On the nation’s observance of Labor Day on May 1, we, Former Senior Government Officials, join the average Filipino worker and his/her family in confronting a cruel fact: bad governance by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is anti-labor on a massive scale.
The real value of workers’ incomes has fallen since GMA assumed power in 2001. Official statistics say that a minimum wage earner who earned P250 a day in 2000 could only buy P243 worth of goods at the same 2000 prices with the P350 minimum wage in 2007.
Every P100 earned by the average employee in 2004 became worth only P94.50 in equivalent terms by 2007. Put simply, the so-called “economic performance of the GMA administration” in the last seven years has actually penalized the average Filipino worker with declining purchasing power.
Ms. Arroyo promised an economy that generates at least one million jobs per year. Latest official labor statistics show only 149,000 new jobs were created in 2007 (from January 2007 to January 2008), despite official claims that our economy had grown the fastest in three decades.
The harsh reality is that our workers are chasing after less desirable and lower-paying jobs. In the same period, close to half a million regular wage and salary jobs in the formal sector were lost in contrast to gains in unpaid family labor and self-employment in the informal sector.
Most of the new jobs came from construction, private household employment, transport (particularly tricycle/pedicab drivers), and other unstable, insecure and dangerous jobs.
Worse, a growing portion of our workers is underemployed, stuck with jobs yielding incomes unable to sustain their survival.
Let’s count the ways
Our dire state forces thousands of Filipinos to leave the country every day, in hopes that foreign economies, with better leaders than our own, can give them opportunities for advancement that their Philippine economy mismanaged by a bad president has repeatedly failed to do.
More data and statistics about the true sad state of the Filipino working class can be cited. Numbers, however, can only hint at the depths of misery and the magnitude of anger over the gross injustice with which the Filipino working class marks this 7th Labor Day under the cross of GMA’s bad governance. Let us cite the ways that GMA’s governance has been bad for the working class:
GMA’s actions, through minions like Joc-Joc Bolante, diverted into private hands hundreds of millions of pesos from government projects intended to help farmers procure fertilizers for raising farm productivity or piglets for fattening and thereby raising farm incomes;
GMA’s actions, through her appointed officials, allow the smuggling of millions of dollars worth of various imports ranging from farm products to luxury cars and petroleum fuels, depriving government of massive revenues for development projects and vital social services, while driving domestic producers of these goods to lay off thousands of workers in the face of losses due to the unfair competition; and
GMA’s actions, through her misplaced policies and programs and corrupt practices, discourage not only foreign investors, but even more so, domestic investors who see how the rewards of the economy have gone less to the innovative and the enterprising, but more to the manipulative and the plundering. This in turn has prevented our economy from generating the needed jobs.
GMA’s bad governance is rooted in an illegitimate leadership, sustained in power by brazen corruption and systematic destruction of institutions. This is the bad governance that persistently undermines our economy’s capability to create the jobs and livelihoods capable of uplifting the lives of working-class Filipinos and their families.
The deadly fruit of this bad governance is mass poverty that is not only severe and widespread, but also rising in the face of supposedly rapid economic growth. This is the bad governance that our people must confront and strive, through democratic solutions, to change.
Our economy relies on the energy and talent of the working Filipinos we honor on this Labor Day. We honor the 33 million Filipino workers who are the very backbone of every productive enterprise.
We also honor the 1.4 million civil servants in our national and local governments who deliver the public services on which we all depend. We must seek better governance if we are to build an economy that yields a better deal for our workers in the private and public sectors.
We honor some 8 million overseas Filipinos, and their families, whom we like to call heroes for providing our country with their precious foreign exchange lifeline. We must seek better governance if we want to stop making martyrs of our OFW heroes, as their families’ peso incomes shrink with the appreciating currency that their remittances help prop up.
We especially commiserate with the millions of working-age Filipinos who, try as they may, could not find work; or could only find work barely able to sustain their survival; or could only get work elsewhere at the cost of leaving their families without a father or mother, thereby ironically weakening the very foundations of their families for whose welfare they toil.
All of them — all of us — are victims of the bad governance that has been the single biggest enemy of workers’ welfare in our country today. We call on all fellow Filipinos to work for better governance as only a good government can truly do justice to every hardworking Filipino’s daily sacrifice of labor.