MANILA, Philippines – During his Labor Day rally, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said his priority in terms of labor issues are the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In the event on Sunday, May 1, at the iconic Liwasang Bonifacio, he repeated his promise to create an OFW department which would become a one-stop shop for them.
"Ang una kong prayoridad 'yung ating manggagawa na lalabas. Kung saan-saan, pahirapan, ito ang sabihin ko sa inyo, isang departamento lang at hindi na gagalaw diyan. Ang taong lalabas sa ating bayan magtrabaho, isang building lang sila at hindi na magpamasahe kung saan," he said.
(My first priority is our workers who go abroad. They have such a hard time going to so many agencies. There should be just one department. Those going abroad to work need only go to one building for permits.)
The embattled Davao City mayor spoke with a raspy voice during the rally, yet his supporters were tireless in cheering for him.
Duterte, known for streamlining government processes in Davao City, said he "hated to see Filipinos lining up and waiting." (READ: Duterte, Cayetano platform focuses on crime, economy)
Duterte also reminded voters that he was the first presidential candidate to promise an end to contractualization.
"Sabihin ko sa lahat, hindi ako sang-ayon sa contractualization. 'Yung iba, pasunod-sunod. Ako, contractualization, it must stop immediately," he said.
(I will tell all of you, I do not agree with contractualization. Other candidates just copied me. For me, contractualization must stop immediately.)
Duterte announced his stand on contractualization way back November 28, 2015 – a week after declaring his presidential bid.
But it was only during the last presidential debate on April 24 that the public heard all 5 candidates say they would end the "unfair" labor practice.
Plans for laborers
Duterte gestured behind him to the historic Manila Post Office which he said could be the building of his planned OFW department.
"Like this building, no one is using it except for mail services. I will transfer them to a small building. I will make this the OFW department, I will give importance to the life, blood, and sweat of OFWs," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
He promised to also streamline government processes "from the Office of the President to the barangay level."
Another Duterte proposal relevant to the labor sector is the creation of a Department of Fisheries. Currently, this sector is handled by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under the Department of Agriculture.
He also plans to get rid of checkpoints which he said just allows corrupt law enforcers to demand grease money from farmers or businessmen.
"That's why food is expensive once it gets to the city," said Duterte.
He repeated his plan to limit infrastructure projects, except those for improving Metro Manila traffic, in order to focus on 3 sectors: education, health, and agriculture.
"Wala muna akong proyekto na malaki, wala akong infrastructure sa labas. Pero ang Metro Manila kasi kailangan ng tao makagalaw dito. But all others, ang una ko muna I will start education, health, agriculture. 'Yan ang prioridad ko," he said.
(I initially won't have big infrastructure projects, but Metro Manila needs these for the mobility of people. But among all others, I will start with education, health, agriculture. Those are my priorities.)
Workers who support Duterte
Some of those who attended Duterte's rally said they agree with the mayor.
"We believe in Duterte because he is the first presidential candidate to promise an end to contractualization," said Rodrigo Bersabe, a worker employed by a company that makes pipes.
"In my view, the others just copied him so the workers will also have hope in them. But I'm a longtime voter. All the politicians I've seen just make promises. When they are in power, nothing changes," he told Rappler in Filipino.
A seafarer who declined to give his full name said Duterte promised to fix unfair labor practices in the maritime industry.
Some companies reportedly impose an age limit on the seafarers they hire.
"We older seafarers are not hired back by the companies because they say they have a limit. That is not favorable to us. So we said, all of us seafarers have united, we will vote for Duterte," he said in Filipino. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.