This was the statement of the labor group, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) as it looked into the candidates’ written platform, media pronouncements as well as their answers to the Newsbreak magazine’s survey (The Candidates and their Stand on National Issues), particularly on questions concerning legislative agenda on job security and employment opportunity.
“It is a shame that, except for Kiko Pangilinan, all senatorial candidates we invited to participate in the series of “job interviews” did not show up,” said Danny Edralin, APL Chairperson.
The labor center launched “job interviews” last month to evaluate the “job applicant’s” capacity to solve the jobs crisis. Among the candidates sought by the labor center to be interviewed are re-electionist Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, former Senator Loren Legarda and former Rep. Chiz Escudero.
“Government should give priority to attaining full employment. This means that all policy instruments should be directed towards a roadmap for industrialization based on the development of the local economy,” said Edralin.
Edralin said that the drive for industrialization requires a whole range of alternative policies on industrial, agrarian reform and rural development, fiscal and monetary, investment, trade, public sector reform, enterprise development and education policies.“Tinimbang ka nguni’t kulang”
“Fulfilling the candidates’ promises of uplifting the lives of Filipinos is doomed to fail if the economy’s inability to provide full, productive and decent work to Filipinos will remain,” said Edralin.
Edralin said most of the top contenders seem to be contented with supporting small and medium scale enterprises, offering livelihood programs and increasing the employability of workers through trainings.
“If only things are as simple as what these Senators think, then workers need not worry about the jobs crisis,” said Edralin.
According to Edralin, generating jobs for more than 10 million Filipinos who are unemployed or underemployed requires a comprehensive response and not a mishmash of palliative measures.
No clear industrial policy. Edralin said for almost all of those who are in the magic circle, what amounted to an industrial policy would commonly be a program that would support small and medium scale enterprises, expand BPOs and develop tourism.
“These proposals may be important but will not be able to absorb the surplus labor we have. It should also be noted that most sweatshops are found in small and medium scale enterprises. Meanwhile, health problems related to work in BPOs are now slowly being revealed,” said Edralin.
APL found that only Legarda and Escudero called for industrial development but lacked clear positions on the agrarian reform measures, fiscal, monetary and trade policies that are necessary to realize any form of industrialization.
Deafening Silence on Agrarian Reform. “None of the top contenders dared to call for the completion of agrarian reform, a crucial ingredient for industrialization. At best, they called for more farm-to-market roads, a halt to land conversion, increasing budgetary allocation for agri-business centers and cooperatives,” said Edralin.
No Challenge to Neoliberal Hold on Fiscal and Monetary Policies. According to Edralin, none of the top contenders are daring enough to challenge the neoliberal hold over fiscal and monetary policy.
“No one seems to realize that monetary policy should be used more broadly to encompass development objectives. That rather than focus on controlling inflation, this policy must have full employment as its main goal, subject to inflation constraints. Only Recto and Zubiri have mentioned fiscal and monetary policies, inadequate as they are,” said Edralin.
Proposals on Investment Policies. Cayetano calls for the creation of an “OFW’s Investment Corporation” to mobilize OFW remittances for investments.
“These are interesting proposals that merit a closer study but should be part of a comprehensive agenda for industrialization,” said Edralin.
Edralin found that Lacson’s proposal for an amendment to the constitution that “will open equity and ownership to foreign investors in domestic corporations to encourage more investments” is dangerous.
“Investment liberalization will leave domestic corporations vulnerable to hostile take-overs leaving the workers defenseless against layoffs. A sound investment policy should allow protection to selected industries. After all, no country industrialized without protective measures against undue foreign competition at the start,” said Edralin.
During the dialogue of APL with the staff of Pangilinan, the group raised their concern regarding the senator’s proposal for an “investment-friendly environment through labor market reforms.” The group said such a proposal can lead to further weakening of labor regulations but would not lead to more investment. The group is yet to receive a clarification from the Senator.
Absence of a Clear Trade Policy. Edralin said at a time when the Arroyo administration is negotiating free trade agreements left and right, it is alarming that none of the top contenders have a clear policy on trade relations.
Believing that the Legislature should provide clear parameters to the Executive on how trade negotiations should be conducted, the candidates’ silence on this area leaves us with a distressing feeling that our future Solons would just allow Malacañang, by default or by consent, to negotiate away all our “policy spaces”, the remaining flexibility we have to use trade policies to promote industrialization.
Lack of an Effective Labor Policy. “No one dared mention anything about contractualization and casualization. Too bad that the only candidate that dared to do so, Sonia Roco, who declared that she intends to “minimize if not totally eliminate culture of casualization and contractualization”, is yet to make it to the magic circle,” said Edralin.
Edralin said Escudero seems to recognize the problems with these harmful practices but did not elaborate on a clear proposal on how to address it. Zubiri called for the raising of labor welfare standards and law compliance and an increase in both SSS and GSIS benefits while Angara wanted “total overhaul of the labor code to cope up with the changing labor needs and situation.”
“All Senatorial candidates included in the magic circle according to the latest SWS survey were measured and are found inadequate. They may have some good ideas, but none of them have a comprehensive solution to the jobs problem. We should remind all workers not to pin too much hope for whomever they vote for the Senate,” Edralin concluded.