How PH workers are tapping social media in gutsy ways

Originally published at Blogwatch

bring back NXP 24

Photo by IOHSAD

There is some sort of alienation when new tech gadgets are rolled out from assembly lines and into the bustling marketplace. Electronics workers rarely make out the most of these tools to at least be heard in the vast social media sea. In the daily grind, they work to produce communication tools which the middle class use to share a wide range of content, from selfies to scrumptious desserts and social commentaries.

Now this is something new: the workers who make your smartphones, tablets and PCs are tapping these same tools to present a different story to these gadgets. Seeing the potential of social media to push for advocacies, workers are now bringing the issues of meager wages, contractualization and union-busting closer to the general public.

Take the #bringbackNXP24 for instance, a campaign that calls for the reinstatement of 24 illegally dismissed union officers and for the resumption of stalled bargaining talks in electronics firm NXP Semiconductors in Cabuyao, Laguna. In around three weeks’ time, the Facebook page has drawn over 1,000 likes and boasts of active daily engagement among its base and outer circles – something unusual for a relatively unpopular campaign and for a labor issue in the Philippines at that.

#bringbackNXP24

Last May 5, the 24 union leaders were illegally dismissed by the company for merely spending the regular April holidays (April ) with their families. NXP Semiconductors describes the workers’ decision not to work on a regular holiday as “illegal strike.” But the union maintains that the management’s move is meant to derail the ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“The union demands a significant wage hike for workers – an 8% increase, while the management wants only a 3.5% raise. The union also insists that contractual employees be regularized, to which the company disagrees,” the campaign’s Change.org petition reads.

#bringbackNXP24, which is the brainchild of a circle of labor advocates, has now become the buzzword and battle cry of thousands of NXP workers and their supporters. It is now part of the “unselfies” of trade unionists and labor advocates from Australia, Hongkong, China to Belgium. It is in the placards carried by workers during their protests. It is even spraypainted on the company’s white walls inside the Light Industry Science Park (LISP) in Cabuyao, a sign of defiance against the economic zones’ strict “no union, no strike” policy.

The inspiring thing about the campaign is that NXP workers themselves are the ones sharing updates inside the company. Just recently, a worker uploaded a photo of the latest company memo that tries to sow confusion among the 1,500-strong workforce. In another instance, a worker uploaded a photo of the company’s anti-union message contained in a paper strip.

#May1Fight

Ahead of this year’s Labor Day commemoration, Filipino workers and labor advocates embarked on an enterprising initiative to mark the special day in social media alongside the democratic protest actions in Manila and key cities. Through #May1Fight, netizens were encouraged to support the workers’ cause by sharing Labor Day memes, photos and messages, which were later compiled in a Storify post.

Interestingly, the initiative piqued the interest of mainstream media and bloggers. Philstar.com reported that #May1Fight drew over 400 tweets on May 1 as tracked by analytics tool Hashtracking. Again, this is a remarkable baby step for a breakthrough labor advocacy initiative on social media in the Philippines.

Raising workers’ capacities

To complement and sustain these initiatives, at least two projects are focused on raising capacities of Filipino workers to use social media and citizen journalism to amplify their voices and to influence policymakers.

Contractuals for Change Media Media Collective (CCMC), a project by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), is conducting social media trainings among contractual workers, who constitute the majority of the workforce yet voiceless and not represented by existing unions. The project is supported by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and Otto per Mille.

Another initiative, WORKINGCAST, targets unionists for social media and photojournalism sessions to help workers document cases of work-related accidents and union activities. The project is run by the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), a Manila-based labor NGO. More often than not, work-related injuries are easily swept under the rug by erring companies, as traditional media cannot immediately access company premises. Hence, the project seeks to shed light on numerous health and safety violations in the workplaces that lead to terrible injuries or even death of workers.

During Saturday’s celebration of Social Media Day, Filipino workers and their supporters vow to take part in the #boomPH activities at SM Aura. They will carry their demands for regularization and higher wages loud and proud, alongside equally important causes in the vibrant local social media landscape.

Philippine Dance Delight Vol. 02: Results

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Three Pinoy crews are going to Singapore to compete in the Dance Delight Vol. 05 Finals after emerging as winners in the Philippines Dance Delight Vol. 02 last Saturday at the SM Skydome.

FMD Extreme topped the intense competition with their sleek moves, including a suave rendition of VST and Co.’s “Sumayaw Sumunod”. The all-male Tha Project 1.0 was first runner-up, dancing superbly in sync with a Pentatonix mashup. AMA Dance troupe meanwhile landed in the second runner-up spot.

A total of 24 crews competed in the event that was organized by A-Team Philippines for the second time. The competition’s judges included music producer/ broadcaster Jungee Marcelo, Gin of O-School SIngapore and Japanese dance guru Dominique.

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Hats off to A-Team Philippines for consistently creating opportunities for Pinoy crews to showcase their craft and take on the bigger stage overseas! And good luck to the three teams who will compete in Singapore on May 10.

PS:

1. I wasn’t able to take a photo of any of the three winners as I was frozen in awe while watching their amazing performances, hehe.

2. I initially rooted for Prolocate because of their unorthodox contortionist dance piece, but the judges had a point when they said this is a dance battle and that crews must be in competitive form.

 

Why job prospects for 2014 graduates remain dim despite growth

First published at The Philippine Online Chronicles

jobless growth

Another batch of over 500,000 college graduates will soon leave the halls of their academic institutions, eager to enter the dynamic world of work. But with Philippine unemployment rate rising to a nine-month high at 7.5 percent in January, will they have good chances of landing a job?

Getting a diploma is no assurance of getting employed immediately as the latest jobs data reveal that one-fifth (19.8 percent) of jobless Filipinos were college graduates, while 34 percent were high school graduates.

The latest jobless rate, which is an increase from last year’s 7.1 percent, could be even higher as the January labor force survey did not cover the provinces in Eastern Visayas that were heavily devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

Jobless growth

The unemployment picture does not coincide with the Philippine economy’s strong performance, which is currently next only to China’s sustained growth. Last year, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed projections as it grew by 7.2 percent.

Such jobless growth has baffled even President Benigno Aquino III, who pressed his Cabinet on the results on the action plan for poverty reduction. But a closer look at foreign capital flows may provide a hint why robust economic growth rates did not translate to more jobs for Filipinos.

Aside from overseas remittances, private capital flows are providing the added buoy to the Philippine economy, albeit on a temporary basis. Private capital flows include foreign direct investments (FDIs) and portfolio investments or hot money. Between the two, FDI has the potential to create jobs as portfolios are as good as fictitious capital.

Last year hot money inflows, which include stock market shares and bonds grew by 8 percent to $4 billion, the highest since 1999. This large amount money never crossed to the real economy, say for example to finance the construction of new factories or offices, as portfolio investors are interested in generating returns in the shortest time possible. On the other hand, FDI surged to 20 percent to $3.86 billion in 2013. More than half of this FDI went to debt instruments, meaning parent companies mainly lent to their local subsidiaries either to finance existing operations or for expansion.

Folly of FDI

But FDIs do not necessarily lead to job generation based on the Philippines’ experience. Think-tank Ibon Foundation noted that the cumulative FDI stock has doubled from US$10 billion in 1995 to $19 billion in 2007, yet the unemployment levels hardly changed.

“FDI supposedly goes towards building a strong productive economic base. However, there is nothing to indicate that all that FDI has contributed to creating a strong domestic economy able to create jobs on a sustainable basis. On the contrary, the number of jobless Filipinos has continued to rise, and the 2001-2008 period is already the worst eight-year period of recorded unemployment in the country’s history,” IBON Foundation said.

Such data on jobs and FDI dispute claims by those staunchly pushing Charter change (Cha-cha) which seeks to lift constitutional limits on foreign ownership.

FDI, if channeled to productive sectors, are also mostly going to manufacturing, transport and storage within special economic zones outside Metro Manila where wages are very low and where working conditions are dismal. Continue reading

Post-Yolanda: Aquino’s disaster conspiracy with World Bank, ADB

first published on Blogwatch

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Filipinos will foot an even bigger foreign debt bill in the coming years as some development agencies opted to dump multi-billion loans instead of providing full financial grants to the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. It is strange that the Aquino government – which brags of realigned and unused pork funds in billions – readily accepted the new debt ties.

In the minds of the skeptical few, why do we have to accept new loans to pursue rehabilitation efforts when there are billions of foreign aid pouring in and when there are also billions of discretionary funds, now mostly under the President’s control in the wake of the abolition of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) program?

A month after Yolanda ripped through the country, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $500-million emergency loan to provide support in shelter and reconstruction, power restoration, livelihood, resettlement and psychosocial care, and environment protection. The loan was the first phase of its “support” for the typhoon victims.

ADB fueling corruption?

The ADB then pledged an additional $372-million loan and a $23-million grant, bringing the total financial package to about $900 million (P39.9 billion). The additional $372-million loan will support the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), a program under Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman which is tainted with anomalies. A former employee at the DSWD bared that funds under the program were allegedly misused by some government officials. Continue reading

Sabah crisis: Why is Aquino hell-bent to undermine Sulu sultanate’s claim? (Part 1 of 2)

first published on Blogwatch.ph

It may seem that President Benigno Aquino III is once again showcasing his knack for crisis situation mishandling amid his sloppy response to the ongoing Sabah crisis, which has already claimed the lives of 52 Filipinos. To many, the President’s indifference to the slaughter of his compatriots seems startling amid the United Nations call for anend to violence in the volatile town of Lahad Datu.

It should not be dismissed though that this is just the President’s love for massacres and incompetence working on the situation. Actually, the President is working real hard right now – not to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis but to discredit the Sulu sultanate’s claim even at the cost of more Filipinos’ lives.

Many pundits have diligently made their historical treatises on who really has the rightful claim over Sabah. It would be ill-timed though to dwell on such topic at length and yet disregard the serious humanitarian question at hand. The Sabah issue isn’t just about territorial claim, for it has already acquired a human rights dimension amid the massacre of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s followers, the illegal arrests of Filipinos in Sabah, and the possible deportation of hundreds of thousands of Filipino migrant workers working there.

Which brings us to mind-boggling questions: Why is the Aquino administration tolerating, even endorsing, the grave human rights abuses against Filipinos in Sabah? Why is the US embassy, which usually reacts to the slightest of diplomatic tensions, mum on the escalating crisis in Sabah?

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Corona’s waiver challenge merits a closer look

first published on Blogwatch

In a suprising move, Chief Justice Renato Corona, speaking on the witness stand on Tuesday, said he would submit a signed waiverauthorizing agencies to probe and disclose all his peso and dollar accounts on condition that the 188 congressmen who hastily signed the impeachment complaint plus adminstration Senator Franklin Drilon would sign their waivers.

Corona may not be in the moral standing to pose such bold challenge. Up to day he took the witness stand, the chief magistrate failed to squarely answer all the allegations hurled against him. He instead indulged in a three-hour mix of diatribe, call for unity and personal story-telling which only further weakened his stance. Worse, he raised the challenge with the condition attached, and ended his opening statement with a walkout that brought the session hall into brief disarray.

But the waiver challenge is sensible and valid nonetheless. It merits a closer look.

The challenge at hand is actually an opportunity for the President Aquino and his allies to confer legitimacy to the impeachment process, which he said is part of the crusade for transparency and good governance. It is an opportunity to demonstrate his sincerity to expose the crooks and thieves in government, and to reassure the people’s trust in the trappings of “democracy” which he claims to uphold. That opening is ironically laid out by his nemesis, Chief Justice Corona.

As articulated by lawyer Jules Garcia Matibag of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL):

“If the signatories to the impeachment complaint (188 House members) and Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon (and even President Aquino) would execute a waiver of confidentiality for their peso and dollar accounts, as challenged by the Chief Justice, it would confer a solid sense of legitimacy to the impeachment trial — that prosecuting the Chief Justice is indeed a genuine effort towards transparency, accountabiliy and good governance.”

In fact, Aquino can expand the waiver challenge to cover all public officials – his Cabinet secretaries, other justices, even senator-judges and the Ombudsman – as a clear testament to his administration’s resolve to expose the corrupt in government. He can say that public officials will executive their waivers not as precondition for Corona’s waiver, but as an independent manifestation of their willingness to come under the banner of “Daang Matuwid”.

But quite oddly, President Aquino, who has consistently bannered transparency and good governance in his speeches, have yet to personally comment on Corona’s dare. We certainly miss his (snide) remarks on the sidelines of the impeachment trial. Now that a brilliant opportunity is there to initiate a simple yet concrete affirmation of his commitment to transparency, why is Aquino not taking the lead?

Perhaps he is aware that he failed to fulfill a campaign promise upon election into the highest post of the land. Barely three months before the 2010 elections, Aquino, along with two other presidentiables, pledged to waive his rights under the Bank Secrecy Law and disclose all his accounts to public if elected as president. That waiver is similar to what is being dangled by Corona sans the condition. Now, two years into his presidency, Aquino has yet to sign his waiver. You decide whose waiver qualifies more as a publicity stunt.

Some observers say that for public officials to execute a waiver is like biting into Corona’s ploy. But what grand scheme is there to save Corona from conviction? Will signing waivers really give Corona elbow room to execute more tricks? I don’t think so. The spotlight will not leave Corona even if the 189 lawmakers sign their waivers, especially now that judgment day looms. At this point, the waivers are already immaterial as far as Corona’s acquittal or conviction is concerned. As it appears, most of the senator-judges have already made up their mindson the case.

While the waivers are irrelevant to the verdict, they are nonetheless relevant to public interest. In fact, public officials should be urged to execute their waivers even after the impeachment trial. What’s in store for the people? Maybe bigger cans of worms. Maybe more tales of circituous money flows. Maybe more dizzying Powerpoint presentations that all attest that political power is intertwined with economic power. Maybe more dumbfounding figures of ill-gotten wealth of public officials which prove that bureaucrat capitalism, as national democrats call it, is still alive and kicking under President Aquino. And maybe, these are the reasons why our lawmakers are not keen on signing their waivers.

We can only presume based on their inaction. That is why public officials should open their accounts to the public in the spirit of transparency and public accountability. And no one else should be taking the bold lead other than the President, who has for so long brandished the sigil of the House of Daang Matuwid. Otherwise, we are merely paying respects to institutions teeming with hypocrites.