By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — For Debie Faigmani, the last 15 years of working in a multinational milk company has not been a walk in the park. As his family’s breadwinner, he is expected to put food on the table and even help their other relatives in need.
This has been harder these days.
Faigmani is among the delegates from the Southern Tagalog region who joined today’s protest action hours before Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered his second State of the Nation Address.
The protesters’ chant, “food on the table, not Maharlika,” resonates with workers like him, he said.
“I already am scrimping on my essentials. That’s not even an option for us workers. This is the reality we face to provide for our family and send our children to school,” Faigmani told Bulatlat in Filipino at the sidelines of today’s protest action along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon.
This afternoon, Marcos Jr. delivered his second State of the Nation Address, which, according to Teddy Casiño of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, avoided all the contentious issues facing the current administration.
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) July 24, 2023
“There was no word on our workers’ demand for higher wages and job security. Nothing on human rights and the humanitarian disaster that is the counter-insurgency campaign. Nothing on Duterte’s ICC case and accountability on the EJKs (extrajudicial killings),” said Casiño.
In his second SONA, Marcos Jr. claimed that the cost of food has been reduced, following months of incessant price hikes and record-breaking inflation rate. He attributed the supposed decrease in the price of food and other staples to the government’s Kadiwa store project.
But those who attended this morning’s protest are not convinced.
Faigmani, who sits as president of the Wyett Philippines Progressive Workers Union, said that due to the regional wage board, Filipino workers residing outside the Philippine capital receive lower pay.
“Those who do not understand our predicament can easily claim that workers in the provinces are better off because we can survive with a vegetable patch in our backyard. But that is not true. We cannot keep up with the still rising prices of our essentials,” he said.
“We could still somehow save back then. But these days, we have nothing. We even have to scrimp on food as prices continue to soar,” he added.
He added that there are regions, such as those in Mindanao, where price of gasoline is much more expensive than in Metro Manila. “That will result in a domino effect. Prices of basic goods and services are also likely more expensive,” he said.
Even those working in the government are not spared. Santi Dasmariñas of the government employees union group Courage said during the protest action that there are government workers receiving only a measly amount of P7,000 ($129) a month.
“How can one live decently with that amount?” he asked, adding that this is very far from the P1,160 family living wage.
Jocelyn Andamos of the Filipino Nurses United that health workers also continue to suffer from low pay and poor working conditions.
Ariel Casilao, acting chairperson of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, said that implementing a P40 wage hike in the National Capital Region was an insult as it could barely cover the price of a kilo of rice.
“Bakit malungkot ang beshie ko?” asked Mimi Doringo of urban poor group Kadamay, “That’s because Marcos Jr. had the gall to prioritize Maharlika over us. We are not just sad. We are enraged.”
Rights violations continue
Meanwhile, the human rights community in the Philippines is up in arms over the alarming rights violations under the present administration.
As Marcos Jr. did not discuss anything on human rights in his second State of the Nation, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said he only “reaffirmed is that his government will do nothing to act on and improve the civil and political rights situation in the country, while tangential when it came to addressing the people’s pressing economic issues.”
Karapatan, in an earlier statement, said that there are now 60 documented cases of extrajudicial killings, 28 frustrated extrajudicial killings, and ten enforced disappearances under the Marcos Jr. administration.
“But as the Bagong Lipunan slogan failed to cover up the grave human rights violations and widespread corruption of the martial law era, Marcos Jr.’s attempt at foisting the Maharlika and Bagong Pilipinas myths and mantra on the Filipino people will fail miserably to smother his own dung heap of fascism and official plunder,” Karapatan said.
Bayan secretary general Raymond Palatino also underlined that activism is not terrorism. “The real terrorists are those behind the massacres, killings, and enforced disappearances.”
For Faigmani, the fruits of their active union work have paved the way for their relatively better conditions. And this, he said, he hopes to see with more Filipino workers, particularly contractual workers. (RVO)