On the International Labor Day, labor rights NGO Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), expresses alarm on the deteriorating state of Filipino workers amid the multi-faceted crises – health, employment and human rights crises. The plight of the Filipino workers is further worsened by the government’s incompetent pandemic response and the state-sponsored attacks and injustices against them.

Two Labor Days into the pandemic, the Filipino working class is at a worse state than ever. Unemployment is at a record high at 4.4 million, the highest in 15 years and officially, 7.6 million Filipinos are hungry. This does not even include the possibly millions of workers affected by the second implementation of lockdown or Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) which eventually shifted to MECQ in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite.

The success of community pantries and its eventual red-tagging by the NTF ELCAC attests to the deeper hunger of the poor and their frustration to the government and belief that they (the poor) can make a difference.

Meanwhile, those who still have their jobs continue to experience income loss as they became more flexible —  working hours are reduced, placed in floating status, and transportation costs and basic commodity prices rise.

The Center further noted that the government failed to uplift the condition of the workers, instead the number of hungry and unemployed shoots up. It refuses to heed the demand for P10,000 monthly cash aid for affected workers for food but it has funds for its costly anti-insurgency and drug wars.  State and employers used the pandemic to ignore calls for wage increase and benefits amidst hunger and poor health. The government fails  to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 infections as they are asked to make the economy afloat while it implements its militarist lockdown, lack of mass testing and places economic frontliners at the back of vaccine priorities. 

It is also highly alarming that government funds and state forces are used to further systematize and intensify blows against trade union and human rights defenders. Vilification of unionists demanding improvements in their situation are brazenly red-tagged and filed with ridiculous trumped up criminal charges. Workers and trade unionists are hounded by elements of the NTF-ELCAC and killings continue amid the pandemic. 

CTUHR has monitored more than 100 arrests in protests, even though protesters follow the basic health protocols. It could be recalled that 76 protesters were arrested in Labour Day actions all over the country, last year. State forces have also arrested at least 15 unionists and labor organizers (12 of which are still detained), using the same scheme: violent serving of search/arrest warrants, planting of firearms and explosives and filing of trumped-up charges. The Center also monitored cold murders of at least eight (8) farmworkers, urban poor, unionists and labor organizers since the onset of the community quarantine last March 2020. The most recent victims were labor leaders Manny Asuncion of Cavite and Dandy Miguel of Fuji Electric Phils. workers’ union who were killed last March 07 and March 28 subsequently.

 “The Filipino workers and the people do not deserve this kind of governance which does more harm than good. People are dying every day and not just because of COVID-19, worse, they are  dying because of state terrorism and government neglect,” CTUHR asserted. 

CTUHR further averred that the workers and other sectors have every right to protest not only this day, but every day despite the MECQ, following the health protocols imposed.  

“It is necessary to go out and protest to show the Duterte government that we are already fed up and disgusted!  Enough of state incompetence and injustice!” CTUHR ended.###