A church group denounced on Sunday, July 26 the Duterte administration’s failure to protect Filipino workers amid the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), urging them to “protect the people first before the interest of profit.”

“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,” the Church People-Workers Solidarity said in a statement.

The organization cited the lack of a “concrete and effective plan” for handling the global health emergency as well as the poor implementation of the government’s Covid-19 cash aid program.

“[T]he 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) [when] work was totally suspended,” they continued.

Citing Ibon Foundation, a non-profit organization for research and education, it noted that almost two million workers have lost their jobs and most of them “have no assurance that they would be able to receive separation pays from their employers and cash aid from the government.”

It said at least 193 establishments had declared permanent closure and 1,875 establishment[s] had reduced their workforces as of June 9. The rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal by the House of Representatives also endangered 11,000 jobs in the media network.

The total number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos is 20.4 million, “the worst crisis of mass unemployment in the country’s history,” the church group said, also citing Ibon.

Yet the administration “never fails to protect the interest of big corporations,” it said, citing the Department of Finance’s proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) that it claimed would give P667 billion worth of corporate tax breaks.

“On the other hand, Congress has passed the Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines with [a] P1.3 trillion package that will mainly fund infrastructure projects and financial assistance to corporations,” the Church People-Workers Solidarity said. 

The group also spoke out against the Anti-Terrorism Law, saying its provisions “can and are likely to be used to attack constitutional rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, including the right to strike and protest.”

Established in 2011, Church People-Workers Solidarity is a non-profit organization that promoting dialogue between church people and workers. Francis David Perez