Malacañang says Mon Tulfo entitled to his opinion on Filipino workers

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang sees no need to chastise special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo Jr for calling Filipino workers lazy, slow, and noisy compared to Chinese workers.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that though the Palace may have a different opinion about Filipino workers, they can't fault Tulfo for expressing himself.

"That's freedom of expression. Everyone is entitled to make his opinion on any matter concerning the country, the people, or anybody," said Panelo on Monday, March 11.

Malacañang has often used the phrase "freedom of expression" to defend statements by President Rodrigo Duterte or other officials that have consequences on Filipinos and on public policy.

A few sentences later, however, the spokesman insisted that Tulfo was not necessarily giving his personal views on Filipino workers but was merely "relaying" the observations of developers he had spoken to. He said this is why the Palace is not inclined to "discipline" Tulfo.

"Why would you discipline relaying what he has been told by the developers?... He was only relaying, from what I read in his column, 'I'm relaying to you what the developers told me,'" said Panelo.

Palace: Filipinos are hardworking

But asked if Malacañang agrees with Tulfo's comment that Filipino workers are lazy and slow, Panelo said Filipinos are generally perceived to be hardworking in other countries and this is the Palace's stance on the matter too.

"Ang tingin natin, siyempre ang mga Pilipino masisipag. Ang impression sa abroad ay masisipag talaga, pero depende rin eh, on a personal level. Ako may masipag na worker, may tamad na worker. Pero general perception talaga is masipag tayo, we are preferred in other countries," he said.

(In our view, of course Filipinos are hardworking. The impression abroad is we are diligient but it also depends, on a personal level. I've seen diligent workers, there are also lazy workers. But the general perception is we are hardworking, we are preferred in other countries.)

But Panelo did not want to dismiss what he said was the observation of developers to Tulfo. He said if such a description of Filipino workers is true, the workers have to up their game.

"If what the developers are saying is true, that should also give us, our workers, we should change our attitude in respect to our work ethics," said Panelo.

Tulfo, over the weekend, refused to apologize for saying Chinese workers are better than Filipino workers.

In a tweet last Saturday, March 9, he said, "Why should I apologize to you for telling the truth that you're basically lazy and a slowpoke?"

Labor groups have slammed him for his remarks, saying that, as special envoy, his words could ruin the reputation of Filipino workers globally.

Tulfo's full title is special envoy for public diplomacy to China.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said while he respects Tulfo's opinion, he disagrees with it.

Bello said: "Filipino workers are the best in the world in terms of competence, trustworthiness, and diligence. It's on the record that our Filipino workers are the most sought after workers in the world." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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