• Clark Freeport, a time bomb ready to explode


    CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga: The state-owned Clark Development Corporation (CDC) is hounded by widespread labor and corruption problems that threaten to paralyze the entire Freeport operations or worse, result to a total shutdown.

    Unimpeachable sources, in an interview with The Manila Times, warned that the situation is like a ticking time bomb that is ready to explode anytime if management would continue to ignore the complaints of the 800-strong Clark employees union, whose life insurance and medical benefits, among other incentives, were allegedly removed by the management

    The source warned that CDC may suffer the fate of the Mariveles Export Processing Zone which was shut down years back because of labor problems if not immediately addressed by higher authorities.

    Management, sources said, has also ignored the call of the CDC union for a renegotiation of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on the ground that it was a violation of Republic Act 10149.

    The sources, all holding sensitive positions in the corporation, requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the management.

    In an open letter to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, concerned CDC employees vehemently protested the alleged malevolent actions and oppressive style of management of CDC President and Chief Executive Officer Arthur Tugade.

    “The primary cause for indignation is people’s resentment of the so-called ‘reorganization’ of the corporation, which is evidently prejudiced, subjective and malicious in its intent. The clear intent is to favour and place a chosen handful who unwittingly and without remorse, cater to the whims and caprices of the leader that you have handpicked for Clark,” the letter said.

    It said the reorganization has led to the creation of several executive positions, downgrading or dissolution of key departments, upgrading of offices to report directly to top executive an overall lack of direction and congruence to the organization’s vision and mission.

    “Very overtly, the table of organization was manipulated by a ruling few, who took cognizance of only people and their perceptions of people, rather than the function and mandate of the position. Rather than form to follow function, functions were customized to gain absolute control of key operating units,” the letter further said.

    Concerned employees claimed that the management’s aim is to gain absolute control to cover up the alleged rampant questionable activities under the administration of Tugade.

    “Thus, the need to subjugate, ostracize, falsely incriminate and constructively dismiss innocent employees, especially people who know of the truth behind shady transactions, personal fetishes and conflicts of business interest,” they pointed out.

    The letter further said that employees who participated in a recent prayer rally to air their indignation and call for action are now priority for termination.

    “Very recently, a newly installed key official from Public Safety Department (PSD) has openly advanced and warned employees to avoid mingling and interaction with certain ‘red-flagged’ personnel, who accordingly are all targeted for termination,” it said.

    “As early as January 2014, a witch hunt has been launched by PSD, using covert tactics to collect or even fabricate grounds to justify punitive action against some employees whom they have labelled as ‘undesirable’. Such employees are even now, mobilizing to serve as whistleblowers for the truth,” the group added.

    The recent string of events, they pointed out, may be likened to a virtual demolition of the CDC organizational structure to one that will cater to the whims and caprices of the management.

    “CDC is now a bastion of oppression and doubt, where a very select and elite handful are favoured. There is no longer freedom of expression, not unless one has enough conviction or desperation to brave the wrath of a vindictive management which retaliates with total moral disregard,” the group said.

    “CDC is Tugade’s new playground and he is having the time of his life. Never mind the 700 families whose breadbasket is this company. Never mind security of tenure, Never mind the Labor Code,” it added.

    They called on President Aquino to get rid of Tugade so that the corporation can initiate a real outcome-based strategic response to development.

    They also encourage whistle-blowing to identify and convict the truly corrupt officials and their money-making schemes and charge them administratively and criminally.

    But the CDC, through spokesman Sonny Lopez, denied the workers’ allegation.

    Lopez admitted that the CDC has stopped paying the life insurance premiums of the workers as per advise by the Commission on Audit (COA) to first secure an approval from Malacanang.

    He explained that if they proceed with the payment and Malacanang would disapprove it later, the CDC would get a disallowance order from the COA.

    “That is what we are trying to avoid even if we have the money for the purpose, But rest assured that we are continuously exerting effort to get Malacanang’s approval,” Lopez assured.

    As to the workers’ health benefit, Lopez claimed that it has never been stopped at all and it is still the CDC that pays for the medical expenses of the workers.

    It is true, Lopez said, that the workers’ health cards were not honored anymore, but the CDC is using its provident fund to reimburse the amount spent by the workers for their health needs.

    On allegations of the workers on unilateral movements and demotions of personnel and official, Lopez said that they were likewise baseless.

    “Nobody has been removed from their jobs. Their benefits are still there, their salaries and wages are there,” Lopez pointed out.


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    1. Ron Nethercutt on

      I noticed that the previous reply to Depasupil’s column was signed “CONCERNED PEIOPLE,” what happened to names?

      As a member of Clark Investors And Locators and former member of the Board of Directors, I applaud the work at the Clark Development Corporation CEO Arthur Tugade. Bob Wagner stated just a few of the many positive accomplishmebts of Atty. Tugade. The journalist is invited to venture to CDC and talk with those affected by the work being done and by the daily progress being done.

    2. Dear Mr. Depasupil,

      Your obvious “Hatchet Job” article simply cannot be allowed to stand without appropriate rebuttal.

      Allow me to provide you with a Locator’s perspective on how important Art Tugade is to the success of Clark, as well as for the Republic of the Philippines in general.

      I am an American resident of Clark, working to improve the lives of average Filipinos. My foundation, one of the only non-profits on base, donates computers to rural public schools throughout the Philippines.

      Prior to January 2013, the Freeport was an absolute morass of willful, in-your-face corruption, smuggling and cronyism that benefited an entire host of local Pampangan politicians, Manila Taipans and shady businessmen (and women) in cahoots with them.

      Art Tugade’s arrival last January made that all come to a screeching halt. It was clear to everyone that there was a new Sheriff in town. Just like in every Western, the good people cheered, while the bad people either skedaddled, or were placed on a mule backward and driven out of town.

      95% of people in the Philippines complain constantly, vehemently about corruption in government and monopolization of land, industry, energy and food by the upper 5%.They long for a Lee Kwan Yew figure to appear, but, alas, for reasons we all know well, none ever materializes on the horizon.

      Intended over-population has allowed the 5% to force slave labor wages upon the citizenry, causing the 95% to become, in effect, enablers, waiting for their election-day envelopes stuffed with 500, 1000, 1500 pesos (whoever can pay the most, wins!) thereby perpetuating their plight.

      Inside Clark, however, things can be different. Under the unique structure of laws and policies specifically designed to manage a WTO-Accredited Freeport, the shenanigans conducted outside the gates become “non potest” inside, offering Filipinos who work and live therein an opportunity to see what could be, what might be, and – more importantly – what should be.

      In the 70’s, most average Singaporeans on the street HATED Lee Kwan Yew, as he forced them to grow up and out of their traditional systems of patronage, poverty and pithy partisan politics. Today, after being pulled kicking and screaming into adulthood, that country – only a few short hours away by plane – is the envy of all others in the region, with LKY revered as a living demigod.

      If you read the lamentations of the so-called unionists and other denizens quoted in your article, who until only recently milked Clark dry with their scams and schemes, then look at Singaporean news clips from around 1975, you will immediately notice their language and ardor mirror one another.

      Then, as now, both groups of unruly kids throw fits over being commanded to finally clean up their proverbial rooms, BECAUSE DAD CAME HOME AND COULDN’T ABIDE BY THE MESS. Anyone who has ever raised teenagers knows precisely what I am referring to.

      Establishing and promulgating such a community here on Clark is only made possible, however, IF – and only if, CDC is guided by a Lee Kwan Yew – like manager.

      Art Tugade is such a figure.

      OF COURSE his Charges are going to complain. That is exactly why President Aquino sent him here in the first place.

      To be blunt, Art Tugade is taking out the trash on Clark. And let me tell you, prior to his arrival, there was lots of it to haul away. Even after 17 months, there is much yet to do.

      Art Tugade is the right guy for the job because, as a self-made man and Jurist, he isn’t beholden to any person, party or family, and can’t be bribed, cajoled or threatened.

      We Locators, 98% of whom are from the US, Europe, UK, Japan, and Korea, feel as if Art Tugade is doing a great job, one long overdue, and wish that he remains for as long as it takes to finish up, leaving Clark a shining jewel that all Filipinos can be proud of, once again.

      Taking pot shots at him or his new Chief of Security, a gentleman of incredible integrity and decades of military service to this country, from an office building in Manila makes no sense as a Filipino who, certainly belonging to the 95%, must absolutely want his country to better itself.

      Mr. Depasupil, from your other pieces I have read, you seem to be a superb journalist with an abundance of compassion for your fellow man. So, I humbly request that you take some time to vet what the grumbling grousers and hollering hooligans, aka. the “usual suspects” here delivered up during their interviews and take a second look at your subject matter.

      We need not be reminded that a number of the “leaders” of your interviewees, in days not so long ago, were running up and down the slopes of Mt. Arayat screaming “NPA, All The Way!!” and cowardly shooting hapless Airmen and civilians in the head through their car windows while waiting to get through the Main Gate.

      Come to Clark and get to know Art Tugade and his management team here, personally.

      You will be shocked at how wrong your article was.

      Even for us macho guys, it is OK to say “Mea Culpa”, once in a while.

      Diyos protektahan ang mga tao ng Pilipinas.

    3. Concerned People on

      Not only that, but some employees of CDC have passed away in the past year, but did not receive any benefits from CDC.

      On top of all that, the Commission on Audit, under pressure from people “upstairs” have issued an Audit Observation Memorandum, stating that the retirement plan of CDC officers and employees lacks approval from the Office of the President, when in fact, it was signed and agreed upon in our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which is in our rights as workers according to the Labor Code.