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”In two years, Duterte has crushed all the progress we’ve made”

Josua Matas T-shirt reads ”Resist Dictatorship”, a message aimed at President Duterte’s reign Credit: Carlo Falk
Asia-Pacific, Democracy, Financial system & Commerce, Headlines, Human Rights, Labour

The Philippines has been ranked one in every of the world’s ten worst nations for staff’ rights. Arbetet International reviews from a rustic which labour union activists model as fascist.

Josua Matas T-shirt reads ”Resist Dictatorship”, a message aimed toward President Duterte’s reign Credit score: Carlo Falk

Sep 5 2018 (IPS) – “Isn’t it cool? I get some hostile looks when I walk around in it, but other people come up asking where they can buy one,”  Josua Matas says of his T-shirt, which reads “Resist dictatorship”.  He’s the Secretary Basic of the labour union umbrella organisation Sentro and doesn’t maintain again when he speaks about the Philippines’ hard-line president, Rodrigo Duterte.

“This is the biggest challenge of the progressive movement at the moment. Since Duterte’s administration came into power, we have seen a series of measures that undermine what little democracy we have. Some say we are heading towards an authoritarian state. I prefer to simply call it fascism.”

That’s a robust phrase to explain a democratically elected chief?

“But it’s the correct word. Over the past two years, many have avoided using the term. They try to compare our situation with historical fascist regimes and say ‘that’s not what we have here’. But we don’t have to wait until we hear the marching of boots in the streets. The regime tries to appear legitimate, but it is moving towards fascism.”

“The Nazis had a word for this, ‘glechschaltung’, which describes the process of taking control of society’s institutions to gradually build a fascist state. Duterte has undermined the independence of Congress and thrown out the President of the Supreme Court. When he can’t bribe someone, he jails them instead. In two years, he has crushed all the progress we’ve made in the three decades since we kicked out the dictator Marcos.”

Internationally, Duterte’s headline-friendly outbursts have attracted consideration.

He has referred to as each the Pope and former US President Barack Obama “bastards”.

When an Australian missionary was raped and murdered in the metropolis of Davao, Duterte commented that the sufferer “was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first”.

Throughout a press convention he put a bit of still-wrapped sweet in his mouth, evaluating it to the feeling of getting intercourse utilizing a condom.

However the president is most well-known, or maybe notorious, for his bloody warfare on medicine. In response to figures from Human Rights Watch, at the least 12,000 individuals have been killed by police and suspected demise squads.

Josua Mata believes that the struggle on medicine and the extrajudicial executions is just not an finish aim, however relatively a way.

“It’s not about stopping the drugs but about spreading fear. To make critics afraid of speaking out. Duterte wants to change the constitution. We have seen drafts that would give him the same power as Putin in Russia. He will be able to appoint parliamentarians and legislate on his own. It’s dictatorship, even though it doesn’t look like in the past.”

A particular function of dictatorships is to filter out critics. Are you afraid that you simply’ll be focused?
“One of the first victims of the war on drugs was Orlando Abangan, one of our union organisers. He was always opposed to police harassment and when one of his relatives was arrested on false grounds, he tried to have him released. A week later, he was shot to death outside his house. So yes, we fear for our lives and for our organisers’ safety. We are especially worried for those who work outside of Manila. We are dealing with a person who has always asserted that problems can be solved through killing.”

Duterte’s election marketing campaign was not solely constructed on guarantees to stamp out crime and corruption. A piece-friendly look was additionally a outstanding function. Amongst different issues, Duterte promised to place an finish to short-term employment contracts in the nation’s quick meals sector.

“During the campaign he said he would deal with these insecure employment conditions immediately after he came to power,” says Josua Mata.

However two years after Duterte’s inauguration, nothing had occurred. However contractualization is a serious challenge in the Philippines, and public requires motion was turning into more and more loud.

In the finish, on Might 1st, Duterte issued an government order.

It was introduced as a solution to cease the abuse of staff with insecure contracts however didn’t include any enforceable measures.

Preliminary ovations have been shortly changed by criticism when the betrayal was revealed. Josua Mata believes that Duterte made a mistake.

“He signed the executive order to escaper the criticism. But it meant he revealed himself. Now he has been forced to admit that he was unable to fulfil his promises.”

Nevertheless, the picture of Duterte as a pal of staff had already begun crack earlier than that.

The Philippines’ public transport system is essentially made up by so-called jeepneys, a kind of transport that originated from transformed US army jeeps that have been left behind after World Struggle II. When Duterte introduced final yr that all jeepneys older than 15 years can be banned, it shortly turned a nationwide problem.


A jeepney is parked in a Manila road. Duterte has declared that all jeepneys older than 15 years have to be changed, however few drivers can afford the improve.


Modernising the fleet would have main environmental impacts – research have proven that jeepneys account for about 15 per cent of particle emissions in Manila, considered one of Asia’s most polluted metropolitan areas.

However few drivers would have the ability to afford to improve to an electrical energy jeepney and the decree has been interpreted as a method to let Huge Enterprise take management of public transport.

In the capital, jeepney drivers went on strike. Duterte commented in his standard vibrant approach:

“You’re poor? Son of a bitch, suffer hardship and hunger. I don’t care.”

Josua Mata shakes his head at the episode.
“This is the primary means of transport for the working class. And we’re talking hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Dramatic outbursts, seemingly characterised by a lack of knowledge about penalties, have made many draw parallels between Duterte and Donald Trump. A comparability dismissed by Josua Mata.

“Trump is nothing compared to this guy! Duterte may be crazy, but there is method to his madness.”

Duterte’s outbursts are sometimes interpreted as a mirrored image of the president’s temperament. However Sentro’s chairman says it’s about projecting energy.

Like when Duterte lately introduced that the vacationer island of Boracay can be closed instantly to bear environmental remediation.

“But instead of cleaning up one part of the island at a time, all of it was closed and 27,000 workers and their families left without income for six months,” says Josua Mata.

 Earlier this yr, a homicide of uncommon brutality rocked the Philippines.


The union umbrella organisation Sentro was based in 2013 and represents about 80,000 members throughout the public, personal and casual sectors.

Sentro is a member of the Worldwide Commerce Union Confederation.

The organisation is supported by the Swedish Olof Palme Worldwide Centre and its member organisations Livs, Kommunal, Seko and ABF Gästrikebygden.

It was found that a lady who labored as a maid in Kuwait, and had disappeared a yr earlier, had been murdered by her employers and saved in a freezer.

Duterte instantly banned all Filipino staff from looking for employment in the Gulf state.  The Philippines’ embassy employees revealed startling video clips that confirmed how they rescued home staff allegedly subjected to abuse.

Kuwait responded by expelling The Philippines’ ambassador.

When the diplomatic disaster subsided, the nations signed a contract for cover of overseas labour. Sentro helps the settlement however believes the path main as much as it was about making Duterte look good.

“We have always known that migrant workers in the Gulf States suffer massive rights violations in the workplace. But the videos they uploaded put our compatriots’ lives at risk,” Josua Mata says.

70 % of Filipinos are glad with their presidents efficiency, in accordance with opinion pollster Social Climate Stations.

Josua Mata believes the rationalization is the elements he considers to be behind the worldwide growth of populism. The facility of massive companies’ and monetary capital has elevated at the similar fee as that of elected parliaments has decreased.

“Now, we harvest the fruit of four decades of globalisation. This development has scared people and then it sounds reassuring when someone promises to shoot their enemies. The problem is just that when the man with the gun has killed all his enemies, he will turn the gun on you,” he says.

“The other reason he is very popular is that there is no credible opposition.”

So how would you create such an opposition?

“Since Duterte came into power, we are trying to build broader coalitions. The labour movement can’t do it on its own, we also need the social movements. We have established networks with the biggest farmers’ movements, women’s movements, environmental movements and youth movements. The goal is a political system that respects human rights. History has shown that it is a prerequisite for the struggle of the workers.”

Akbayan, the Filipino sister get together of Sweden’s Social Democratic Social gathering, is one other companion. However the relationship has been strained, says Josua Mata. From a labour union perspective there’s a will to push extra progressive calls for.

“The problem is that the parties have failed the working class and the progressive movement. Even my own party has failed, even if they wouldn’t approve of my saying so. The strategy of democratic socialism has failed and needs to be reinvented. The ideology is not dead, but we must learn from our mistakes.”

What are these errors? And what classes ought to be drawn from them?

”I feel the entire concept that the staff’ motion ought to cut up right into a labour union department and a political department have to be questioned. Does the motion essentially want a celebration to push its agenda? I’m not saying there isn’t a place for events, however I feel the motion has develop into weaker by relying a lot on them.”

Does that imply that the labour union ought to take the political helm?

“One of the problems is that we have ceased to be political, as if being political is something bad. And that has led to the split between movement and party. I believe the movement must go back to its roots, to the goal of the liberation of the working class. Let’s stop talking about collective bargaining for a moment and talk democracy instead. We need to reinvent ourselves. Socialism is the better option, but we have not managed to develop a pragmatic platform to make it work. Why?”

This story was initially revealed by Arbetet International


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