Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) 2022 Labor Day Statement

In a few days, Filipino voters will have the once-in-a-six-years chance to choose a new president. The next chief executive should have a clear and doable plan how to arrest the soaring prices of food and other necessities induced by the covid pandemic and the global oil crisis, stem the erosion of the workers’ already low wages, and halt the farmers’ sustained income losses, while ensuring that taxes and government resources are not lost to corruption.

President Rodrigo Duterte is about to end his term—leaving a dismal legacy: six years of broken promises to stump endo, failure to stop Chinese incursions in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, and the botched drug war that killed thousands of suspected drug users.

Duterte wants to survive through his daughter Sara, who is running as vice president to Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, Jr. The uneasy alliance was brokered by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who allied with Duterte in the latter’s presidential bid in 2016. Within two months of Duterte’s term, Arroyo’s plunder case was dismissed by the Supreme Court who at that time was dominated by her appointees.  The previous president’s appointed chief justice, Lourdes Sereno, was impeached in 2018. Later, the cabal was joined by Joseph Estrada, another ex-president who was pardoned by Arroyo only after two weeks of conviction for plunder.

So, who is it, really? Is it the Dutertes wanting to remain in power, or is it the Marcoses trying to regain Malacanang? Evidence says that it is more of the latter.

The Marcoses’ campaign to fully retake their stolen wealth and faked stature is no small feat. In 1998, twelve years after they were kicked-out of the country by a popular revolt in 1986, the family’s matriarch, Imelda, was allowed to return to the country to face charges of graft and corruption. In 2000, the family started to engage professional communicators in generating myths of the great wealth of the family, rather than a wealth extracted from half a century in politics. They started with Friendster, Flickr, and other platforms that were forerunners of Facebook and Tiktok. A few years after, Imelda and her children started to take elective positions in their home provinces of Ilocos Norte and Leyte.

Ferdinand Marcos Sr’s spirit must be restless right now: will Filipinos welcome his family, or will they finally exorcise his ghost and embrace a future of hope?

The critical role of the workers in determining the best tract for the country is once again at the forefront. It was the workers and progressive individuals and groups from across social classes and sectors who resisted  US colonialism in the early 1900s, valiantly fought the Japanese occupation during WWII together with the farmers, and made up the core of resistance against martial law leading to the 1986 Edsa Revolution. In war and peace, the workers’ interest for continued social progress runs counter to the interests of the status quo, hence they are almost always targeted first by tyrannical rulers.

The vote of the workers, women and men, especially those organized, could truly put forward the genuine interest of Filipinos—a thriving local economy, taxation that works for the people and not as a subsidy for the filthy rich, industries that create wealth and employment without destroying the environment, and a society that caters to the needs of all, especially the vulnerable sectors.

For the May 9 election, the platforms and track records of Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan are our best shot. There is no illusion that all the social ills will be resolved in the six-year term of Robredo. But we will have the chance to co-create a better long-term plan, as shown by her willingness to sign covenants with different sectors, and her active participation in public debates. Her long practice in developmental lawyering—working with the farmers and workers rather than serving the more profitable corporate and tax law practice, shows that her heart is in the right place.

A Marcos-Duterte tandem on the other hand will only plunge us deeper down the rabbit hole.