an equally inept Labor Secretary does not ensure the speedy and fair adjudication of labor disputes. The NLRC should be abolished, the settlement of labor disputes simplified through a one-stop shop for labor disputes instead.

Thus GMA’s pronouncements are grossly misinformed, patronizing and ineffectual measures designed only to attempt to show that she also have a labor agenda but which had been exposed as illusory, desperately wanting in substance and pure gimmickry.

And with her empty promises, it comes not as a surprise anymore should GMA find herself unable to dash towards the end of her six-year term. This administration is unraveling at the seams, increasingly unable to bear the weight of its own incompetence and bankruptcy.

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