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Statement on Labor Day 2017

Sunday, 30 April 2017

There are 40 million workers in the Philippines. That is 41% of the country’s population. If 41% have gainful and regular employment, earn fair and equal wages, access full social protection, they can increase their purchasing power and participate in the national economic activity: they can insure their health, their children can finish their education, they can buy homes, they can make investments, establish enterprises, hire other workers, they can eradicate business monopolies and most importantly, remove themselves from poverty and lead in shaping the political future of our land.

This is the national development roadmap that the government continues to repel and deny our people. Workers are kept poor and desperate by starvation wages, precarious working conditions, long hours, contractual employment, sexism and union busting, so that corporations can continue to profit from the exploitation of labor, deregulated prices, privatized services and tax incentives.

Every so often our people are deceived into electoral exercises where they think a single person or a coalition party can solve the problems of poverty, corruption, and criminality, only to be disappointed to find that nothing has changed. If Duterte has no coherently articulated economic program for the country at least he should take meaningful steps to end contractualization.

Unfortunately Duterte continues to serve the interests of the big capitalists who are inherently opposed to any empowerment of workers. By keeping workers enslaved, Duterte earns the favour of the oligarchs he vowed to eliminate, and they in turn will help eliminate his political enemies to keep him in power. Our government is not weak. It is strongly protecting the wealth of the few and checking the majority through economic oppression, corruption and authoritarian rule.

In this context the struggle for universal human rights becomes all the more an imperative for the people. Human Dignity is the ideal for which all workers endeavour and their victory gains emancipation for the people. The full realisation of all human rights gets us there. However, when one human right remains unfulfilled, other human rights perish.

Contractualization impedes the right to job security and protection from unemployment, but could not be addressed without the right to organise and take action. The right to association cannot be exercised without the right to access information and communication. Finally one could only advance these struggles if the right to be free from the threat of physical, bodily harm is ensured- if ones’ right to life is protected and protected absolutely.

For at least four unionists who are victims of extrajudicial killings, it is too late. For the rest, the threat remains.

Thus human rights defenders join workers’ demand to criminalize contractualization and reject Department Order 174; workers campaign for an end to extrajudicial killings and the brutal war on drugs and are at the forefront of resistance against Duterte’s authoritarian rule.