"People will go for a different rock to hit themselves with, or a vampire with shorter fangs.
(continued from last week)
Among other things, presidential candidate Leody de Guzman wants to end the patently unjust contractualization scheme that has made life difficult, and uncertain, for ordinary workers. For a while, candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised he would do away with it, and Ka Leody, a former factory worker and labor organizer, actually believed it. Now they know of course they have been duped – as we have been duped about many things.
“It’s a violation of a provision of the Constitution to give workers their just share in the fruits of production,” says de Guzman in Filipino during our Zoom conversation. “It negates the relationship between workers and management and passes it on to the manpower agency. But the agency does not have anything to do with production!”
So is it really impossible for workers and business to meet halfway, to strike an equilibrium, or achieve a sweet spot where they could co-exist, knowing one’s value to the other and being mindful not to overstep one’s moral reach? And could government really afford to stay in the exact middle without favoring one over the other?
“It’s irreconcilable. There will always be a push and pull. Workers have to make themselves stronger so they can get government and business to respect them. If the workers are weak, they will be taken advantage of,” he says.
Businesses are not inherently evil, he says, and do not start out wanting to exploit their people. But competition drives them to resort to measures that would help them gain an edge. And always, it’s the workers who are the low-hanging fruit.
Thus, while there could be momentary points of equilibrium, these will always be temporary. People and businesses will always be driven by their need to push their respective interests.
No tinted glasses
De Guzman is the first to admit his chances of winning the elections are slim. Even though his supposed constituency of workers number around 45 million, he knows they will not necessarily be voting for him even though he may be the only one who knows their struggles intimately and vows to champion them if he makes it.
He seems sad describing this eventuality – that the poor would vote into office the usual people who would champion interests that are detrimental to their own.
“It’s highly likely that the workers themselves would go with whomever looks like a winner. In cockfighting terms, ‘llamadista,’” he says.
This act would be akin to workers picking up a different rock to hit their heads with. A different rock, but it would hurt them still. Or, it could also be a vampire with shorter fangs – not as long as the previous vampire’s, but still good for sucking the blood out of our nation.
And then, a familiar pattern emerges. When people are frustrated with their choice, there would be calls to oust that person even before the end of his or her term. The cycle continues.
So why is he still running?
“I am deeply convinced that what I am doing and saying are right,” he says. “There will come a time when the masses will realize that the people they have been voting for all these years have interests that are contrary to their own. Given this, change is really impossible.”
“Hindi ako makinis, wala akong pera,” he says. “We begin from what we have. Our members and volunteers are on a social media brigade. We are taking advantage of the pandemic-induced prohibition to gather large crowds. We are talking to different groups of workers – government employees, teachers, health workers.”
He won’t cry if he loses. He has fought and lost many battles before, he says, and he is no stranger to a protracted struggle with no substantial success. So long as he can go around telling people that this institutionalized injustice is happening, he will be fine. So long as more people listen, and ponder these realities, he will live another day.
Ka Leody might even consider serving in government so long as the general policy of that administration is developed out of a genuine concern for the welfare of marginalized workers – although he is quick to say that he is not seeing this in any of his prominent opponents.
But if he wins – a screaming “if,” admittedly –then that would be a bonus. And a really stark start.