Workers’ plight lost in SONA oversight

Labor groups on Tuesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to address their problems in his fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Getting a high popularity and performance rating should not be a ground for Duterte to turn his back on issues confronting workers. Solving the workers' plight is one of his campaign promises which he should fulfill,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesman for the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

“We hope the President has not turned his back on the workers who are carrying the burden of the Duterte TRAIN taxes and who are bearing the brunt of his centerpiece “Build, Build, Build” program, Tanjusay said, referring to the administrations tax reform and infrastructure programs.

The Partido Manggagawa, meanwhile, called on President Duterte to sign the security of tenure bill that influential business groups have urged him to veto.

“He has not signed the SOT bill due to the powerful lobby of employers for a veto,” said PM chairman Rene Magtubo.

“A presidential veto will just be another betrayal of his promise to workers. But even if the security of Tenure bill is signed or lapses into law, endo will persist since the legislation is a watered-down version,” he added, referring to the practice of many companies to terminate their contractual workers just before their contracts expire and must be made regular employees.

READ: ‘More action, less talk government’

From the House, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco urged the President to convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council soon to work on the requests he identified in the SONA.

Velasco said the two branches of government should arrive at a common legislative agenda for the 18th Congress at the earliest possible time.

“There must be an agreement among the Executive, the Senate, and the House of Representatives on which bills in the common legislative agenda will be prioritized so these can be enacted into law at the soonest possible time,” Velasco said in a statement.

Velasco said he has already filed the measures in support of President’s requests, including the postponement of the barangay elections from May 2020 to October 2022, institutionalizing the Reserve Officers Training Corps, and rightsizing the bureaucracy.

Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, meanwhile, said the chamber will immediately tackle the President’s priority measures.

READ: Jobs, wages, prices top picks to hear in SONA

“I assure the country’s economic managers that Congress will align its legislative agenda with President Duterte’s priority economic bills, which aims to cut poverty almost by half in 2022,” Romualdez said.

Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, on the other hand, said legislators must take their cue from the President, who said in his address Monday that he would not just “coast along” but spend the remaining three years of his term pursuing measures that would not squander the country’s future.

Senators on Tuesday also said they would support the President’s priority measures, including those proposed by his former top aid, Senator Christopher Go.

These include additional benefits for solo parents, the assignment of health workers in all barangays, and the expansion of the Malasakit Centers, a one-stop-shop housing all concerned government agencies to make it easier for poor patients to avail themselves of medical and financial assistance from the government.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the President’s SONA is a clear message that he is going to be very serious eradicating corruption.

Senator Francis Pangilinan urged his fellow legislators to pass the long-overdue measure that would allow the country’s 3.5-million coconut farmers to benefit from the estimated P100-billion fund in cash and assets.

Pangilinan has re-filed Senate Bill 31 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act, a version of the bill drafted after consultations with coconut farmers organizations.

The bill was passed in both chambers was vetoed by the President, who cited a lack of safeguards against corruption.

Also on Tuesday, the Commission on Human Rights rejected the President’s proposal to make the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps mandatory for high school students and opposed the reinstatement of the death penalty.

“Schools and universities should be safe spaces for children. Violence should never be condoned,” said CHR spokesperson Ann de Guia.

READ: Duterte: 4th SONA launching pad for new game plan, war on crimes

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , State of the Nation Address , Alan Tanjusay , Trade Union Congress of the Philippines
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