NOW that the Supreme Court has upheld my position as president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, it is time to move on and focus on the real things a labor union should focus on. The TUCP should be devoting its resources toward organizing new members, bargaining for good contracts and fighting for workers’ rights, as any good union should. We should not be wasting time and energy on internal squabbles.
The rightful officers of the TUCP should not be prevented from exercising their constitutional responsibilities.
The Court of Appeals had earlier decided on the rightful leadership of the TUCP, in effect validating my assumption as TUCP president and affirming all the acts that I performed as chief executive of the national labor center.
It also ruled that all actions of former president Democrito Mendoza after his resignation were void, directing the surrender of illegally-occupied TUCP offices to the rightful TUCP officers, among other things.
The Mendoza group appealed to the Supreme Court to delay enforcement of the CA decision but, failing to introduce any new arguments in its own support, the Court said the CA decision stands and should be enforced with finality.
The Supreme Court decision ends once and for all this unfortunately much publicized intra-union dispute, which should never have happened had everybody just followed the TUCP constitution to begin with.
We have always been confident that we will get justice from the Court because we followed the laws of the land and the TUCP’s own constitution and bylaws.
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.
On MIAA’s terminal fee integration policy
The TUCP is totally against the Manila International Airport Authority’s (MIAA) circular that would integrate the P550 terminal fee into the price of airline tickets as this undermines the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995 which grants terminal fee exemptions to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
I was one of the principal authors of that law. My fellow senators and I believed that the terminal fee exemption was one of the ways we could alleviate the financial burdens of OFWs. This is a belief that I continue to share with co-sponsors of the law including the late Senator Blas Ople, and it is not right for the MIAA to simply ignore our intentions as lawmakers to help our OFWs.
Under Memorandum Circular No. 8, the government would have to pay airline companies a service charge of 3.5 percent for serving as its collection arm for terminal fees.
Instead of the current system where government directly receives the daily collections of terminal fees, it now has to shell out money to airline companies for doing MIAA’s work. This is a major policy shift that should have been the subject of a law, rather than a mere circular because government funds are involved. How can MIAA do this arbitrarily without consultations and the prior consent of taxpayers?
Airline companies, in wanting to help the government, could find themselves a party to several lawsuits. Regardless of what MIAA is saying, there is one reality here that cannot be denied—we passed a law in 1995 granting an exemption to our OFWs from paying the airport terminal fees. As far as I know, that provision has been kept in the amended version of the law. Why make our OFWs the villains in this legal battle when they are only fighting for a legal right granted to them by Congress?
MIAA General Manager Angel Honrado has been going around media circles to explain that less than 200,000 OFWs will be affected by the terminal fee integration policy. He explained that the new policy would make the country’s international airports at par with other countries.
His arithmetic is laughable because there are around 10 million overseas Filipino worldwide including migrant workers, and at any given time they would have to buy air tickets either online or from overseas in order to return to the country.
Labor migration is not static, it involves a great deal of movement to and from our country. You cannot pin it down to an exact number because not even the entire government knows how many Filipinos work abroad at any given time. The fact is there is a law, it grants exemptions to OFWs, and the MIAA in partnership with the airlines, is trying to undermine that law through shortcuts such as a memorandum circular. Whatever else the MIAA is saying is just spin to hide an arbitrary and unjust policy.
The TUCP welcomes the Senate inquiry on the terminal fee integration issue, as well as MIAA’s decision to abide by the temporary restraining order issued by a Pasay City court.