Overhaul Marcos’ Labor Code, end ‘martial law’ in the labor front



ALMOST 40 years after Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law, a lot of its offshoots have remained entrenched in the fabric of Philippine society, although many of the recent generations may be unaware of them or those who knew have opted to forget them. However, a section of those who knew – either those who directly endured the dictatorship or have been told about it – must remain steadfast in keeping the flame ablaze by reminding and educating the current and next generations of what truly happened during that dark years, of the miserable sufferings of the people, of the evil of fascist military regime, of the need to finally cut all the despotic vestiges that still linger, and of the need to unmask and fight future attempts to enforce any form of tyranny.


All the outrageous efforts and barefaced lie of the pompous Imelda Marcos and her ilk at historical revisionism – that martial law was “good and necessary” for the country, that it brought “progress and peace,” that it thwarted “communism and anarchy,” that it ousted oligarchy, that it instilled “discipline” among the citizenry, that it has not trampled on human rights – must be squarely confronted and debunked. All their claims are nothing but a delusional blabbering on “the true, the good and the beautiful,” and outright distortion of actual and historical facts.


Cold statistics on the widespread and ruthless human rights violations perpetrated by the Marcos regime, for instance, will never be able to alleviate the pain and misery suffered by the countless victims as well as their loved ones. But the grim facts and figures could at least be a slap on the face of the liars and fraudsters who suddenly suffered “convenient amnesia.” An authoritative book has revealed that from the imposition of martial rule in 1972 until its “lifting” in 1981, HR organizations reported over 3,200 victims of “salvaging” or extrajudicial killings; 70,000 were incarcerated for being real or imagined “enemies of the state”; and no less than 35,000 of them were tortured in various ways. These data could even be considered as conservative, for how about those other numerous unreported and undocumented cases?


Yes, the more than 3,200 “salvaged” victims were still “few” compared to about 8,000 victims of the “dirty war” waged by Argentina’s military junta. Nevertheless, Marcos’ deadly exploits were bigger than the 2,000-plus victims of the iron-fisted regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and the close to 300 victims under the equally notorious Brazilian military rulers. Moreover, numbers really don’t count, but the mere act of brutality and desecration of lives and freedoms are revolting enough.


There were of course the abductions or forced disappearances giving birth to the Philippine version of desaparecidos, the warrantless and Gestapo-like arrests, the displacement of rural communities or military hamletting, the violent dispersal of rallies and pickets and demolitions of urban poor settlements, the muzzling and co-optation of the media, the vicious suppression of organized workers, peasants, students and other basic sectors, the total disregard of civil and political liberties and of basic and democratic freedoms.


Poverty of the vast majority of Filipinos had in fact worsened; the public coffers were systematically looted and any prized possessions were claimed by Marcos, his family, relatives and cronies. Their voracious appetite for riches was legendary – and utterly disgusting. It is estimated that his immediate family alone had plundered the country of billions of dollars’ worth of money and properties, many stashed abroad until today. The country was practically bankrupt when the dictatorship was overthrown in 1986. The Marcos regime also conceived and reared the cronies then, who have now appropriated to themselves the more respectable title of “tycoons” or “taipans.” Thus, for example, who “made” Danding Cojuangco and Lucio Tan?


Of course, the clutches of martial law have permeated and stubbornly remained in the labor front. The following, among other unsavory and unwarranted modus operandi, either started or were perfected during the martial law years: Many of the unabashedly pro-capitalist policies, especially for the foreign transnational corporations, like the “cheap and docile labor” strategy; a variety of effective union-busting methods and other management dirty tactics, including creating “yellow unions” and worthless CBAs; the relentless murders and harassment of militant or dedicated trade union leaders that triggered an atmosphere of impunity.


In particular, the character of the Marcos-crafted Labor Code and its litigious labor and industrial relations, aside from the still deeply-rooted corruption in government bureaucracy, including the courts, still exist. As a matter of fact, the Labor Code was designed not so much to provide Filipino workers with fundamental rights but to circumscribe them; and it remains basically the same despite all the omnibus and piecemeal amendments and “revisions” that were passed since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.


Indeed, the plights of the “union-busted” Dusit Hotel workers, the “outsourced” PALEA (Philippine Airlines Employees Association) members, the “union/association-deprived” Hanjin employees, the “perpetually casual” SM salesladies, the “forever contractual” call center and BPO agents, the unresolved killings of trade union activists, and the fast growing ranks of cheaper and more docile non-regular and non-unionized workforce are testaments not only to the worsening neoliberal policies but also a confirmation that Marcos’ labor (mal)practices are still well-entrenched.

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