ON THE occasion of the fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, July 27, 2020, the Church People-Workers Solidarity (CWS) said it is in unity with different sectors in denouncing the current administration's failure to address the miserable condition of the Filipino people amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, co-chairperson of CWS, said with actions that are oppressive, irresponsible and irrelevant to the country's most pressing needs, it has, instead, worsened an already dire crisis.
"Today we call attention to how the administration, in particular, failed to protect the Filipino workers amid the coronavirus crisis," he said.
Alminaza said the administration implemented community quarantines of varying stringency nationally without proper implementation guidelines and adaptation frameworks.
The suspension of mass transportation, he pointed out, was and still is a heavy burden especially for essential service and healthcare workers whose continued reporting to work is necessitated by the pandemic.
"Many of our frontliners were made to walk to or from the hospitals and establishments they work in for hours, even as they are already overworked and severely exposed to the disease due to the lack of manpower and provision of protective equipment," it added.
The CWS, in a statement, also slammed the administration as it has still no concrete and effective plan for mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment of Covid-19-infected persons half a year into this global health emergency.
As a result, thousands of people, including workers, were infected and more are at risk of contracting the disease, it claimed.
The group cited that the government’s Covid-19 cash aid program for workers only reached 1,059,387 workers, as of May 2020, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole).
This means that majority of the Filipino workforce did not receive any financial aid from the government amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) where work was suspended.
In effect, millions of workers and their families experience hunger and poverty, the CWS said, claiming that almost two million workers lost their jobs due to temporary closures of establishments affected by the ECQ.
The statement further cited the rejection of the franchise renewal of media company, ABS-CBN.
By doing such, it said, the government has also effectively threatened or taken away the means of living of over 11,000 workers from the network and the smaller establishments that rely on its operations.
"While the government fails to protect the workers, it never fails to protect the interest of big corporations," the CWS said, citing the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act by the Department of Finance and passing the Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines with P1.3 trillion package.
The group said the proposed tax incentives will give P667 billion worth of corporate tax breaks to businesses affected by the pandemic, while the latter will mainly fund infrastructure projects and financial assistance to corporations.
Moreover, the group believes that the administration actively paves the way to suppress the rights of workers to organize, unionize and express legitimate dissent.
Alminaza said along with the difficulties brought by the prevailing system of contractualization, the government has also recently passed the Anti-Terrorism Law which contains provisions that can and are likely to be used to attack constitutional rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
"Therefore, we from Church People-Workers Solidarity stress our call to the Duterte administration to protect the people first before the interest of profit," he said.
The top church leader added, "we, too, call to our fellow brothers and sisters in the community to collectively pray and act for the health and safety and the protection of human rights of our Filipino workers."
"Strengthening our solidarity is the most powerful response we can and must do in this time of crisis," he stressed.