Fast guide: Pro-worker senatorial bets

Labor groups such as the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and other groups that arose from differences in the labor movement are uniting on issues like fighting contractualization, and voting for senatoriables who support it.


MANILA – As the campaign season ends, the major labor groups, workers’ associations and other work-based alliances including women’s groups in the country have clearly staked their hopes on a handful of senatorial bets who they think could help workers. They urge the rest of the working people to vote for these few candidates.

The labor groups such as the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and other groups that arose from past differences in the labor movement are showing unity on issues like fighting contractualization. They are closing ranks from time to time to amplify calls for jobs that support the economy, regular and secure employment, protection of migrant workers and women, union rights, and enactment of laws on living wages.

They chose the senatorial candidates to vote on the basis not only of the candidates’ spiels on the campaign trail but his or her record. Find at the bottom a copy of the chart prepared by Ibon Foundation focusing on what has been reported about the stance of some senatorial bets on job creation. They followed it up with a chart on how the senatoriables fare in addressing contractualization.

While campaigning for the senatorial candidates friendly to the working people’s interests,  workers’ groups at the same time urged the voters to vote against candidates in Duterte’s slate.

“Workers will resist and oppose the worsening attacks against the poor and working people, and one of the ways is to vote against the candidates Duterte supports and endorses, because if they win, they will push for Duterte’s anti-poor legislative agenda,” Elmer Labog, chairperson of KMU, said.

On the basis of upholding the working people’s interests, the following are the workers’ bets in order of the most unanimously chosen and approved:

Neri Colmenares, Makabayan bloc

A three-termer Bayan Muna Representative, Colmenares scored a perfect 10 in Defend Job Philippines’ matrix. Here, the group researched and took note of Colmenares’ record, action and standpoint on 10 most important issues faced by workers.

Image grabbed from Defend Job Philippines’ Facebook post, accessed May 7, 2019 (click to enlarge)

Colmenares is the lone senatorial bet of Makabayan coalition, which is composed of progressive partylists such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers Party, Anakpawis, Kabataan Partylist, that has consistently delivered solid votes in previous elections. They have also consistently been at the forefront of countering neoliberal policies with proposed reforms such as a genuine agrarian reform; People’s Mining Bill; revoking privatization and deregulation of power, oil and water industries; ending ENDO (end of contract or contractualization); raising workers’ minimum wages; revoking Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that has been blamed for the increase in prices, among others.

Colmenares garners the #LaborVote2019 and Labor Win. The latter is a vow to vote and campaign for Colmenares by labor groups from all political spectrum in the labor movement.

Aside from the labor sector, other groups such as the environmentalists and indigenous peoples have noted and praised his consistent work for the Philippines’ sovereignty and patrimony. He has defended the West Philippine Seas and the country’s territory not just against China which has reclaimed and all but invaded the resource-rich Philippine reefs in the West Philippine Seas. He has also defended the Philippine territories from US military basing and pivot; and from continuing operation and expansion of transnational corporate mining and plantation, among others.

Colmenares leads overall in the mock elections held by Defend Job Philippines. In the group’s 30-day series of senatorial mock polls in various provinces in Luzon since the start of the official election campaign period last February 12 until May 4, 2019, Colmenares garnered the vote of nearly 76% of the voters. He got as high as 96% of votes cast in  Bicol and about 60% in Metro Manila, Defend Job Ph said. He got more votes than Imee Marcos in Ilocos.

Labor Vote 2019
LABOR VOTE IN CAMANAVA. Defend Job Philippines’ #LaborVote2019 campaign now in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela in Northern Metro Manila to push for the labor agenda and pro-labor candidates in the upcoming May 2019 midterm elections. (Photo grabbed from Defend Job Ph FB post, accessed May 10, 2019)

Defend Job volunteers went down to grassroots levels in factories, economic processing zones and industrial belts in vote-rich 10 provinces and regions in Luzon including Metro Manila, Ilocos Region, Cordillera, La Union, Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bicol Region since start of the campaign period.

May elections
A campaign flyer for worker-supported candidates in the Senate.

Leody de Guzman, Sonny Matula, Ernesto Arellano, Allan Montaño

Like Colmenares, De Guzman enjoys the #LaborVote2019 and is part of the five senatorial bets picked out by unions in Labor Win, the workers’ attempt to unite the Filipino labor movement. The workers praised the stand of these five senatorial bets against contractualization and cheap wages.

These labor lawyers or leaders have not yet been elected in Congress. But like Colmenares, De Guzman and Matula are in the magic 12 in the mock polls held in Luzon by Defend Job Philippines until May 4. De Guzman and Matula garnered votes from 20-plus percent to 60-plus percent of voters in the 10 vote-rich provinces were Defend Job Philippines held their mock polls.

Senatorial bets Sonny Matula, president of Federation of Free Workers; Ernesto Arellano, president of National Confederation of Labor; and Allan Montaño, international secretary of the Federation of Free Workers, are all labor lawyers.

The Labor Win alliance does not consider themselves as allies of “Otso Diretso,” but they do have affiliations with some of the Otso Diretso bets and in fact they have welcomed them in their Labor Day program last May 1.

Some senatorial bets from Otso Diretso: Aquino, Diokno, Tañada, Hilbay and Gutoc

Senatorial bet Erin Tañada is among the Otso Diretso slate who has been close to the Makabayan bloc and Labor Win. Last March, he and the four named senatorial bets above got the endorsement of Makabayan bloc. Tañada was present when Makabayan announced they will field Colmenares as their lone Senatorial bet.

Satur Ocampo, Makabayan president, said at the program endorsing them that their presence in the Senate with the senatorial reelectionists they endorse, and Colmenares, hopefully, will be vital in helping it work on its independence. “At times like this where there is widespread poverty, oppression and objection to alarming threat of dictatorship, when times that justice is very elusive, and that the system of how we monitor and balance the executive, judicial and legislative is at stake, we need a free Senate that can stand on its own,” Ocampo explained.

Senatorial re-electionists Grace Poe and Nancy Binay; ex-senator Serge Osmeña

These three are independent candidates endorsed by the Makabayan bloc since last March.

As with the five Otso Diretso candidates supported by Makabayan, these three who have all been senators for some time are expected to continue supporting the peoples’ fight against moves to change the Constitution. As in the past, they are also expected to support the resumption of peace talks between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Satur Ocampo of Makabayan called on these senatorial bets to join them in their fight to suspend the excise taxes on fuel arising from the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law. He urged them to promote human rights and due process and protect the country’s sovereignty and rights in the West Philippines Sea. (

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