Statement of Gabriela International and ILPS Women Commission 7 on Marcos Jr.’s 2nd State of the Nation Address
Your dreams are mine,” said Marcos Jr. when he took oath as President of the Philippines a year ago. But that was just another trick he pulled on us, right after successfully rigging the 2022 elections. One year into the Marcos-Duterte regime and the Filipino people’s aspirations for decent living, social justice, and genuine freedom remain to be a pipe dream. What he did fulfill in the last year were the whims and wishes of his true masters and cohorts—the US, his family and allies, and capital.
Filipino working class struggle
The working class Filipinos—as with the rest of the working class of the world—create wealth and keep the economy afloat. In the Philippines, the last decade showed an increase of 60.2% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as labor productivity rose to 28.9%. Despite this, workers do not enjoy the fruits of their labor as an obscene amount of their hard work goes to capitalist profit. In fact, while billionaires recorded increases in their wealth, local wages only rose by 21% in the last ten years.
Minimum wage earners in the Philippines are forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence, with the highest minimum wage only coming to ₱570 or $10.47 per day in the National Capital Region (NCR). Meanwhile, the Family Living Wage has gone up to more than ₱1,100 or $20.20 per day. Marcos Jr.’s response to this is an insulting ₱40 ($0.73) wage increase and only for NCR workers. Women workers get much less, owing to the gender pay gap in the country which was at 21.6% in 2021. In 2022, another study showed that “for every peso the Filipino agricultural worker earns, the Filipina counterpart earns 92 centavos.” The real value of wages is further stunted by soaring inflation rates—giving a different twist to Marcos’ promise of a “golden era”.
Contractual employment and informal work are at an all-time high, especially among women workers whose employment opportunities remain confined to undervalued and low-paying jobs. In May 2023, official data showed that more than 21.14 million women are “economically insecure”: 996,000 are unemployed, 1.90 million underemployed, and 18.25 million who are not in the labor force. The lack of decent domestic job opportunities drive the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) higher every year, of which women make up 59.6% in 2021. The risk of abuse and other rights violations grow exponentially for Filipinos working abroad, especially for women who are mostly found in domestic work and other elementary occupations with slave-like work conditions.
Under these grim working conditions, workers’ right to form or join unions and organizations are curtailed—either by brute force or as a consequence of flexible working arrangements (i.e., contractualization, informal employment). From 2016 to present, the All Philippine Trade Union (APTU) documented at least 71 killings of trade unionists; three cases of abduction and five desaparecidos (four of which involve women labor organizers); 41 cases of illegal arrests and detention, plus 111 arrests of workers in strike and protest actions. Since 2019, the Philippine government has also implemented Executive Order no. 70, which created the rabid red-tagging task force known as the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and details the re-orientation of the entire civilian bureaucracy towards the “Whole-of-Nation” approach to counter “terrorism”—a counterinsurgency program straight out of the US’ state terrorism playbook. A year later, the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act was also passed that has led to further criminalization of dissent and unionism. The APTU has recorded at least 58 cases of terrorist branding of legitimate unions, organizations, and activists; 90 cases of forced disaffiliation and violations of the right to self-organization; 127 cases of harassment of union leaders and members; and 19 cases of other anti-union measures. As of March 2023, 162 of the total 819 political prisoners are women.
Puppetry to imperialist powers
The rapidly declining state of Filipino women and people have been made possible by the Philippine government’s enduring subservience to policy dictates of and extreme dependence on US and foreign capital. The Marcos-Duterte tandem unsurprisingly continued their forebears’ neoliberal policies of liberalizing the economy, privatizing social services, and deregulation of key infrastructures—to the detriment of the Filipino people, our local economy, and our sovereignty. His multiple and all-expense paid trips abroad had the foremost objective of selling out the Philippine human and natural resources to the highest bidders, in the guise of “economic cooperation” that are crystalized through trade treaties and international agreements like the recently Marcos-approved Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Foreign debt—at ₱14.1 trillion or $257.63 billion, most of which come from US and US-controlled financial institutions—along with its conditions and collaterals likewise serve to maintain our grueling economic state.
These neoliberal policies ensure the underdevelopment of local industries to maintain the Philippines’ role in the global market that is dominated by imperialist countries and their allies. We, along with other third-world nations, are meant to supply the world with (1) raw materials for industrialized nations to process and profit off of and (2) cheap labor from our surplus of workers with nowhere to go due to the chronic crisis of landlessness and lack of decent jobs in our homelands. At its core, these policies ensure maximum profit for capitalists through the thorough exploitation of workers and our rich resources. Workers are squeezed dry of their labor and the environment of all its worth; the toiling masses are denied of ample benefits and protection measures; and our collective voices stifled.
These conditions are compelling more and more workers to fight back, as seen in the increasing number of strikes and huge protests across the globe—even in the homefront of imperialist countries. The peoples’ demands in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world for higher wages and better working conditions directly threaten to cut the super-profits of imperialist powers and challenge the current world order. Hence the vicious attempts of the ruling elite and their puppet governments to quash peoples’ resistance.
And while capitalist greed knows no end, the world’s resources are finite. Development aggression in resource-rich countries have caused massive destruction, disasters, displacement, and loss of livelihoods for millions of people, while it has benefitting large mining companies, foreign corporations, and corrupt officials. Nearly all administrations of the past have showcased grandiose infrastructure projects that came from people’s coffers and billions to trillions of loans that will be shouldered by generations to come. Under Marcos Jr.’s rule, this is known as the ‘Build Better More’, which has a total of 194 projects amounting to ₱9 trillion or $164.44 billion.
As the crises caused by neoliberalism intensify, imperialist powers are growing desperate to maintain and expand their strongholds, as seen in the increasing military aggression between US and China, with material and political support from allies and puppet governments. The Philippines as one of its longest-running neocolonies will be hosting four new US military bases, no thanks to Marcos Jr. who also agreed to the biggest joint military exercise in the region last April. US remains to have the most military bases around the world, reaching 750 in total by May of this year. China, on the other hand, is aggressively encroaching on nearby territories where it has established military bases and infrastructures and is believed to be eyeing 13 more countries in which to set up camp. China isn’t the only rival of US as the latter has been the number one provocateur of unrest and war in various parts of the world, namely in Latin America, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region.
These imperialist aggressions have yet again brought us to the brink of world war. The toiling masses of the world have nothing to gain from these wars. However way it turns out, the peoples of the world will be on the losing end—especially women, LGBTQ+, and children who are the most vulnerable in war situations.
Women Workers’ and Peoples’ Solidarity
Workers’ fight for dignity of work is just. We must defend, strengthen, and build more unions and organizations that amplify the collective voice of the toiling masses and advance the interests of the majority. Among those that we must continue to organize are women workers who are subjected to added layers of oppression, exploitation, discrimination, and violence inside and outside of the workplace.
Women workers and the rest of the working class must reclaim the fruits of our labor from the hands of multinational corporations that have bled our nations and peoples dry. We must link arms with oppressed and exploited peoples of the world as we struggle for freedom from imperialist rule, and hold to account governments and international bodies that enable the grave violations of peoples’ rights.
Our struggle for peace, justice, and sovereignty must continue and intensify, especially in the face of worsening attacks on our democratic rights and the growing fascism of imperialist powers and their puppet governments.
Women workers and peoples of the world, unite against imperialism!
Fight for social justice and sovereignty!