Napolist of bureaucrat capitalists

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And so the controversial Napoles’ list or “Napolist” is out, at least the conflicting versions of former senator Panfilo Lacson and pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Did we hear the legislative branch crash to the ground as warned by the rehabilitation czar? There was confusion, but there was certainly no collapse – at least for now.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives was even busy at work rushing the approval of Charter change (Cha-cha) at the plenary on Wednesday as the public grapples with the long list of names in the Napolist. On the sides, Lacson and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (who was not actually in Lacson’s list) were trading unsavory sound bytes for the press, creating the added distraction. With the Napolist confusion and frenzy in place, the neoliberal lawmakers are revealing more of what they really are: they are not just corrupt, they are “bureaucrat capitalists” at heart using public offices to secure their economic interest and that of foreign businesses, to borrow a term from national democratic activists.

At the precise time when their oath to serve the interest of the Filipino people is being tested, these lawmakers even chose to advance the agenda of foreign business lobbyists frequenting the halls of Congress. They chose to play deaf to the renewed spike in public dissent over the pork barrel scam. They instead danced to their favorite Cha-cha tune while the pork scam storm rages outside, in a fitting affirmation of their devout belief that foreign investments will solve the country’s problems.

The chambers of landlords and local businessmen, which we wish had collapsed as soon as the lists were out, are engineering a different collapse under Cha-cha. It is not the kind that will cut short their political careers but the broader, much wicked type that will see the local economy crash and burn and thousands of workers thrown into joblessness.

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PH workers are racing to the bottom, not to Boracay

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Days ahead of Labor Day, #Laboracay has been making a buzz in social media. To my dismay, it has nothing to do with the essence of the International Workers’ Day but has everything to describe middle class fantasies: a holiday spent in Boracay island, complete with the imagery of half-naked bodies dipped in crystal-clear waters. Netizens who were too excited for their Labor Day trip embarked on a #Laboracay barrage much earlier, bragging their gym routines or flaunting their swim wear. Good thing Boracay Hater compiled all their petty concerns into a hilarious post.

By bragging their #Laboracay escapade, they are also flaunting their skimpy ignorance of what Labor Day really is – which is about the massacre of protesting workers who asserted the eight-hour workday and other rights at work which most Boracay-goers are enjoying. But we cannot blame them, for their ignorance is only shaped by a socio-economic structure that is increasingly reversing the gains of workers’ movements and burrowing labour and unionism in oblivion.

We can however at least remind Boracay-goers a few things about the issues and struggle of Filipino workers, who with their poverty wages cannot actually afford even a promo Boracay trip.

From the previous regimes up to the current Aquino administration, Filipino workers are increasingly forced to race to the bottom as wage levels hardly catch up with rising prices of commodities and basic services. Current average daily basic pay of Filipino workers is only at P348.75, or just enough to buy two Grande Java Chip Frappucino. The average wage is way short of the conservative estimate of the family living wage (or the amount needed for a family to meet basic needs), which is at P1,068 as of last year.

infographic workers

Skewed wage system

The situation is made worse by a highly skewed regional wage setting based on the Wage Rationalization Act: the farther you go from Metro Manila, the lower the minimum wage is even if prices of goods and services are more or less the same. Such setting granted companies the flexibility to relocate areas with the cheapest labor, spurring an exodus of production firms from Metro Manila to Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Davao where labor costs are cheaper for the same kind of work. In a sense, this arrangement made extraction of higher profits and higher rate of exploitation possible.

Just in case Boracay-goers won’t dare ask the hotel staff and waiters, the current daily minimum wage in Aklan is P287 for companies with more than 10 workers (P6,888 a month) and P245 for companies with less than 10 workers (P5,880). I presume they are paid lower than these rates, as companies normally do not comply with the mandatory minimum wage. And jobs in the tourism sector are highly volatile, as employees are trimmed as off-peak season sets in.

Still in line with saving on labor costs, an ever increasing number of companies are using contractual work arrangements to extract higher profits and evade paying benefits and union formation of employees. Contractualization is most prevalent in construction (81.21 percent), hotels and food service activities (50.26 percent) and manufacturing (48.64 percent), and is being implemented under various modalities – from labor outsourcing to creation of labor cooperatives.

Jobless growth

In terms of employment, the number of jobless Filipinos has been hovering near the 3-million mark despite the slew of job fairs and emergency employment programs unloaded by the Aquino administration in the past four years. In January, unemployment rate hit a nine-month high at 7.5 percent despite the economy’s strong showing at 7.2 percent GDP growth last year. I already explained the enigma behind the jobless growth in a previous post, and I expect the Aquino administration to continue to overlook what is really wrong with its jobs paradigm especially now that it is so eager to press the Charter change (Cha-cha) button as soon as Congress resumes session on May 5.

Depressed wages, rising contractualization and severe joblessness remain unaddressed by President Aquino who seems to be contented with hyped job fairs and a bankrupt investment-driven job generation. His oblivion of the Filipino workers’ plight is certainly much worse than those who indulge in #Laboracay.

Today, workers will not be enjoying a luxurious time in Boracay. They will be the men and women busily serving the Laboracay-goers. In Manila and elsewhere, they will be in throngs marching on the streets, fighting for labor rights. In social media, their will register their common voice simultaneously with massive protests via #May1Fight. #