November 30, 2008
After the business-led rally last Friday against amending the constitution to extend the term of President Gloria Arroyo, today it was the turn of labor to voice its opposition. “Pro-GMA solons say the people have no need to worry since the chacha resolutions are just meant to test the law. But the truth is they are also testing the waters to see if the people will erupt in rage against a blatant attempt to prolong the GMA regime,” declared Renato Magtubo, chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
Various labor groups including PM commemorated Heroes Day by convening a forum to tackle the workers’ position on the unfolding economic and political crisis. The workers then joined a rally at the Balintawak monument together with several vocal bishops to express their common stand against charter change.
“There is no more fitting way to celebrate Bonifacio Day than for the workers to continue his struggle by confronting the economic and political crisis of the nation. The other day it was the patricians who voiced out their position. Today it is the turn of the plebeians to express not their opposition to charter change but also their call for system change. The working class with march side-by-side with the middle forces against term extension while raising our own banner for radical reform,” explained Magtubo.
The Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reforms (LABOR) sponsored the forum at the San Roque Parish of Bishop Iniquez of Caloocan that was attended by more than 300 leaders of PM, Uni-PLC, National Confederation of Labor, Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino, Zone One Tondo Organization, Samahang Nagkakaisa ng Cavite, United Cavite Workers Association, and big unions like the Fortune Tobacco Labor Union, Philippine Airlines Employees Association, and unions from Valenzuela City. The theme of the forum was “Fight for jobs and livehood, Fight against GMA’s chacha.” After the forum, several hundred participants marched from the San Roque Parish to the Balintawak monument for the rally sponsored by Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya.
Magtubo explained that “Upsizing GMA’s term is just as deleterious to the nation as the downsizing experienced by the workers in the export zones. GMA is one aspect of the nation’s problem while globalization is the other face. It is not just the corrupt GMA regime but also the crisis of globalization that we must resolve and the only solution is system change.”
PM chapters in the provinces held similar activities. Around 1,000 industrial and hacienda workers marched in Bacolod City around the Fountain of Justice in the afternoon. Meanwhile labor fora were held in the cities of Cebu and Davao.
Magtubo also stated that the mass actions today is only the start of labor’s involvement in the anti-chacha movement in parallel to their campaign for a bailout of the workers and the poor in the face of the economic recession. PM is proposing a subsidy for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis; tax breaks for all employees as a form of economic stimulus; and a thoroughgoing reform of the public employment program so that the millions of unemployed Filipinos can get jobs.
“Congress should investigate the impact of the economic recession on the workers instead of fomenting a political crisis by pushing for con-ass and term extension,” insisted Magtubo. PM has formally petitioned the Senate and House Labor Committees to a congressional inquiry of the effects of the global crisis on workers.