Fighting for what’s right



Since the leadership controversy in the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines started I have never used this column to further my position on the issue or contradict my critics who have been very vicious in their statements to the media.

Indeed, I find it embarrassing that while millions of Filipinos struggle with unemployment and underemployment, suffer poor job security and lack union representation leaders of the biggest labor group in the country are waging a turf war. I would be the first one to say that such turf war does not serve the best interests of ordinary workers or our members in any way.

Nobody wins in a nasty union battle. Nobody.

But this is more than just a turf war. This is about doing the right thing. Those who can only point to the leadership squabble are missing the broader point: this union dispute, from the members’ perspective, is about who should rightfully represent them and serve their best interests.

I don’t want this fight. I think the TUCP should focus instead on the recruitment of new members, endeavor to win good contracts and fight for ordinary workers’ rights, as any good union should. I don’t want to devote resources, attention and energy to an internal squabble. But this is about the thousands of our members who would benefit from rightful good leadership and representation.

After 38 years as president of the TUCP, the 90-year-old Democrito Mendoza resigned on November 1, 2011. His resignation was accepted by the TUCP’s National Executive Board. As TUCP secretary general, I automatically succeeded him, according to the TUCP’s own constitution and bylaws.

It should have been as simple as that. But what should have been a smooth and welcome transition took a nasty turn when on January 24, 2012—two months after Mendoza filed his resignation and after I already took my oath as the new TUCP president—Mendoza mysteriously changed his mind. He sought to reclaim his old post by using force together with his two sons to take over the offices of TUCP in Quezon City.

Everybody knows Quito Mendoza is like a father to me. And it pains me to be at odds with him. I have never chal-lenged Mendoza’s leadership in the TUCP. Nor did I ever seek the TUCP presidency while I was a senator or even after, despite the controversies surrounding the Mendoza’s leadership in TUCP.

When he resigned, I even asked the old man to reconsider. He wouldn’t at first. The National Executive Board offered him the post of TUCP president emeritus, which we created, but he wouldn’t accept it as well. He said he was tired and wanted to retire. We respected his wishes.

I and many others in TUCP believe that his sudden turnaround was not of his own accord but was done at the behest of his sons who wanted to keep their hold on the TUCP to the detriment of the members.

National Union of Bank Employees (Nube) President Jose Umali Jr. calls it “the undemocratic and family-motivated interests” of Mendoza’s leadership.

“We have waited for so long to see the end of the Mendoza family-controlled TUCP, which was the very reason why NUBE distanced itself [from the TUCP]” Umali said.

I wish to reiterate what TUCP vice president Alex Villaviza told all our members and the public: There is no split within TUCP. There is only one TUCP. Only the two sons of Mendoza are trying to forcibly and illegally wrest control of what they perversely regard as their dynastic inheritance.

“The sons Raymond and Michael [Mendoza] have illusions of entitlement—that TUCP is like a chunk of family property that they can right-fully acquire by inhe-ritance from their father,” Villaviza said. “TUCP is not a family-owned corporation. We are not a piece of private real estate that the father can bequeath to his sons. We are a democratic center of various free labor federations.”

This is the same position of majority of our members. And this is why the recent decision of the Department of Labor and Employment on the leadership issue in the TUCP is thoroughly flawed.

DOLE affirmed the Bureau of Labor Relation’s August 13, 2012, decision, which states that rule for succession in the TUCP Constitution is not clear. DOLE proposes a TUCP convention to resolve the issue.

The succession is only unclear to the DOLE who wants to fence-sit on the issue. To our members it is clear as daylight.

Section 9 of the TUCP constitution provides that “in the event of vacancy in the office of the President by reason of death, permanent disability, resignation or removal from office, the General Secretary shall suc-ceed the latter and shall serve for the unexpired term”.

Every single union, local, federation, or otherwise, with a succession provision in its constitution, understands this and understands how absurd the DOLE resolution is.

Prior to the DOLE resolution, TUCP’s two parent organi-zations—International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Asia Pacific in Singapore and ITUC in Brussels have en-dorsed the constitutional succession of the secretary general as TUCP President.

Effectively, ITUC’s finding shows that Mendoza’s actions from 09 November 2012 are illegal and void.

The American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center), the Union Network International—Asia Pacific and consultant of the Danish Trade Union Coun-cil (LO-FTF) expressed the same support.

Recently, TUCP welcomed the re-activation of membership of four federations, National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), National Labor Union (NLU), Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) and National Federation of Labor (NFL), which had stayed away for years because of undemocratic ways under the previous administration.

Five more industry unions and national federations— VOICE (Voice in the Call Center Industry) and the Teachers Organization of the Philippines–Public Sector (TOPPS) and Obrero Pili-pino (OBRERO), Alliance of Inde-pendent Unions in Hotels, Restaurants and Casino (AIUHRC), BPO Workers Association, and Philippine Land Transport Industry Union (PLTIU)—have broadened TUCP’s representation of workers in the country.

All elective Executive Officials and professionals staff are against Democrito Mendoza.

Without complaint from concerned parties, the DOLE took cognizance of the case citing related Labor Code Provisions. The DOLE decision is not final. TUCP will exhaust all administrative remedies to ensure that justice prevails. And if necessary the will petition for a judicial intervention

Only a democratic union can be depended on to fulfill its purpose effectively. A union controlled by just one family is bound to be self-serving.


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