President Rodrigo Duterte has sacked a left-leaning official of the Labor Department, Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.
“I expelled Joel Maglunsod. I just gave them a chance when they were new,” Duterte said in a speech before rebel returnees in Catarman, Samar Tuesday.
Duterte did not elaborate further but criticized the rising number of workers’ strikes in the country incited by the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
“Your ideologies. In the long run, they also want to control the government. You argued and exchanged bullets with me, then you will expect me [to say] that we are one in this government. This is nonsense,” the President added.
“They always go on strikes, they will paralyze the economy... I will go after all the members of the (Kilusang) Mayo Uno and Joel Maglunsod, the undersecretary of Labor,” said Duterte, asking his top aide Christopher Go if the executive secretary were advised on the matter.
Maglunsod, a former representative for Anakpawis party-list, was the Labor undersecretary for labor relations, special concerns, regional operations, and financial services cluster.
He was among the few leftists handpicked by the President to sit in the government at the start of his term along with Commission on Appointments rejects former Social Welfare chief Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform chief Rafael Mariano.
Duterte had designated leftists to his government at a time when he was still talking peace with the communist rebels.
The Palace said it was checking on Maglunsod’s status.
“I will verify it with the executive secretary if there is already a letter of termination... Let’s just wait for the confirmation,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a radio interview.
In a separate interview, Roque said Duterte was cracking down on illegal strikes, not silencing labor leaders.
“I think what he is saying is he will crackdown illegal strikes because there is a process that one needs to undergo to conduct a strike. And the President hates these illegal strikes,” Roque said.
Roque declined to say if Maglunsod’s termination was connected to the alleged communist plot to oust the President.
“I do not know if he is involved with the Red October... Only the President can say that because he has access to information that only he has access to,” he said.
Maglunsod, who was a political detainee during the martial law years, served as a secretary general and vice chairman for KMU promoting militant unionism.
Labor groups expressed disappointment over his sudden dismissal.
The militant labor group Bukluran Manggagawang Pilipino said the President was mistaken to think that the firing of Maglunsod will neutralize the increasing militance of the labor movement.
The group added that it would be erroneous to conclude that the rise in labor disputes the past two years was because of Maglunsod.
“Duterte has no one to blame but himself for the recent rise of labor disputes because he raised the expectations of millions of wage-earners when he promised to abolish contractualization upon assuming the presidency,” BMP president Luke Espirtu said.
Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition said Maglunsod performed his mandate well in the Labor Department.
“In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridged the gap of trust between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros,” Nakaisa! spokesman and Partido Manggagawa chairman Rene Magtuno said.
The country’s biggest labor group, the Alliance of Labor Unions-Trade Unions Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) was surprised by Duterte’s action against Maglunsod.
“Maglunsod was very active in linking labor groups and workers organizations’ concerns and issues to the DOLE, business and employers groups and to the President,” ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.
The labor groups said they admired the former labor undersecretary who painstakingly conducted dialogues between employers and organized labor, relaying to them the department’s effort to enforce laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting with the end in view of respecting the rights of both the workers and employers.
The labor groups viewed the dismissal of Maglunsod as the administration’s way to appease Duterte’s true bosses—foreign and local capitalists.
“It is evident that the firing of Maglunsod signifies where Duterte’s loyalty really lies,” Tanjusay said.
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