SENTRO: AN OPEN LETTER TO AKBAYAN EXECOM & CONGRESS DELEGATES

17 April 2015

Break free from the P-Noy government; break free from the regressive and stifling coalition

We, the members and leaders of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), inarguably comprise the overwhelming majority of the formal and informal workers’ sector of the Akbayan party-list. Most of our affiliates, in fact, are considered “Akbayan Labor.” Several of our key labor and urban poor affiliate organizations’ leaders were also Akbayan founding members, and were and still remain at the forefront of the electoral struggles and other campaigns of the party since 1998. Despite some differences between us on certain views, policies and other conflicts that emerged along the way, we had steadfastly maintained and clearly proven our commitment to the party – and we still do.

HOWEVER, the past “irritants” between Akbayan’s ruling leadership and “Akbayan-Labor”, which we conveniently dismissed as part of the lively democratic life of the party, will now appear to be trifling compared to the worsening crisis we are currently facing. SENTRO leaders are greatly disturbed, and actually disappointed by the party leadership’s decision to continue supporting the moribund Administration of President Aquino.

Through the years, SENTRO and its allied organizations in the labor movement have been dismayed by Aquino’s penchant to easily rebuff, if not show contempt for, key labor and trade union demands:

• From the very outset, Aquino practically ridiculed the SOT (security of tenure) bill filed in Congress, which could have significantly arrested the worsening contractualization that perpetrates precarious work, cheap wages, measly benefits, and rampant violations of a long list of labor and trade union rights. He even claimed – and parroted the wild theory devoid of empirical data – that 10 million workers would lose their jobs if the SOT bill is enacted into law! When asked for the source and basis for such claim, he had failed to present any basis up to now.

• Aquino, without any regard for the dangerous precedent that he would set for the working class, shamelessly threw his weight behind Lucio Tan’s blatant attempt to severely weaken the union in the Philippine Airlines by outsourcing more than 2,000 regular jobs!

• PNOY had noted that labor need not wait for Labor Day to meet with him, and committed to dialogue with labor leaders every quarter of each year – during the elections and upon assuming the presidency in 2010 – that he would regularly sit down with labor representatives as a proof that his so- called “tuwid na daan” governance truly addresses the issues and concerns of the workers. In particular, when he became president, Aquino vowed that there would be at least one labor-government meeting every quarter of each year. As it turned out, Aquino’s “dialogue” with labor leaders in April 2014 was only his second so far (after May 1, 2013 program), with just a little over a year left in his term!

• Unsurprisingly, labor (including SENTRO) got nothing in terms of the major demands it presented, like the certification for urgent passage of the SOT (as already cited) and FOI bill; sensible wage hikes; substantial tax breaks for minimum wage earners; lowering the cost of electricity, transportation and other basic services; determined resolution of extrajudicial killings (EJK), especially of trade union and social activists; etc.

MOREOVER, aside from failing to live up to his promises to the working class, limited as it is, we in SENTRO are also frustrated by the party leadership’s recent actions (or inactions) and decisions, including the following:

• “Non-support, ”if not outright rejection, late last year of Walden Bello’s well- intentioned, constructive and legitimate proposals and criticisms addressed to President Aquino, on the need to dismiss his erring (corrupt or incompetent) Cabinet members and his PNP chief in order not to lose his Administration’s supposedly high moral ascendancy. What has happened to our good governance advocacy? It was even most unfortunate that Walden was later practically castigated, ostracized and disowned by the very Administration he sincerely wanted to succeed, and his party leaders he thought shared his passion and commitment to truly serve the people and advance progressive agenda.

• Muted “support” to Walden’s enthusiastic efforts to help in unmasking the truth behind the Mamasapano tragedy even as he remains adamant in his backing of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which both Aquino and Akbayan (and SENTRO) thoroughly promote, but which is now in danger of not being passed in Congress because of the said Jan. 25 incident. Was the “anemic” support to Walden due to “our ally” Aquino’s widely perceived culpability in the Mamasapano fiasco?

• Lukewarm, if not consuelo de bobo, recognition of the contributions of Walden to the cause of Akbayan when his irrevocable resignation as Akbayan’s principal representative in Congress – after his withdrawal of support for Aquino – was accepted by the party, while at the same time, in a cruel irony, the party leadership declared that Akbayan will remain with the P-Noy coalition. All these despite the very obvious direct role of and cover-up attempts by Aquino in the Mamasapano tragedy, which even the PNP’s BOI (Board of Inquiry) – the body formed by the government itself to investigate the incident – has categorically and courageously admitted. We really could not fathom and we are puzzled by the party leaders’ explanation that they “believe that there are more reforms to be gained from staying in the coalition than by leaving it at this conjuncture.”

SENTRO is surely not simply riding with the Mamasapano bandwagon, which is taking the country by storm. In fact, SENTRO has emphatically declared in its statements of our unyielding support for the peace process, including the BBL, as the only viable, just and ultimate solution to the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao. SENTRO has also strongly warned the public not to be duped by rightwing hawks and demagogues who are fanning the flames of Islamophobia and knee-jerk call to arms.

Thus, we call on the party leadership to reconsider its decision to continue supporting the Aquino Administration. Breaking free from a coalition headed by a President who continues to ignore legitimate and life-and-death issues of ordinary citizens, including the workers – by a President who brazenly violated laws but barefacedly denying them – is the most ethical or moral act to do.

It is even politically and ideologically correct thing to do. Remember socialism? – or at least our “version” of it? Clinging to this coalition will also open the party to many unsavory charges, real and imagined, that will hound us for many years to come, and which will seriously destroy our reputation and future as a political party that purportedly espouses genuine freedom, justice and democracy. We have to prove now that we are unlike the parties of the traditional politicians and the extremists. We have to prove that we are a party of the Left. We have to act now. We have to break free from the Aquino coalition – Now!

Sincerely,

Frank Mero

Chairperson

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About Lakas ng Masa Discussion Bulletin

This is a site to publish and discuss political position papers and commentaries of the Philippines progressive movement.
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