IN my youth, circa the mid-1960s, while working with Raul Manglapus in the Christian Social Movement (CSM), the precursor of PDP Laban, CDP and the Centrist Movements, I had the privilege of meeting some of the prominent names of the labor movement, the peasants and the fisherfolk — Juan (Johnny) Tan of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and Jeremias (Jerry) Montemayor of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). These founders were driven by their desire to better the lives of their members — workers and farmers. With Manglapus, they articulated the Centrist (Christian) democratic principles. These were men inspired by the papal encyclicals of Pope Leo 13th (1891), Rerum Novarum, Graves de Communi Re; Pope Pius 11th (1931), Quadragesimo Anno; Pope John 23rd (1961) Mater et Magistra; and Pope John Paul 2nd (1991), Centesimus Annus. For a hundred years, these encyclicals promoted concepts of social justice, preferential option for the poor, and the value of human dignity, which is the core of Centrist (Christian) Democracy. (This columnist’s The Fellowship of the 300, a book on Centrist Democracy, came out in 2014.)

These were the guiding principles that propelled labor into the mainstream of the national political conversation and championed the growth of organized labor during those decades.

But previous to this was also the rebirth of the truly leftist militant labor that later transformed the movement differently from that envisioned by the moderate groups of FFW and CSM — the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) founded by the breakaway group of Felixberto ‘Ka Bert” Olalia Sr. from the TUCP. Whereas the moderates deemed capital to be the full partner of labor towards the development of man and society, the militants viewed this relationship as confrontational in the classic dictum of Karl Marx, “…you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

The labor force was divided along ideological lines with the militants suspicious and accusing the moderates of having a more than cushy relationship with capitalists and the government. The state with its axiomatic concern for keeping industrial peace heightened its suppression of labor’s method of organizing — along the lines of the European and American tradition. This approach did not wash with the state, particularly during the martial law years of the Marcos regime.

The Industrial Peace Act of 1953 (Republic Act 875), which promoted the collective bargaining agreement, was the initial instrument to regulate workers’ resistance against the inevitable onslaught of capitalism and also as a response to the incipient communist labor movement in the 1950s. This was later amended during the Marcos regime through the enactment of the Philippine Labor Code under PD 442 in 1974. It aimed to streamline and guarantee the right of labor to organize unions, on a one-union-one industry system, but enforced mediation and conciliation as methods of dispute settlements. The intention of the regime was to strengthen the dictator’s hand by entangling the workers’ class actions in a web of legal restrictions; in effect also redefining the workers’ right to strike as a first option, making it an “illegal act.”

The unexpected consequence was the predominance of union bureaucracies and intense rivalries between union federations in organizing CBA rights with private companies, resulting in an ideologically polarized working class. Thus, the more the unions were organized under the lucrative CBA, the more the workers were fragmented. Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia, the son of KMU founder “Ka Bert,” declared before he was murdered in 1986 that “about 85 percent of today’s supposed leaders of the working class are engaged in racketeering.”

This is the current state of organized labor. The ideologically divided workers through their organized unions are easy prey for the political exigencies of traditional politics. A lucrative partnership has evolved between the powerful union bosses manipulating and using their members to extend their influence into the political arena — or at the very least a promise of a seat at the table with the winning senatorial or presidential hopeful.

At the turn of this century, there was still a strong and noisy labor vote that propelled political survivors like “Ka Blas” Ople, who parlayed his 19 years as secretary/minister of labor and employment under Marcos and later Cory, into a Senate seat and the Senate presidency.

The same labor political clout at the polls thrust Ernesto “Boy” Herrera, general secretary of the Trade Unions of the Philippines (TUCP/KMP) to the Senate despite the accusations of the not-so-hidden strings of American funding of the trade union through the CIA front National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

No more. This past election cycle sadly saw the castration of the once vaunted labor vote. This simply reflected the observation of columnists Marlen Ronquillo of the Manila Times that during the “Labor Day of 2019, we saw none of the potency and power of the labor protests of the past,” and harkening back to the glory days: “During those dangerous times, one thing stood out. Organized labor, probably because of its pure, unselfish dedication to the causes of the working man, was respected. The leaders of the major labor centers and federations were nationally recognized names.”

This columnist’s nostalgic reckoning could be construed as the silencing of the labor voice, exposing the myth of a labor vote (much like that of a Catholic vote), and cruelly by inference, the dying throes of organized labor.

I watched carefully the monochromatic campaign of labor candidates lawyer Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the second senatorial run of his confederate, labor lawyer Allan Montaño, erstwhile FFW president. The dismal election results belie the assumptions of pro-labor candidates that their interests are in consonance with the perception of the voters or even this government’s agenda; unless of course these nonentities and wannabees are not exactly the personalities that represent and inspire organized labor.

On another level, one can’t help conclude also that the messaging didn’t resonate with the voters in general and labor votes in particular; or worse, it simply insinuates that labor’s general welfare is subordinate and may not disturb the mutual interests of this tripartite collusion — the union bosses, the oligarchy which owns and controls the means of production, and an irresolute state. Thus, even during the first half of the reign of the Deegong, his campaign promise to end contractualization and regularization of “endo” never did happen.

The militant labor on the other hand under the united leftist front seems to have held their own through the various permutations brought about by the proliferation of the “party-lists.” These perverted vehicles through which these fringe groups have managed to insert themselves, together with the influx of traditional and newly minted political dynasts, will continue to pervert the body politic or what is left of the remnants of our democracy.

And a corollary. Will the Deegong, with this recent political cosmetics still pursue his advocacies that in the first place propelled him to the presidency — real systemic changes through constitutional revisions? Or will he succumb to his inner traditional political demons, protect his skin and insure the perpetuation of his political seed.
The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.

A FAMOUS NFL player and Coach, Vince Lombardi, known as a stickler to basics and for his single-minded determination to win once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Successful people therefore, master the fundamentals then put on hard work to bring about results.

Mastery of the Fundamentals

Purpose-driven leaders are able to inspire and rally their people to achieve dreams which they view as beyond reach. Awareness of one’s capabilities and limitations heightens individuality as an unambiguous self-conviction that enhances transparency and inspires confidence. An indispensable quality is decisiveness, the imprint of exceptional leaders that disavows tentativeness over an undertaking. Everyone lays claim to integrity but only those who practice honesty and humility to accept and rectify one’s mistakes, ever make the grade. Essential to any career pursuit is good education. Getting a diploma is the customary goal that most everyone considers the be-all and end-all. Proficiency however, empowers one to be competitive and achieve the best results. These constitutive qualities and leadership traits would highlight the career of Lawyer and Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez. Before becoming a politician and even dreaming of a legislator as his life’s purpose, he built his fundamentals not just as a consistent intellectual achiever but with a string of Masters work in the fields of Economics and Law, subjects which in time, gave him an edge in Congress deliberations while serving his constituents as Cagayan de Oro District 2 Representative for 9 straight years. A wunderkind, he further honed his skills through lectures and discourses in various local and international forums and turned to writing in his spare time. A prolific author, his books became requisite academic references which greatly helped students at various levels. Beyond doubt, the pre-eminence of these overlying attributes are what ordain true public servants like him.

Hard Work

Political leaders perform an obligation in their social contract (Hobbes and Locke) with the people. Having reposed in them the authority to hold power, they are expected to deliver on their platforms of government or risk their chances for re-election. Evidently, the electorate in District 2 have expressed satisfaction through the successive terms of office granted to Cong. Rodriguez. He distinguished himself among the City’s past representatives as a man of action. While his peers are content with automatic appropriations and passive acquiescence to congressional proceedings, he introduced landmark bills and followed through until they are enacted as laws. In Congress, bills are thoughtfully deliberated, taking some time to reach even the third reading stage unless one doggedly pursues the agenda otherwise, they are left to the back burners. Hard work then means total immersion in back-breaking legislative work while sourcing out funds to address the most pressing needs of constituents. It’s not a walk in the park.

The Goal

Cagayan de Oro City (CDOC), a regional hub enviably located at the heart of Northern Mindanao and widely promoted and acclaimed as the Gateway to the Land of Promise deserves good leaders. As a first class, highly urbanized city, CDOC is consistently ranked among the top competitive and liveable cities until it dropped recently down the ranks. Still, with resolute leadership and a cooperative citizenry, we firmly believe the City will soon rival Davao and Cebu in terms of economic advancement. The immediate goal would be to earn that elusive Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to boost investor confidence.

The humongous potentials of the City cannot be overstated. Economic prospects for tourism, infrastructure, industry, commerce and real estate and home-grown development initiatives offer a brilliant outlook. This would require however, a concerted synergy between the city’s executives and legislative council with the able support of CDO’s representatives in Congress including the party-list ABAMIN, which would likewise greatly contribute in providing much needed funds for social services, scholarships and livelihood initiatives. The long-term goals can be summarized under three major groupings: First, a world-class infrastructure program that would solve once and for all the city’s perennial problems in traffic, flood, waste management and efficient movement of goods from farm to the city; Second, total mining and log ban and effective reforestation programs to ensure the safety of the city’s residents and to promote tourism; and Third, Health, Education, Employment and Dwelling/Housing (HEED) initiatives that would address problems in peace and order, drug-dependency and criminality. Only a knowledgeable and seasoned legislator could make these aspirations a reality.

With strong fundamentals and experience as a hardworking public servant with clear specific goals, the City would be in good hands with Rufus B. Rodriguez once again as Cagayan de Oro’s representative. He is, undoubtedly, a congressman like no other.

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute  [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)