On March 2, we witnessed a 9-hour hostage situation at Greenhills Shopping Center. The hostage taker was a security guard from Safeguard Armor Security Corporation who had been removed from his post and was about to be "transferred" by his bosses. Later on, the security guard would say that "transferring" was just a way to forcefully fire him.
Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt among the roughly 30 hostages. Eventually, the disgruntled security guard let them go and talked to the media to explain his situation. He explained how he wanted to make a statement about his plight and how he didn't want to keep quiet about his issue, even refusing 1 million pesos in hush money from the agency. (READ: Alchie Paray: What turned a Greenhills guard into a hostage taker)
After a 20-minute press conference, the police tackled the already calm security guard to the ground. He is currently in police custody and will probably be sentenced to years in prison for his act.
The security guard somehow reminded me of Jean Valjean, the protagonist in Victor Hugo's opus Les Miserables. Out of desperation, Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his hungry nephews. He was caught and sentenced to 19 years in Toulon prison.
Sure, the circumstances may be different, but you could see a commonality in their situation: both were in desperate situations and were pushed to take desperate measures.
I'm not trying to say the act was justified, but it was understandable, especially if you look at the bigger picture.
If you're pushed to the brink of desperation, it's basic human instinct to do everything in order to survive. If you lose your only job and you have mouths to feed, especially in this economy, you will be pushed to the extreme.
According to independent research thinktank IBON Foundation, there are 4.7 million Filipinos who are currently unemployed under the Duterte government, which is considered a historic high. Around 7.5 million Filipinos are also underemployed – those who have jobs but not enough income. (READ: [ANALYSIS] The economic lies in ‘Duterte Legacy’)
The real value of wages has lowered significantly due to incessant price hikes brought about by the TRAIN Law and other inflationary policies. (READ: [ANALYSIS] How the TRAIN law worsened poverty, inequality)
In terms of job security, we are witnessing ever-worsening cases of contractualization even after Duterte's promise of abolishing "endo." (READ: [ANALYSIS] The paper tiger that was the anti-endo bill)
One particular tactic of business owners is to rely on manpower agencies to hire staff for them. That way, they get rid of employee-employer relationships and can avoid providing benefits, all while reducing the workers' capacity to bargain – hitting two birds with one stone.
Millions of workers are desperate and destitute under this government's neoliberal policies, ensuring super-profits for foreign capitalists, compradors, and landlords. You want to work? Then accept this libing wage. Not enough for you? Then get the hell out; there are millions more who are as desperate as you.
If you really think about it, aren't we all hostages in this scenario?
Another interesting thing to look at is how people reacted to the incident. On troll-ridden social media, I expected the security guard to be crucified. But instead, I saw comments not only sympathetic, but even empathetic, to the man. They understood how desperate and unheard he was, and how exploitative the situation of the security guards, and workers in general, are.
For me, it only indicates how fed up people are with this system. They could relate to the plight of the security guard because at some point in their lives, they were the ones taken out of jobs and forced to make hard choices in order to live.
But my biggest takeaway from this whole situation is the need for workers to realize the power of their collective will and action. The reason why the security guard went to such extremes was because he felt that he was alone and no one was listening. Desperation coupled with the lack of organization among workers leads to anarchic outbursts.
If only security guards and workers were organized, either through unions or mass organizations, then they would have a more amplified voice and a more powerful will to assert their rights. Mind you, this is easier said than done. Capitalists are wary of workers getting organized and they will do everything to maintain disunity.
I think it was Malcolm X who said that, "We [referring to poor working class black people] are not outnumbered, we are out-organized." Once we overcome this, and once we are able to build our unions and unite under the same banner to fight against this exploitative and oppressive system, then we can break free from this hostage situation that we are currently in. – Rappler.com
Orly Putong is a freelance writer and musician. He is also a member of Panday Sining, the cultural arm of Anakbayan that creates and popularizes protest art.