MANILA, Philippines – Three labor rights groups boasting thousands in membership have endorsed the presidential bid of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, convinced that his platform benefits workers and his humble roots mean he will be a loyal ally.
Leaders of the National Confederation of Labor (NCL), Bus Transport Workers Alliance, and Alliance of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO) declared their support for Moreno on Monday, February 28, at his campaign headquarters in Manila.
“Bakit si Isko? Nakita namin, bilis kilos, tatlong taon hindi pa niya natatapos ang term, dalawang taon yung kanyang Build, Build, Build na ospital, school, nandiyan. Bakit Isko? Dahil ipagpapatuloy niya yung Build, Build, Build,” said Eduardo Laurencio, secretary-general of AGLO.
(Why Isko? Because we saw quick action, before he even finished his term, in two years, he built hospitals, schools. Why Isko? Because he will continue Build, Build, Build.)
Watch the press conference here:
“Nakita namin sa hanay namin na kinakailangan natin ng bata at mabilis kumilos (We saw among our ranks that we need someone young who can act fast),” he added.
Laurencio said AGLO and Bus Transport Workers Alliance supported Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential bid in 2016 and count themselves partners of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NCC), the pro-Duterte volunteer group that also now backs Moreno.
One reason they decided to go with the Manila Mayor is because of the President’s lack of an endorsed bet. But what happens if Duterte ends up endorsing someone other than Moreno later on?
“Maninindigan pa rin kami dito kay Isko (We will stick with Isko),” promised Laurencio.
Tens of thousands of members
The backing of these three groups could mean the support of as many as tens of thousands up to a hundred thousand members.
Laurencio says AGLO has 20,000 members nationwide. Jessie Olivar, chairman of the bus workers group, said they have 3,000 members. Dennis Aquino, national coordinator of the National Confederation of Labor, its trade union members number 20,000 but that if informal workers are counted, their membership is 100,000.
Olivar is also impressed with Moreno’s track record in Manila and commitment to prioritize economic recovery from the pandemic in his first two years as president.
“Nakita namin na siya, hindi nangako kung ‘di gagawin niya ang para sa ating mga manggagawa (We saw that he does not just make promises but will really do what is best for us workers),” he said on Monday.
NCL, meanwhile, supports Moreno’s plan to industrialize the country and address unemployment. He also sees Moreno as one with workers because of his past.
“Ang ating butihing Mayor, alam naman ng lahat dito na nanggaling siya sa hirap. Tama po ba? Ibig sabihibin, tayo mismo magkakaintindihan,” said Aquino.
(Our good Mayor, everyone here knows he came from poverty. Isn’t that right? This means we will understand each other.)
Sixty-two-year-old Cristita Estudillo, a longtime member of AGLO, echoed the reasons cited by her group’s leaders. Asked why she doesn’t support the candidacy of fellow labor rights activist Leody de Guzman, she cited Moreno’s longer experience in governance.
She rejects Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s candidacy because she remembers abuses done to workers during his late father’s dictatorship. As for Vice President Leni Robredo, Estudillo thinks she’s “okay” but she doesn’t want to vote for her either because she is “mayaman” (wealthy).
Isko’s labor agenda
The three groups appeared to accept Moreno’s remarks last October that ending contractualization is the “least of [his] problems.”
Asked about this again on Monday, Moreno said that he would attend to a policy that would give workers permanent status with their employers after his administration achieves gains in pandemic economic recovery – which he estimates will take two years to accomplish.
“While it’s the dream of workers to become permanent, even if I want this too, I’m also a very pragmatic man. There is a pandemic, many businesses closed down, the more businesses close down, the more people will go hungry. So whatever jobs we can create whether it’s only for six months, until we become comfortable again… then now we’ll go towards making them permanent,” said Moreno in Filipino.
Laurencio admitted their group was “depressed” when Duterte, their 2016 candidate, failed to end contractualization. Duterte vetoed the security of tenure bill in 2019, disappointing many workers groups.
Moreno said he would push for a bill to end contractualization if workers groups and experts suggest it.
“If there is a need to have a law then so be it. One thing is for sure, we’ll go to that direction. That is a commitment to them. We’ll try to be sensible and explain to Congress and Senate that this thing must be attended [to],” said Moreno.
In his 10-point economic platform, proposals seen to benefit workers include slashing oil and electricity tax by half, good quality housing, more support for businesses, and aid for sectors affected by pandemic.
Moreno has also vowed to condone the P75-billion debt incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries from the Land Bank of the Philippines.
He will do this by prioritizing the passage of a law writing off the amortization, penalties, and surcharges of loans given to Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries. Such a bill had been filed in the Senate by Moreno’s politically ally Senator Ralph Recto. – Rappler.com