"I LOST my job after serving for almost 20 years now. I have been my best all the time, but now I am a certified housewife in 2020."
These are the words that struck me when one of my friends confirmed their removal from office due to the mass dismissal of the thousands of employees from the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
What is challenging now is the current function of every office. How can they continue working and serving the people of the region? Allegedly, there were only four remaining personnel on a skeletal function in every office. How soon is the continuation of work and how fast is the employment of the new applicants or re-applicants?
The feared last part of the phase-out process that was due in the last week of December 2019 when there will be no more funds for the current employees, has now come. Many lost not just their jobs but their dreams and their children's dreams. The ability to find resources for this month is such a vague process. There is no clear separation pay given to most if not all of the workers especially the recent batch of laid-off employees.
What is interesting in this transition is the promise that nobody will be displaced. Yet, according to a former employee, “If there is phasing out by batch, simultaneously, there shall be hiring in order to pursue operations. However, what is happening today is the opposite.” Her statement is relatively true. Hiring of new employees are yet to be done via the BARMM Job Portal which is currently crowded and is having technical glitches.
Accordingly, there are few employees left to work as skeletal members but some are not even the needed persons to sign important documents for the continued social services. This means that hiring of new employees from top to bottom has to be done as soon as possible in order to make things run smoothly especially for the Marawi rehabilitation to work well.
In most BARMM provinces, line agency employees have been asking for support from local government to assist them for their separation pays. As understood from the law of this country, a separation pay has to be paid to employees for any reason other than voluntary resignation. It is a statutory concept under Article 283 and 284 of the Labor Code of the Philippines.
The picture today is more of a vacuum. Offices have been emptied, cleared and vacated. However, as an observer, I cannot help but be wary. If this vacuum would last for another month and all deserving employees will not be rehired, many of the feared challenges are yet to unfold.
A concerned citizen spoke to me about a possible rally to be done by the displaced employees. Chaos is again about to start. I do not want to be sceptical but I smell danger if this vacuum won’t be addressed soon. Many of our ordinary people who are not given the separation pay may not have the financial capability to sustain their daily needs and the food for their families. As they say, when the stomach is empty, the brain won’t work well. It may send angst to the brains of these people.
As I feared before, if BARMM will not do things right, we are given the shortest way to self-destruction. We need to see this situation on an objective point of view yet vigilant. We cannot just allow our people to destroy one another just because of a failure to see this future.
As an ordinary citizen, I am calling out to those who are in the best positions to help in facilitating this myriad of unspoken complaints from the thousands of displaced employees. They may not be vocally expressing themselves with the fear of not being rehired for now. But deep inside them, their souls are crying and shouting for justice. We need to hasten the process, become more transparent and responsive. This way, we can consecrate the main goal of a new Bangsamoro, united and peaceful.
Let us all be reminded that we are Muslims who would never allow unjust actions towards others. As what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said in his Hadiths: “Whoever has done any wrong to his brother, let him seek his forgiveness today before the day of resurrection, when if he has good deeds, some of his good deeds will be taken and given to the one who was wronged, and if he doesn’t have any good deed, some of the bad deeds of the one who was wronged will be taken and thrown onto him, and he will be thrown into Hell.”