THE country lost a great labor leader with the death of former Sen. Ernesto “Boy” Herrera. Almost his entire life had been dedicated to the quest for a better life for the country’s workers. He was the “Robin” to the late Ka Blas Ople aka Batman, the best labor secretary the country ever had. These two champions of labor were an inseparable tandem in and out of the Senate. Now, they are together again in the afterlife. My condolences to the Herrera family.
In his last column in The Manila Times, Herrera said that the Aquino government may be boasting of economic development but the workers are not happy. If it’s any consolation, there lies in the horizon another champion of workers, specifically of overseas workers — Susan “Toots” Ople who had imbibed Ka Blas’ soulful concern for laborers and inherited his intelligence.
Toots Ople is in the senatorial slate of presidential candidates Grace Poe, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Jejomar Binay. Labor needs a champion in the Senate and nobody among the candidates can fill this need better than Toots.
Oh yes, let me put in some good words for Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s stewardship of the Senate Committee on Labor. He was always ready to look into cases of abuse of OFWs, including the “sex-for-flight” charge against some Philippine Embassy officials in the Middle East. His probe into the physical abuse of domestic helpers in Metro Manila also deserves praises.
However, the Committee on Labor would have been more productive had its chairman been a labor leader — and Senator Jinggoy has never been one. What’s more, he’ll be “graduating” in June 2016. Hopefully, Toots Ople will win in the May 2016 and get to head the Committee on Labor.
Over at the House, I still remember the late Rep. Alberto Veloso, chairman of the House Committee on Labor for six years. He had an encyclopedic memory of the Labor Code and could cite its provisions without any codigo.
One of the laws authored by Bert Veloso created the Tripartite Regional Wage Board. He said that the board could act faster than Congress in raising the minimum wage. He also argued that regions have different economic conditions so it’s best for wages to be determined by region.
Alas, it was later shown that labor still has to wait long for the regional wage boards to act on petitions for wage increase. The problem with the tripartite board is that the government representative usually sides with the representative of employers — and employers are generally averse to any minimum wage increase.
Going back to senatorial slates, it’s difficult to say which is better because they have many common candidates. If we are to assume that these common candidates agree with the principles and program of government of the presidential candidates whose tickets they have joined, then we may also assume that all of those presidential candidates have similar principles.
This reminds me of a quotation from the great wit Groucho Marx: “This is my principle. If you don’t agree with it, I have many others.”
It’s also beyond my comprehension that after thumbing their noses at political parties, independent candidates Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero have asked members of political parties to join their senatorial ticket. There’s inconsistency in this if you ask me.
Come to think of it, having common candidates can minimize the campaign expenses of candidates for president. In the past, the standard bearer shouldered most of the campaign expenses of his entire ticket. This may no longer be so in the case of common candidates.
Hey, what’s this I heard that the common candidates are free to decide which campaign sortie to join? After inviting them to run under their ticket, the presidential candidates are now telling them: “Bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo!” Expect a lot of junking under this setup.
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Best Joke of the Week: I am not vindictive –President Aquino