Duterte: Fire Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez now
During the election campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte won the hearts of many workers when he promised to immediately end “contractualization,” or the practice of not giving workers the wages and benefits they should receive under the law by hiring them as “contractual” rather than regular workers.
Then, during his inaugural speech, President Duterte said that his government will be guided in part by former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s statement that, “The test of government is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have little.”
Today, one person in the President’s Cabinet has gone out of his way to prevent the President from fulfilling his campaign promise and from passing the test that Roosevelt set.
Since he assumed office, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez has consistently opposed measures to end contractualization that we at the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, along with other labor groups in the country, have been demanding.
Recently, Lopez even championed the so-called “win-win” but in fact win-lose solution that purportedly seeks a middle-ground between capitalists and workers but in fact again ultimately harms the interests of workers since it will continue to force them to live a life of precarity and near-destitution while allowing the rich to earn more profits and live a life of luxury on the back of contractual workers.
Yesterday, he again spoke out to defend contractualization by saying that ending it would make the country less attractive to foreign investors by removing their “flexibility”—as if “flexibility” for investors has not come and will not come at the expense of the well-being of Filipino workers.
At every step of the way, then, Lopez and his department has represented not the interests of Filipino workers but of capitalists—Filipino and foreign. He fails the test that Roosevelt set because he wants to “add more to the abundance of those who have much” rather than “provide for those who have little.”
In so doing, he is challenging and defying President Duterte himself since the President has said that he wants to “provide for those who have little” and he has promised to end contractualization.
This, then, is an important moment for the President—another early test forcing him to choose whose side he will take and whose interests he will protect.
If the President really cares about Filipino workers, if he really wants to to “provide for those who have little,” then he should match his rhetoric with action and do what needs to be done: he should immediately fire those in his Cabinet who favor contractualization.
More than this, he should immediately take steps needed to end labor flexibilization once and for all by: 1) certifying as urgent – and mobilizing all his party mates to pass – a bill to amend Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code in order to prohibit the contracting and subcontracting of “usually necessary or desirable” work in the normal operations of a business, which should be performed by regular employees, in line with Article 280 of said law; 2) revising the BMBE law so as to remove the exemptions to labor standards compliance of small and micro establishments, which comprise more than 90% of the employers’ sector; 3) repealing DOLE’s DO 18-A and issuing a new order which reviews all existing subcontracting arrangements and cancels those that encroach upon the duties and functions, which should done by regular employees; 4) actually prosecuting employers that practice contractualization, starting with the Sys, the Ayalas, the Gokongweis and others.
Otherwise, if he allows the pro-contractualization Lopez to stay in his Cabinet and if he does not carry out all these steps immediately, it will become harder and harder for us not to confirm what many of us have long suspected but wanted the President to refute:
That he did not really mean what he said when he said he would end contractualization, that he does not really care for all Filipinos but just for his fellow elites, and that he will not really bring about real change—just like all his predecessors.