'Tuloy ang laban': Workers assert rights as labor leader laid to rest
MANILA, Philippines – Laborers on Independence Day, June 12, vowed to assert their rights as trade union leader Dennis Sequeña was laid to rest that day. (READ: Hundreds seek justice at funeral for slain labor leader Dennis Sequeña)
As events commemorating the 121st Philippine Independence Day took place in other parts of the country, workers gathered as early as 8 am to honor Sequeña, who was gunned down by unidentified riding-in-tandem gunmen on Sunday, June 2.
At the funeral march, Rappler asked workers about their plight. They expressed strong, heartfelt sentiments that reflected how they viewed and valued freedom.
Awareness is liberating
Noting how industries spread falsehoods about workers’ rights, Jopay Odchimar said that there is really a need to make Filipinos aware of their basic privileges.
"Hindi lahat ng manggagawa dito sa Pilipinas ay nalalaman ang karapatan nila at 'yong dapat nilang panindigan, sapagkat ang pinapaintindi sa marami sa amin na ang pag-uunyon ay isang ilegal na gawain na kung saan ay hindi naman talaga totoo,” he said.
(Not all workers here in the Philippines know their rights and what they need to stand up for, since many of us are led to think that forming unions is an illegal activity, when it's not.)
The Department of Labor and Employment mandates that under the right to self organization, workers and employees have the right to “form, join, or assist unions, organizations, or associations for purposes of collective bargaining and negotiation, and for mutual aid and protection."
Rights equals freedom
According to Ariel Garcia, representative of Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Jisoo, their rights are a form of freedom they now need more than ever.
"Siyempre, para sa aming manggagawa, ang kalayaan ay ang pagkukuha ng benepisyo, respeto, katarungan, at hustisya (Certainly, for us workers, freedom means securing benefits, respect, equity, and justice)," he said.
Also present at the funeral march was 59-year-old Partido Manggagawa chairperson Rene Magtubo who said workers' rights continue to be disregarded by employers.
“The fact na kahit meron tayong labor standards, marami pa ring hindi sumusunod, halimbawa sa minimum wage, overtime.... Marami ang naharass dahil sa pag-oorganisa,” he said.
(Despite the existing labor standards, a lot of employers still do not comply with things like minimum wage and overtime pay.... The workers are harassed for their attempts to organize.)
Magtubo called on the government to improve its mechanisms so that wokers' rights would be upheld.
The fight does not stop here
Nickay (not her real name), an active member of a labor group in Cavite, expressed her grief as well, but at the same time guaranteed that she and her association will continue to fight not only for workers' rights, but for justice.
“Hindi naman ibi -sabihin na nawala si Ka Dennis ay mababalewala na ang kanyang pinaglalaban. Mayroon pa rin kaming nandito – may mga kasama siya na ipagpapatuloy ang mga ito. Hangad namin ang katarungan at ang paglutas ng hustisya para kay Ka Dennis,” she said.
(Just because we lost Sequeña doesn't mean that his advocacies will go to waste. We are still here – we who journeyed with him will continue what he started. We want justice for him.) – Rappler.com
Stanley Triston Guevarra and Alessandro Alfred Perez are Rappler interns. Guevarra is an incoming AB Literature student at the Ateneo de Manila University. Perez is a BA Sociology student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.