MANILA, Philippines “Kung nais ni Pangulong Duterte na tuluyang mawala ang korupsyon sa Tanggapan ng Paggawa, dapat simulan nitong tigpasin ang mga tiwali sa mismong ahensya nito”

[If President Duterte is serious in eradicating corruption at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), he should start removing the corrupt officials and personnel of the agency.]

This is the message of Atty. Ernesto Arellano of Legal Advocates for Worker’s Interest (LAWIN) during the press conference of the National Confederation of Labor (NCL) at Tropical Hut in Cubao, Quezon City, Tuesday (13 September) morning.

NCL urged the Duterte Administration to create a body or a committee that will thoroughly investigate why the End Of Contract and Labor-Only Contracting have been rampant in the country.

In the presscon, NCL revealed the culprits and violators of labor rights by showing their own version of the “ENDO Matrix”.  The labor group identified former DOLE Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma as the possible mastermind, who they allege promoted contractual work and in so doing, violated the Filipino worker’s right to security of tenure.

Laguesma was Labor Secretary from 1998 to 2001 during the administration of President Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada, now a second-term mayor in the City of Manila. Laguesma had worked for DOLE since 1976.

Atty. Arellano who is also the legal counsel of the 300 displaced Pizza Hut employees, said that the former DOLE Secretary had not complied with his mandate to serve the interests of Filipino workers.

Atty. Arellano alleged that instead of providing a balanced and proactive approach to the plight of labor, Laguesma has been instrumental in dissolving the organized trade unions in the country.

“Ginamit nya lang ang kanyang posisyon at impluwensya para maging bansot ang kalagayan ng mga manggagawa sa anumang sektor sa bansa. Marami sa kanyang desisyon ay hindi pabor sa mga manggagawa bagkus mas makikita ang bias nya sa mga may-ari ng kumpanya,” Atty. Arellano told the Center for People’s Media.

[He used his position and influence to stunt the growth of organized labor growth in different sectors in the country. The majority of his decision were anti-labor and he (Laguesma) only favored the interests of the employers].

Partidong Manggagawa (PM) spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza corroborated this allegation in an interview with Interaksyon last June 20, 2016 where he asserted Laguesma has represented corporate giants such as SM, ABS-CBN, Philippine Airlines (PAL), and Asia Brewery in labor disputes.”

Fortaleza added “Laguesma and his law firm were very much involved with PAL’s outsourcing scheme in 2011. PAL has yet to implement the 2013 Settlement Agreement with PALEA which provides re-employment for the remaining PALEA members who fought against the outsourcing scheme.”

Aside from this, Fortaleza also said that Laguesma continues to represent South Korean metal fabrication export company Tae Sung in the anti-union special economic zone in Cavite, as well as Japanese global automotive parts supplier Yazaki Corp.

Atty. Arellano believes that Laguesma used his clout and influence at DOLE to stifle any resistance to his anti-labor agenda. Allegedly, by consolidating his authority in the department he was able to control his “turf” such that no one prevented him from crushing the rights and welfare of the Filipino working class.

“Siguro ngayon ang tamang panahon para masusing mabusisi ng kasalukyang administrasyon ang mga pinaggagawa ni laguesma pang-aabuso sa mga manggagawa,” Atty. Arellano said.

[Maybe this is the right time for the present administration to thoroughly investigate how Laguesma abused his authority and the Filipino workers].

The veteran lawyer hopes that President Duterte is true to his promise to the people, especially the working class, that he will address the problem of contractualized work in the country.

“Sana totohanin ng Pangulo ang kanyang mga pangako hindi lamang sa salita,” Atty. Arellano said.

[I do hope the President is true to his promises of change and not only in words].

Echoing this sentiment, Fortaleza advised the Duterte administration to think twice about tapping Laguesma as part of his transition team at the Labor Department.

“He represents corporate interests and not the working people’s. His law firm is a corporate favorite,” Fortaleza said of Laguesma, Magsalin, Consulta, and Gastardo Law Offices, where the lawyer is a senior partner. CPM

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