Tag Archives: Fortaleza

[Press Release] Militants slam Serge Osmena for “no collusion” statement -PM

Militants slam Serge Osmena for “no collusion” statement

The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today slammed Sen. Serge Osmena for pre-empting the probes by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the huge power rate hike with his statement yesterday that there is no collusion among generation companies and Meralco. The two departments are precisely looking into allegations of collusion.

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“Serge is a consistent supporter of power industry players since his sponsorship of the EPIRA Law which ushered in the era of high electricity rates to his defense of Meralco’s gargantuan rate hike,” opined Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

Fortaleza is one of the signatories to the complaint against Meralco and generation companies lodged by groups last Monday with the DOJ Office for Competition. DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima pledged to come up with a finding by January next year.

Meanwhile PM continued its campaign of picketing Meralco branches. Yesterday its Cavite chapter protested at the Meralco branch and depot in Dasmarinas City. Tomorrow, PM members will picket the Meralco branch in Marilao, Bulacan. Last Monday PM staged a coordinated picket of branches in Paranaque, Rizal and Cavite.

“Serge’s statement is a mere opinion and not even a conclusion after an investigation. At the Senate hearing, even as senators grilled officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission and the DOE, they handled with kid gloves representatives of Meralco and the generation companies. As to why, it may be necessary to look into election campaign contributions by power industry players,” Fortaleza averred.

PM asserts that the Meralco price increase is unconscionable since it is an act of economic terror amid calamities, inequality and poverty in the country. Fortaleza argued that “It is also unfair. Workers in NCR were only granted P10 per day or P260 per month under Wage Order No. 18. The P4.15/kwh total increase in Meralco’s rate is an additional P830 burden for households consuming 200 kwh per month.”

“The worker-led consumer campaign against collusion by Meralco and the generation companies to drive electricity prices will continue and intensify next year. Consumers anger will boil over when they get their next electricity bills,” Fortaleza predicted.

Press Release
December 19, 2013
Partido ng Manggagawa
Contact Wilson Fortaleza @ 09178233956

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[Press Release] MRT/LRT rate hike not for service improvements but for debt service – PM

MRT/LRT rate hike not for service improvements but for debt service – labor group

MRT LRT fare hike Photo By PM

Debt service and not service improvements will eat much of the proposed P11+1 rate hikes in the three rail systems (LRT lines 1& 2 and MRT-3), the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.

The group, which participated in yesterday’s public consultation on the proposed rate hike, explained that based on DOTC’s presentation, seventy seven percent (77%) of MRT-3 finances go to debt service in the form of Equity Rental Payments (ERP) to private consortium Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) and only 10% goes to capital expenditure (capex). In other words, seventy-seven (P0.77) centavos in every one peso (P1.00) increase in MRT rates will go to debt service while only ten centavos (P0.10) will go to service improvement in the form of capex.

In LRT lines 1 and 2, the DOTC said debt payments represent fifty-four (54%) percent and this is mostly to service debts of line 2.

“If such is the case, even if the government succeeds in forcing commuters to foot the bill, there will be no major service improvements in the system since most of the proceeds from the proposed rate adjustments will go to settle anomalous debts, “ said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

These debts, Fortaleza added, came from the highly onerous build-lease and transfer contract (BLT) which is very similar to the controversial IPP (independent power producers) in the power industry that contained sovereign guarantees.

“This BLT contract is the main culprit here and the government is not addressing this concern because it doesn’t want to antagonize the private sector which is still its main partner under the PPP (private-public partnership) program,” said Fortaleza.

In a position paper it resubmitted to DOTC yesterday, Partido ng Manggagawa urges the government to conduct of an honest-to-goodness inquiry into allegations that the private consortium MRTC and other parties have defrauded the government and the people under the BLT contract.

If such is proven, the group demands that the BLT contract is rescinded at no further cost to the government and any liabilities accrued from such onerous and fraudulent transactions should not be passed on to commuters.

“Huwag naman pati ang mga ganitong problema ay ipaubaya na lang ni PNoy kay Lord,” concluded Fortaleza.

PRESS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
13 December 2013
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza
09178233956

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[Press Release] Labor enforcement reforms needed in wake of Paranaque construction accident -PM

Labor enforcement reforms needed in wake of Paranaque construction accident

The militant labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for stronger labor enforcement and labor inspection reforms in response to the accident at a construction site in Paranaque last Wednesday that claimed the life of one worker and injured 15. “Heads must roll and justice must be served for the needless deaths and injuries to construction workers,” insisted Wilson Fortaleza, PM spoksperson, as he predicted that more accidents are due to happen with the current real estate boom.

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PM lambasted employers for cutting corners in occupational safety in order to raise profits and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the lax implementation of labor and safety standards. “While capitalists were scrimping on protection for workers and DOLE was sleeping on its job of enforcement, workers are dying in the workplace,” Fortaleza elaborated.

Ricardo “Boy” Marcaida, a construction worker who is acting president of the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Komunidad (SMK) in Malabon, averred that “Accidents are not acts of divine providence that can be dismissed as unavoidable. Instead accidents are the result of unsafe acts and therefore preventable by strict enforcement of occupational safety and health and labor standards.” SMK is a legitimate labor organization registered with the DOLE which is affiliated to PM.

“Under the regime of the DOLE’s self-assessment program, the number of labor inspectors have shrunk from around 240 to less than 200 and the number of establishments inspected plummeted from 60,000 in 2003 to just 6,000 in 2010. Self-assessment means that the government is asking the wolf to guard the sheep. No wonder the sheep get slaughtered,” Marcaida criticized.

He recommended that “We propose that the DOLE deputize labor leaders as labor inspectors. In so doing the number of inspectors and inspections can be increase several fold overnight, enforcement can be strengthened immediately, and workers lives and limbs can be saved.”

Fortaleza added that “The DOLE has again been caught sleeping on the job. DOLE must review contractors and their principals for compliance not just with safety regulations but labor standards such as payment of minimum wages and benefits, observance of working hours and remittance of social security among others. Construction workers are among the most overworked yet underpaid of employees since they are generally unorganized.”

Press Release
October 5, 2013
Contact Wilson Fortaleza @ 09178233956
Partido ng Manggagawa Spokesperson

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[Press Release] Labor group demands probe on unauthorized perks of PEZA officials -PM

Labor group demands probe on unauthorized perks of PEZA officials

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), likewise on Tuesday called on appropriate government agencies to conduct an immediate probe on reported ‘misappropriation’ of fat bonuses to officials of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

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“We must stay vigilant over the pork scandal but should never lose sight of anomalies committed by crooks at the lower level,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

The group said it was disgusting to learn that PEZA, an agency known for investment promotion but negligent for promoting workers’ rights inside the country’s economic zones, repeatedly rewarded its officials with fat bonuses.

In a report released Monday, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that PEZA officials and employees partook on ‘unauthorized’ bonuses amounting P48.5 million in 2012. COA said PEZA officials and employees received P23.5 million in anniversary bonuses in February last year even though 2012 was not a milestone year for PEZA.

Administrative Order 263 dated March 28, 1996 provides the grant of anniversary bonus to officials and employees of government entities on the occasion of its milestone anniversary. But State auditors said a milestone year as prescribed by Section 2.4 of the rules refers to the 15th anniversary and to every fifth year thereafter.

COA also said PEZA officials and employees got P25 million in Christmas gifts without legal basis or approval from the Office of the President.

Fortaleza said that while his group, in principle, supports the grant of incentives as reward for hard work or productivity, misappropriating public funds in the form of bonuses for work that hardly had any impact on the sorry plight of workers inside EPZAs, “is a despicable thing” to be ignored.

The group pointed out that hundreds of thousands of EPZA workers, particularly in Calabarzon and Cebu, do not enjoy the minimum labor standards such as security of tenure and freedom to organize and collectively bargain because PEZA officials do not think that it is also their job to uphold and defend these rights.

Habitual

The labor group likewise noted that misappropriating ‘bonuses’, ‘pay hike’ and ‘allowances’ had become habitual in PEZA.

In a decision dated July 3, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the CoA September 2009 decision ordering the PEZA ex officio Board members to refund P5,451,500 worth of per diems they received in 2006.

In 2010, COA’s yearend report also found that the PEZA Board had disbursed unauthorized salary increases in the last half of 2010 amounting to P93.65 million without securing prior approval from the Office of the President as mandated under 1994 Congress Joint Circular No. 1.

PRESS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
24 September 2013
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza
09178233956

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[Press Release] PM slams P10 wage hike as a “cruel Napoles joke”

Group slams P10 wage hike as a “cruel Napoles joke”

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The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) slammed the P10 wage hike in the National Capital Region (NCR) as a “cruel Napoles joke” inflicted on the workers. “Janet Napoles steals P10 billion from the people’s money and the government offers P10 in coins to workers as a consolation. While the people’s attention is focused on the billion peso pork barrel scam, the wage board thinks it can quietly dupe workers with a measly pay increase,” insisted Wilson Fortaleza, PM’s spokesperson.

Meanwhile PM called on the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) which had filed a P83 across-the-board wage petition to coordinate with other labor groups to protest the NCR wage board’s decision and launch a joint campaign for a living wage. “The TUCP’s rejection of the wage board’s decision is a good initial move. The next step should be to complement the TUCP’s appeal to the wage board with a call on workers to hold mass actions. If the middle class finds it necessary to call a Million People March for the abolition of the pork barrel, it is imperative on the working class to launch a mass movement to end the cheap labor policy,” Fortaleza argued.

He added that the P10 wage hike is a “dagdag-bawi scam.” “Government decides to give workers a P10 hike in wages but it will take it back with the proposed P10 increase in fares for the MRT and LRT. Further, prices of basic goods like rice have inflated so that in the end, workers are worse off than before,” Fortaleza explained.

“PM’s own study reveals that the cost of living in the NCR is already P1,200 as of April this year for a family of six and yet the new minimum wage adds up to only P466, which will not even buy half of the basket of goods and services,” Fortaleza said.

He continued that “This is the ugly reality of inequality in our country. The Philippines is the fastest growing economy in Asia yet only a few, the capitalist class, is benefiting from the increased wealth created by the working people. The assets of the ten richest Filipinos amount to some US$45 billion, which is equivalent to the yearly wages of 20 million minimum wage earners.”

PM contends that the wage boards have outlived their usefulness and should be replaced by a Wage Commission. Fortaleza stated that “The mandate of the National Wage Commission will be to fix wages based on the single criterion of cost of living. This is different from the wage boards which are bogged down by convoluted and contradictory 10-point criteria in fixing wages. The Wage Commission should raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage by a mix of mechanisms such as direct pay increases, tax exemptions, price discounts and social security subsidies for workers.”

Press Release
September 7, 2013

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[Press Release] Porky solons missing the point of labor group -PM

Porky solons missing the point of labor group

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Perhaps solons are suffering from pork overdose they totally missed the point raised by Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) on MRT-LRT subsidy, the group’s spokesman said in a statement. The group is opposing the proposed P10 fare hike in the MRT and LRT systems.

Administration allies in the House of Representatives led by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, and House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna, ganged up on PM, describing as “ridiculous” and “misplaced” the group’s assertion that VIPs in government led by the President and members of Congress and the Judiciary enjoy hefty travel allowances compared to the P13 per day subsidy allotted for MRT-LRT commuters.

“They completely missed our point. Our message was very simple: Why remove the subsidy being enjoyed 460 million times in a year by millions of poor MRT-LRT commuters when few VIPs enjoy a much bigger travel subsidy from taxpayers? The issue is inequality,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

PM disclosed earlier that based on the General Appropriations Act of 2012, P344 million was allotted for the Office of the President or equivalent to P943,000 per day. The Vice President’s travel subsidy was P16.52 million or P45,000 per day; the 23 senators P311.69 million or P854,000 per day; the 278 congressmen, P618.26 million or P1.7 million per day; the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, at least P143.29 million or P392,000 a day.

Defending the President’s travel perks, Fortaleza said, was perhaps a solon’s strategy of defending himself who’s House now burns in pork scandal.

Fortaleza explained further that social inequalities reflected in the economy are tightly connected with prevailing State policies, specifically on the issue of subsidies.

PM believes that subsidy is not a bad thing if it is in pursuit of social objectives. “Inequality occurs when millionaire politicians and rent-seekers in business complain about subsidies being allocated to the poor when they themselves are heavily subsidized by taxpayers,” lamented Fortaleza.

Citing media reports, Fortaleza pointed to the 2012 Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networths (SALN) where 98% or 271 out of 278 members of Congress were declared millionaires, wherein each of the top 29 netted at least P100-M.

Likewise it is only Bro. Armin Luistro of DepEd who is a non-millionaire in PNoy’s official Cabinet.

“We fully subsidize their travel. Yet they complain of the subsidy they appropriate to the poor commuters,” concluded Fortaleza.

NEWS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
17 August 2013
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza
09178233956; 09053732185; 09225261138

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[Press Release] Gov’t urged to bare and disclose MRT-3 mess before asking for a fare hike -PM

Gov’t urged to bare and disclose MRT-3 mess before asking for a fare hike

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Before considering any hike in MRT and LRT rates, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) is asking the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to bare and disclose the real score behind the failed Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) MRT-3 project which condemned the government with tremendous financial headaches.

In a position paper it plans to submit prior to the public consultations being organized by DOTC, PM demands that all parties be provided with the following documents:

1. The original BLT contract between the DOTC and the MRTC, including contract price, guaranteed passenger traffic, and amendments that were made;
2. A factual presentation of why the government was forced to assume the operations and maintenance of MRT-3 from MRTC and why the latter hailed the former before the Arbitration Court in Singapore;
3. The proposed Compromise Agreement with MRTC as mentioned under Executive Order No. 126 signed by President Aquino on February 28, 2013;
4. Audited financial statements of MRT/LRT systems, including BLT amortization and local tax liabilities of MRTC assumed by the government; and,
5. Other available relevant documents.

“Hindi lang dapat tama ang kwenta. Dapat tama rin ang kwento,” stated PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza, pointing out that Pepe and Pilar deserved to be apprised of the real story behind the numbers as well as the truth on why the MRT-3 project turned into a big mess.

President Aquino during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) complained of the big subsidies taxpayers pay for MRT and LRT commuters. He said the amount of subsidy in MRT line is P45 and in LRT lines P25. To reduce this burden, he proposed that rates in the MRT/LRT systems be brought closer to the rates of air-conditioned buses. The President’s numbers, however, are being contested by PM.

DOTC puts the annual subsidy for the MRT and LRT systems at P6-B, down from P7-B in the previous years. The agency has recently floated the idea of asking for a P10 hike in MRT/LRT rates.

The labor group said based on initial reports, some P75-B of subsidy for MRT-3 had been spent by the government for the past ten years and close to that amount for LRT 1 and 2.

“If such is true, private investors and creditor banks had already made the killings out of the MRT-3 contract,” said Fortaleza, adding that the project cost amounted to US$679-M only in 2007 or about P20-B based on the prevailing exchange rate at that time.

“So after coughing out P75-B, are we going to continue to pay them P6-B annually for the next 10 years?” lamented Fortaleza.

Ownership of the private concession was also mired in corporate complexity after the consortium Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) owned by the Sobrepenas, Ramos and Ayala, who bagged the MRT-3 contract securitized their interests through bond issues and which later was bought back by the government through the Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

MRTC loans were backed by government’s sovereign undertakings similar to the notorious IPP contracts in the power industry which carried “take-or-pay” provisions.

“The country had loads of bad experience in onerous IPP contracts. The MRT project happened under the same regimes of BOT contracts during the time of President Ramos and as such, it must have suffered the same flaws,” explained Fortaleza.

Partido ng Manggagawa insists that costs borne out of onerous contracts, corporate fraud, or flawed executive decisions should not be passed on to consumers.

If such is proven, PM demands that the BLT contract is not only terminated but rescinded at no further cost to the government and any liabilities accrued from such onerous or fraudulent transactions should not be passed on to commuters.

NEWS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
15 August 2013
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza
09178233956; 09053732185; 09225261138

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[Press Release] OFW na si Alona Bagayan, ihahatid na sa huling hantungan -PM

OFW na si Alona Bagayan, ihahatid na sa huling hantungan

pmLogo1Alas dos mamayang hapon ay nakatakda nang ihatid sa huling hantungan ang bangkay ng OFW na si Alona Bagayan na napabalitang nagpakamatay sa Dubai dalawang buwan lamang ang nakakaraan.

Ayon sa kapatid na si Maricel Bagayan, nakatakdang ilibing si Alona sa sementeryo ng San Antonio, sa bayan ng Kalayaan, lalawigan ng Laguna, matapos magsagawa ng misa at funeral march para sa hustisya ang kanilang mga kamag-anak, kababayan at mga tagasuporta.

Limang araw lamang ibinurol ang bangkay ni Alona dahil nais ng pamilya na mabigyan agad sya ng kapayapaan matapos ang malagim na sinapit sa Dubai.

Ayon kay Maricel, si Alona ay hindi nagpakamatay kundi’y pinatay ng isang kriminal sa Dubai. Wala umano silang ibang suspek kundi ang employer nito na si KHALIFA KHADIM SUROOR ALMEASAM AL FALASI, na ngayon lang nakilala ng pamilya dahil matagal na itinago sa kanila ng recruitment agency at maging ng ating embahada sa Dubai.

Napag-alaman din na ang employer ni Alona ay anak ng dating mataas na opisyal ng pulisya at bahagi ng maimpluwensyang pamilya sa Dubai. Kaya lalong nagduda ang pamilya na may cover-up sa pagkamatay ni Alona, na ayon sa autopsy report ng Dubai Police ay nag-suicide sa pamamagitan ng paglaslas sa kamay, pagsaksak ng 2 beses sa tiyan, paghiwa sa leeg, at pagtalon sa gusali.

Nananawagan ang pamilyang Bagayan sa pamahalaang Aquino na tulungan sila sa paghahanap ng hustisya para kay Alona.

Ayon naman kay Wilson Fortaleza, tagapagsalita ng Partido ng Mangaggawa at nakaalalay sa pamilya sa kasong ito, ang pagbibigay ng hustisya kay Alona ay responsibilidad hindi ninuman kundi’y ng pamahalaan.

Sinabi pa ni Fortaleza na ang pagpatay kay Alona ay mauulit ng ilang beses sa iba pang OFW kung makikita ng mga Arabo na balewala ang buhay ng OFW sa mata mismo ng sariling gubyerno.

Hinamon din ni Fortaleza ang administrasyong Aquino na unahin ang pagbibigay-hustisya sa mga gaya ni Alona, kaysa mang-enganyo pa ng mang-eganyo ng mga OFW palabas ng bansa pero hindi naman protektado at hinahayaan na lang silang humarap sa mga peligro na walang suporta ng gubyerno.

PRESS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
10 April 2013
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza
09053732185

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