MANILA, Philippines – At around 2 pm on Wednesday, August 16, the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected the appointment of Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Days later, in small ceremony inside Taguiwalo’s modest office in the Batasan, DSWD employees in black shirts “confirmed” their “Manay Judy” in protest of the CA decision. The show of support illustrated how she struck a chord among the workers she led for a year.
Before she took selfies here and there, Taguiwalo, a retired university professor, reminded the employees about the principles she was leaving them as her legacy – maagap at mapagkalingang serbisyo (immediate and compassionate service).
What might have kept her firmly embedded in the hearts of the DSWD employees was how she manifested her support for them until the end.
“Naiyak lang ako kasi gusto kong marami ang maregularize ko. Kaunti pa lang eh. Gusto ko ganyan o (I am in tears because I want to regularize so many of you. But I was only able to do it for a few ones. I want this much), ” Taguiwalo said as she moved her fingers to illustrate a long bar graph.
Support for the workers
Job order and contract of service workers comprise 56% of the DSWD workforce. These non-regular workers had been fighting for regularization, and found a champion in the Leftist secretary.
Taguiwalo walked the talk. She actively lobbied to give these workers gratuity pay, which President Rodrigo Duterte granted in February.
With Taguiwalo’s impending replacement, her DSWD family could only guess how their next boss would attend to their cause.
“Ibang klase rin iyong meron kang secretary na supportive sa laban. Hindi lang supportive, actively. Siya lang ang nagsingit sa 2018 budget ng request for creation of additional plantilla positions,” said Manny Baclagon, president of the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP). Baclagon has worked in the department since the 1990s.
(It’s different when you have a secretary supportive of your cause. Not just supportive but actively participating. She’s the only one who included in the 2018 budget a request for the creation of additional plantilla positions.)
“Hindi namin alam ngayon sino ang papalit; kung ganoon din ba ang attitude….Baka sabihin ng bagong secretary, laban ‘nyo ‘yan, sige, pero walang gagawing steps (We don’t know who would replace her; if he or she would have the same attitude. The new secretary might express support but won’t take necessary steps),” Baclagon added.
Carina Javier, who had spent 14 years at the DSWD, shared the same sentiment. She spoke of Taguiwalo’s support for her cause to push for better benefits for single parents.
“Where can you find a leader like her that will allow me, an ordinary employee, to go in and out of her office? Whenever our group had activities and concerns, she would accommodate us,” she said. (IN PHOTOS: Judy Taguiwalo during crisis situations)
“I was crying. That night, sabi ng kids ko, ‘Bakit ka iyak nang iyak, Mama? Para kang namatayan (my kids said, ‘Why are you crying and crying, Mama? It’s like you lost someone.'” Because for me, I was personally deprived of an adviser, an aunt, a mother. She was like a mother to us solo parents,” Javier said.
Although Taguiwalo told her that she would continue to join their fight in amending the Solo Parents Act, Javier said it would still be difficult to see Taguiwalo leave the office. (READ: Single mothers: Different faces, same struggles)
“They deprived us of a principled, humble, caring, compassionate public servant like Manay Judy,” she said.
Workers at the DSWD had been emotional since Taguiwalo’s rejected appointment. In the past days, employees had been in and out of Taguiwalo’s office to take selfies and to personally convey their apppreciation for her warm leadership.
Those who couldn’t make it to the central office sent their regards to Taguiwalo, and mourned the decision on social media.
Taguiwalo’s formal send-off ceremony is scheduled on Tuesday, August 22. – Rappler.com