The year 2008 had been a tough yet very exciting year for government employees as they fought and struggled for their jobs, for living wages, and to be able to live as humans with dignity and self-respect.
NOEL SALES BARCELONA
YEAREND REPORT – THE PUBLIC SECTOR
It has been a harsh yet fruitful year for government employees. The year 2008 had its bittersweet taste: victories in some struggles, losses in others. But the hardships and trials, the lessons learned from past struggles, have made the workers in the public sector wiser, tougher, more strongly united and determined to win their fight for STK: Sahod (Wages), Trabaho (Jobs) and Karapatan (Rights).
A year of job insecurity and uncertainty
Amid the economic crisis, the government employees became sacrificial lambs for the “mitigating measures” of the Arroyo government.
It was in 2008 that Executive Order No. 366, or the Rationalization Plan, was implemented in full swing.
The said EO is intended to slash off more than 30 percent of the entire government workforce, which translates to 450,000 jobs.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) was the first to take a foreboding of things to come under EO 366.
Several agencies attached to the agriculture department are targeted for streamlining, reorganization, and worst, deactivation or closure.
In the second quarter of the year, the 1,071 employees of Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation (Quedancor) were shocked when the economic managers recommended to the DA management and to President Arroyo the deactivation of the credit agency due to great losses.
According to the Quedan Employees Association or Quemas, the agency’s performance for the past 20 years had been great not until international lawyer and University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Harry L. Roque exposed the alleged “swine scam” which involved P5 billion ($90,777,051 at the 2005 average exchange rate of $1=P55.08).
The said program, which was initiated in 2003, was a part of the credit agency’s program of poverty alleviation. However, the 2005 Commission on Audit (CoA) report stated that the P755.62 million ($13,718,591) in outstanding loan balances and P663.77 million ($12,051,016) in receivables were dubious.
CoA also reported that the 2005 procurement of input supplies for the Quedancor swine program amounting to P1.67 billion ($31,319,535) was not in accordance with government procurement procedures, and the high cost of credit was not beneficial to farmer beneficiaries.
However, Quemas president Cosme Pelayo said the government should run after the real culprits and not after them. He said they should not be made to suffer the consequences of their superiors’ misdeeds.
Besides, if the deactivation plan of the government pushes through, there will be a big credit gap in the agriculture sector. This is because Quedancor and its predecessor Quedan Guarantee Fund Board have generated P47.15 billion ($992,213,804 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.52) worth of agricultural credit and guarantees to the agri-fishery sector for the past 30 years using only P15.3 billion ($321,969,696) as fund resources.
“The importance of the functions that Quedancor has been performing in the agriculture sector for the past three decades is enough reason to say no to the deactivation of the agency. We do not want to stop helping the ‘unprofitable’ sector of agriculture as well as we do not want to compromise the lives of more than 1,000 families whose daily existence depends on Quedancor,” Pelayo explained.
The attempt to immediately deactivate Quedancor was delayed by a series of protests and lobbying before the House of Representatives and the Senate, initiated by Quemas officials and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or Courage.