Monday, November 29, 2010

In the heart, a keep for Koronadal

A massive acacia tree stands by the cottage at the Hotel del Rio Resort in Barrio Dos where I stayed for two nights the other weekend.

The cottage, a low-ceilinged concrete structure, is wrapped up in local materials. The ceiling is of sawali, the walls are plastered with bamboo slats, and the furniture, including the bed, are of bamboo and rattan which are still in abundance in Koronadal.

The cottage itself rises by the banks of a small, man-made lake that derives its source from and empties itself into a river that runs parallel to a road leading to a short cut to Tupi town, as Charmaine “Chum” Sansona, the gracious labor communications officer of DOLE Region 12, told me.

Scattered by the banks of the lake are cottages and huts. There is a jetty, too, where small boats were moored, waiting for visitors who may find paddling across the lake calming and therapeutic.

There is no Loch Ness monster here, only birds singing in wild abandon and butterflies and dragonflies doing their chore of hopping from leaf to leaf, flower to flower. The area is a haven of quiet. In the two mornings I was here, the sun bathed the lake with its fierce, bright rays, mesmerizing the water so that it sparkled like glass.

Koronadal, South Cotabato’s political capital is a city of unbelievable serenity. It is a melting pot but is so unlike its neighbor, Maguindanao, which eternally simmers in fierce political tension. Here in this valley city, the people accord primordial value to the word ‘respect’ in word and deed, so socially and economically the city is moving assuredly forward.

Maguindanao, meanwhile, is distinguishing itself as lair of tribal terror. This crept up in the mind because I was in Koronadal two days before the first year anniversary of the blot in the country’s image known as the Maguindanao Massacre. In this murder most foul, 38 of my media co-workers died useless and unnecessary deaths.

I was in Koronadal for a very particular reason: to facilitate the workshop of some 25 employees of the DOLE in writing for public communication. The workshop, which has been postponed twice already due to scheduling problems, is part of my commitment to sharpen the DOLE’s public communications capability when I rejoined the department early this year. Communicating the DOLE is part of the chores Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz gave me when she assumed office in July.

The commitment has already brought me to Cebu, Zamboanga del Sur, Pangasinan, and Cavite. I have already trained over 200 DOLE employees in media relations, news and feature writing, and, would you believe, correct punctuation. The workshop in Koronadal is the latest and one of the best thus far, I believe, in terms of the trainees’ participation: they paid serious attention to the workshop.

In the past as always, I was in a lookout for fresh writing talent at the Koronadal episode of this workshop. My aim was to identify men and women of the DOLE who have the sense for news—and can write as well—to beef up the public communications capability of the regions.

I admit the motive for this, shall we say, is, in a sense, selfish. I maintain that if the DOLE regional offices are so well-versed in communicating their programs and services to the people they serve, then the role of the Labor Communications Office, the DOLE’s public information arm, would be lighter or rendered irrelevant. I don’t mind this, really, for I am a believer in devolution, regionalization, and decentralization. As it is, the proximity of the LCO to the DOLE’s bureaucratic power center makes it a major in the department’s information stakes game.

Koronadal is some 70 km away from General Santos City. The Pan-Philippine highway, which bisects the towns of Polomolok and Tupi, is well-paved and smooth (vehicular traffic is non-existent) and one of the most scenic spots in Mindanao.

Polomolok and Tupi host the plantations and canneries of multi-national Dole, best known for its pineapples, bananas, and asparagus, as well as some Mindanao factories of giant San Miguel Corporation and the Lorenzos’ Lapanday Corporation. In the interior, going north, are the mining town of Tampakan and in the east, the corn town of Banga. Towering over these towns are mountain ranges that drain off its forest refuse to the valley below.

Thousands of hectares of agricultural land in these towns, enriched by a year-round fair, natural clime and abundant waters from the mountains, particularly Mt. Matutom, make South Cotabato one of the most fertile and productive lands in the country.

Change Koronadal has greatly embraced, I mentally noted when I arrived. I was in Koronadal last in the late 80s when, as an employee of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, I used to make whirlwind stops in the town during inspection and audit activities, so much so that I did not recognize the city anymore than I remember the memories associated with it.

I was fortunate regional director Gloria Tango was on hand to meet and greet me at Koronadal’s doorsteps. She quickly filled me in on the DOLE’s operation in the region.

Not only did RD Glo made my Koronadal stay pleasant. She honored me with her full presence at the duration of the workshop, which also saw the active participation of her assistant regional director, Jong Gonzales.

What also made my Koronadal visit memorable were the stories. On the first night, I visited with good friend Ruby Carrasco and her husband Bobby at the Allah Valley Hospital where their son was confined because of high fever. Ruby was formerly the DOLE’s regional information officer, but she had to give up the post when she was promoted. Her husband, with whom I did a brief interview for an article I submitted to the ILO, animated me with his experiences as a labor inspector. His insights went into the article and I am very thankful.

On the last night of my stay, I had dinner at my verandah overlooking the lake with Jong, Chum, Mechele Olog, and Romy Pascasio over grilled panga ng tuna, kinilaw na tuna, and fish sinigang. We had two bottles of wine—an Australian red and a Portuguese white—as counterpoint to the several bottles of San Miguel Super Dry that Jong, the other participants, and I consumed and the volume of throaty songs we belted out the previous night at the resort’s karaoke joint. As a former information officer before he rose to become assistant regional director, Jong knew when a good drink can inspire the karaoke machine.

I left Koronadal the following morning with a mental note to come back as soon as it is possible.

There is, I found out, a keep in the heart enough to accommodate more stories and memories on a Mindanao city so peaceful and charming that one wonders why Koronadal has not exported this peace and charm, like its bananas and pineapples, to the outside world, say, like its neighbor, Maguindanao.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A spectacular beating against a familiar drubbing

The contrasts are too stark to miss.

On a sunny Sunday of November, different fates, both within human control and, therefore, within the commerce of human intervention, visited a country called the Philippines.

In Grapevine, Texas, the US state which my favorite country trio Dixie Chicks once said they were ashamed former President George Bush is from, Manny Pacquiao outdid himself anew by dealing the Mexican Antonio Margarito a beating, so severe that the self-styled “tornado” had his right eye stitched first, then operated on for it to be able to see, well, the eye of the storm—Pacquiao—from Sarangani.

In Guangzhou, China, the Asian powerhouse where the 16th Asian Games are being held, Team Philippines suffered a familiar drubbing in almost all the sports it has entered.

The drubbing was so thorough, so lopsided and, therefore, so miserable that now I wonder whether the money, public or private, spent on the Filipino sportsmen who went there should have been better poured into building classrooms, buying books, or, if really we are to be in sports, in installing electric chairs for our sports officials who are solely to be blamed for the debacle.

I will say something first about the latter and say nothing at all about the former, for Pacquiao and his conquests are already well-written about, while our failures in international amateur sports tournaments, like the Olympics, the Asiad, and the ASEAN Games are, well, because these are failures, mentioned rarely, and when they are, only in hushed tones as if these are a dreaded disease.

So we failed in tennis, swimming, shooting, billiards, judo, and cycling. We salvaged a couple of bronzes in dance sport by gracefully swinging in cha-cha and paso doble. We won our first hurdle in basketball by narrowly beating Kuwait. In chess, our wood pushers are in still in the hunt, but the tournament is far from over.

Our hope is in boxing, Manny’s domain, but he is not in Guangzhou. He is in Lake Tahoe for his celebratory after-fight-night concert. Your Honor will sing in real life after singing all his way to the bank to the tune of US$20 million, and still counting.

Yes, boxing. The Philippine pugilists in the Asiad are bankrolled by telecoms giant Smart which reportedly had poured P300 million in the sweet science, as well as in basketball, cycling, wrestling, and taekwondo.

“We’ll be happy if we could bring home at least one gold.” This is according to Ricky Vargas, president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.

What’s wrong with this statement? Indeed, what’s wrong with our mal-performance in the Asiad?

It’s us, Virginia, it’s us that’s wrong. We are being clobbered in the amateur sports tournaments because our sports officials are amateurish. They are incompetents. They are selfish and a greedy lot. And they don’t know any more of the sports they are into than Peter Drucker knew managing athletes. The worst is that they quarrel a lot.

I am not into sports, I admit, but I read. And I notice. I notice that almost after every international sports tournament where our athletes come home defeated and dejected, the very first thing—and this is with regularity—our sports officials do is to blame the government, the system, the officiating, the weather, the late training, the athletes, and then their fellow officials, but NEVER themselves. Did you also notice that?

This blame game is a prelude to their mini-turf wars they mount when they start carving up our sports associations into personal fiefdoms. Our sports officials like to rule, never to be ruled. Their interest is not the athletes’ interest, but the interest that banks pay on their fat accounts.

Our sports officials are very good at this, quarrelling. They never hesitate to quarrel in public. Name me a sports whose governing association had not been beset by quarrel, jealousy, and personal animosity and I’ll tell you why we always get waylaid by opponents who are more united, well-managed, well-trained, well-fed.

Grandmaster Joey Antonio is a classic victim of this quarrelling. He almost didn’t make it to Guangzhou because Philippine Chess Federation officials have been feuding. The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is another sports association wracked by intramurals. In fact, because of bickering, the International Olympic Committee has suspended the country’s amateur basketball body so much so that the Philippine basketball team in the Asiad is playing under the IOC banner.

Government intervention in amateur sports is also a culprit. The Philippines has a very unique governing set-up in sports that allows the government to interfere in sports affairs even if it has no business—and no competence—to do so. Government officials may be well-versed in running the bureaucracy but they are ill-suited for even a medal made of tin in, say, bowling.

There is a sports regulating body, the National Sports Commission, whose work, it would seem, other than withholding financial assistance to Philippine sports is to ensure that politicians are nominated and are elected officials of the private sports associations.

Prospero Pichay in chess; Monico Puentebella in baseball, Eric Buhain in swimming, Peping Cojuangco in basketball, and Cristy Ramos-Jalasco in tennis are some of the personages known for their bloodlines in politics rather than excellence in sports. Not even amateur boxing is spared from politics. Not too long ago, PATAFA, the governing body in track and field, was wracked by troubles because some of its officials wanted to kill each other. The list is endless.

And so, are we surprised that we—Team Philippines—are getting licked by far superior competition in Guangzhou?

Nah. But wait till the 16th Asiad is over. I’ll bet my gin money that our sports officials will be at it again: quarrelling and thirsting for the hinds and blood of everyone except themselves.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meet Zorro

Outside my window, on the left of my writing table, is a road that leads to a dead end—a creek that, I have discovered, half-encircles the subdivision.

This creek leads all the way to the boundary of Tanauan City; the boundary spanned by 10-meter concrete bridge that connects the only road that provides access from Darasa, one of Tanauan’s biggest barangays, to Brgy. Sta. Maria, Sto. Tomas’s largest in terms of population, including dogs.

Blocking my view to this road that leads to the creek is my dog house, a two-door steel iron cage that Zorro and Mizuki call home. They guard the house, or the house guards them, depending on what mood my two daughters’ pets find themselves in at any given time.

Zorro is a black Labrador; Mizuki, a golden brown Japanese chow-chow. Zorro is seven years old; Mizuki, four. Both are still virgins.

Zorro, Lilac’s animal companion, had an interesting life story. I acquired him after Bilala, a native dog with no particular breed but definitely not an askal, died from poisoning. Of what and by whom, no one knew, but the house help, Tita Bel, suspected he was done in by one of the night guards.

The story goes that one day Bilala woke up but did not get up. He refused to eat or drink despite Lilac’s cajoling, even singing for him a tune or two from one of my compositions about dogs.

The house help said that in the afternoon, Bilala just closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Unlike ordinary mortals, he was buried without a proper funeral. With the help of a neighbor, Tita Bel dug him a shallow grave in an adjacent lot. It was unmarked—no cross to symbolize his religion, no marble slab to write an epitaph. I think Bilala in life was an atheist, or an animist.

Bilala’s passing was not unlamented. Lilac unabashedly shed tears when he was lowered to his grave. When finally the last shovel of earth was thrown to the fresh mound of his resting place, my youngest daughter was said to have cried: “Bilala, bakit ikaw pa? Sino na ang magiging kalaro ko?” (Bilala, why you? Who will now be my playmate?)

One cannot miss the poignancy of this scene, although to adults it would have been funny, or ridiculous.

And indeed, it was.

Lara, my eldest, who always comes handy with appropriate repartee for the events she observed—such as Lilac’s deep bereavement over her dog’s untimely demise—later patted her sister on the shoulder and said: “Tahan na, Lilac, may kabayo pa naman tayo. Kaibiganin mo muna ang plantsahan ni Tita Bel.” (Stop crying, Lilac. Don’t worry, we still have a horse. You can befriend Tital Bel’s ironing board.)

Bilala’s poisoning was not headline-grabbing news. I did not report the murder to the police, for in rural Sto. Tomas the police is busy attending to crimes committed by humans against humanity, so it is illogical to have the poisoning of an animal investigated. It remained unsolved to this day, adding to the rising crime statistics that the authorities just shrug off or sweep under the rug.

To assuage Lilac’s pain over her dog’s death, her mother promised to buy her another canine. Zorro was an innocent pup when he first arrived and Lilac instantly fell in love with him, quickly forgetting that only a week before, she was contemplating digging up Bilala’s grave to find out if indeed he was dead. Unlike adults, children easily remember and easily forget. I have read it somewhere that this is the reason why there are more child angels than adult demons.

As a grown-up, however, Zorro has become playful and nasty. I can’t count how many rubber slippers and shoes he has gutted. Once, he tore up an umbrella left unattended at the porch and tried to eat a basketball. I have not brought him to a tutor to teach him good manners because it was so expensive so he learned to do what some humans do when they are drunk: take a leak inside the house. This, of course, meant added expense because Tita Bel would always remind the missus to buy detergent, air freshener, and shampoo for cleaning up Zorro’s mess.

He has also imbibed this habit of chasing other dogs. When Mizuki arrived, this became frequent. He was so jealous of other dogs sniffing at Mizuki’s female sexuality that he would bare his fangs at the slightest hint of intrusion. Once, he caught up with an askal and beat the poor dog so badly it limped away wailing and bleeding. I think the dog died and Zorro is now an official dog murderer.

So I put Zorro under a tight leash which I think he abhorred. I was told that Labradors love to be free and to roam in wide open spaces, but since I can’t afford him a ranch with what I earn from writing, he had to make do with our morning walks and the regular trips to the vet.

These walks made him muscular and heavy like Manny Pacquiao and also made him attractive to female dogs roaming the subdivision to peddle dog love. But Zorro would have none of these liberally promiscuous dogs. I think he has a pledge to remain celibate.

Mizuki, as I said, is also a virgin but this is another story deserving of another day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blow your nose, not your horn

Floro and I are sitting at the lobby of Torre Lorenzo, just outside Starbucks, on the corner of Taft Avenue and Vito Cruz St., sipping heavy black espressos after a quick lunch at Mang Inasal across the street.

I was reading the New York Times, while Floro, true to form when his mind is idle, was ogling at a girl on another table who is absorbed with her Blackberry. It was last Saturday, the morning after a deluge of rain washed the dirt off Manila’s chaotic streets and also rendered them non-passable.

Many would remember that first Friday of November 2010 for the monstrous traffic that lasted well after midnight; turned most the city into a vast parking lot; and bloated some kidneys because commuters weren’t able to take a leak inside their immobile vehicles.

Ah, the traffic. I am sure many that night missed dates and appointments because of it. I myself came late to a hot dinner—courtesy of the wife who bought it in celebration of her mother’s birthday. When I got to the dinner, the soup has turned cold as the Aquino presidency’s treatment of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the ex-Malacanang tenant. The traffic was the culprit.

If Friday night was fright night because of the traffic, Saturday morning was easy and bright. Floro agreed it was a good time to drown our lungs in coffee and cigarette smoke and that Starbucks was a fashionable place to do it. I was delighted.

It was also a great day to kill a few drivers. From where we sat, I could see many of them—taxi drivers, bus drivers, car owners, and padyak drivers snaking their way through Taft Avenue like they’re racing for the toilet because of upset stomachs. But this isn’t the reason for my murderous rage. The reason I want to poison them with their vehicles’ exhaust fumes was because they were honking their horns too loud that I thought I had my eardrums busted that morning.

“They don’t do that in Bangkok,” I remarked to Floro without taking my eyes off from what I was reading.

“What, Sir?” he replied, not also taking his eyes off his coffee.

“These drivers blowing their horns too loud and non-stop,” I said, my blood curdling.

Floro now noticed it. “The ceiling is too low here that’s why a mild blow of the horn echoes so loud,” he said, seeming to justify the noise.

“What? I can’t hear you,” I said because another loud honking punctured the air. He just smiled.

Well, most Filipino drivers are like that. They want to own the road. They think the government owes them respect because they know how to drive. They are always in a hurry to overtake. They don’t stay in one lane. They are impatient to get to their destination. And to get ahead, they honk their horns, either to warn the drivers of the vehicles ahead of them to give way, or to threaten them that they will bump their rears if they don’t. They can’t get their hands off their horns. They don’t know the word discipline. Or politeness.

This is why I disagree with what the notoriously famous presidential speech writer, Mai Mislang, tweeted that Vietnam streets are places easier to die because she, I think, doesn’t have enough experience being a public commuter.

Manila’s streets are murderous, made more so by illiterate drivers who do not have any idea that noise pollution kills as much as cigarette smoke.

Well, at least cigarette smoke is quiet, that’s why I prefer its slow motion rampage than the temperament of drivers high on diesel or gasoline exhaustion and—sorry to say this—on their contempt for commuters and fellow drivers.

In other countries, drivers obey traffic laws. In the Philippines, drivers obey their tribal instincts. Blowing horns even at a minutest excuse is tribal instinct. The Filipino driver’s demonic inclination to blow his horn is symptomatic of his mental affinity to dogs. A dog smells a fresh bone a mile away and it raises a howl and race through like bullet. A Filipino driver, particularly that of a bus or a jeepney, sees a shadow of a passenger lurking a few meters ahead and he hurls his vehicle regardless of a red signal or another vehicle in front.

Many a pedestrian have met their Maker early because of vehicular accidents caused by uncaring drivers. Still many have lost limbs because an insane driver had beaten a red light or carelessly overtook another vehicle without signal for a warning. Worse, in this country, drivers who are involved in accidents are not jailed. If it was a jeepney they were driving when the accident happened, they are promoted to become bus, or truck, drivers. I think such drivers should be tied to a post of the LRT and bumped on purpose.

Why are there so many insane drivers in the Philippines? Ask the Land Transportation Office, whose corrupt officials and employees I think father our drivers. Shouldn’t we diminish our driver population by castrating their fathers?

Floro agreed with me when I verbalized this thought. To drive home his point, he said he has a better idea. That morning, he suggested that I shoot a couple of jeepney and bus drivers on the corner of Taft Avenue. I looked again at those drivers. Most were red-eyed because I think they were stalled in traffic the night before. They are all blowing their horns simultaneously for a reason I only found out when I stood up and finished my coffee: the traffic light on the corner was busted.

It was fortunate I didn’t have a rifle that day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cops on motorbikes should walk

“Patrol cops riding in tandem on motorbikes would soon be seen around Metro Manila as police authorities shift their attention to securing the capital during the Christmas season.”

Dona Pazzibugan of the Philippine Daily Inquirer brought us this news yesterday and I almost fell off my seat upon reading it.

You might ask: “Why? Is there something wrong with cops on motorbikes being seen again on the streets of Nick Joaquin’s favorite city?”

Yes, because “being seen again” as applied to the police conjures up an image that they, who should in the first place always be seen, will re-appear, show up anew, physically materialize, or at the very least, breathe again.

You mean the police have disappeared? Vanished? Went into hiding? Or exited from this earth?

Oh, my. So, we should welcome their coming back?

Of course, we should. Having the police patrolling the city makes you feel safe. No? Opinion is divided. There are some who would rejoice at the sight of a police officer nearby. There are some who would cringe in fear upon seeing one, particularly if the cop wears sunglasses and it is night.

I belong to the latter. I feel like I would pee when I see a policeman. Don’t ask me why. Just run for your life. The guy might have sore eyes. Worst, he could be a criminal element masquerading as an officer of the law.

This is not to say that all police officers are rotten or bad. There are many men in police uniform who are officers and gentlemen; who serve the people with courage and without fear or favor. But just like in any forest, there are snakes. And it just so happened that the Philippine National Police is a large forest with plenty of reptilian population, if we go by what we read in the papers and if we are to believe the experience of some who had horrendous encounters with men in police uniform.

I’ll say this straight: The reputation of policemen in the Philippines is not something to be envied. Some of them are “kotong” cops. Some serve as protectors of jueteng lords and politicians who are sometimes indistinguishable from each other. Some are illegal drug users, if not dealers and couriers. Some are pimps. Some are illegal loggers. A few others are hostage takers, and so on ad nauseam.

Now, if these are the kind of cops that will ride motorcycles and patrol our streets, heaven save us.

“Philippine National Police director general Raul Bacalzo has re-activated the motorized anti-street crime operatives (MASCO) as soon as possible to thwart criminals from taking advantage of the people’s extra cash during the holiday season,” Dona Pazzibugan wrote.

I apologize and please excuse me for being harsh on the police, but I doubt Gen. Bacalzo very much.

You see, the sound alone of the name of the team that the good general is fielding now that the Christmas season is fast approaching doesn’t inspire much confidence. It sounds like “PA-MASKO” and the reason, according to the news, why the MASCO is being re-activated is very clear from the above: to safeguard the people’s extra-cash.

Wouldn’t it be that they will go out on motorbikes to sing Christmas carols? Hindi kaya sila mama-MASCO lang? I hope not.

Yes, there is something wrong with what the PNP plans because the PNP has very few motorcycles and a limited supply of fuel. So, I think the plan will more likely be just that: a plan. And even if it pushes through, it will not last because of the reasons cited above.

The better plan, Gen. Bacalzo, is to require members of the PNP to just walk and not ride motorbikes.

Yes, let them walk the streets of Manila, two-by-twos, buddy-system, like the koban in Japan.

I agree that police visibility is a deterrent to crime. But police visibility can’t be had if cops are thundering through our streets on motorbikes—here in a second and then gone again—to nowhere.

Getting our cops walking, instead of riding, will serve us—and the PNP—better. People, pedestrians particularly, will have assurance that when a criminal element strikes and there is a police officer walking nearby, the chance of the criminal getting apprehended will be great.

Walking will also exercise the muscles of our cops. Done daily, it will burn the fats off the police’s bulging beer bellies. It will spare them from heart attacks and strokes and they will live longer.

Who knows, if only Police Sr. Inspector Rolando Mendoza walked—and did not hail a tourist bus—from Intramuros to Rizal Park, he might have not entertained the idea of taking hostage the bus passengers. So, you see walking is better than riding.

I hope Gen. Bacalzo will re-consider his plan. Don’t let ‘em cops ride, G’nral. Let ‘em walk. Let ‘em sweat under the sun’s heat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fly now, plane arrives later

Labor and Employment secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz’s decision to affirm with modifications the original decision of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo-era DOLE on the case of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association, known as PALEA, contesting the outsourcing by PAL management of certain ground functions and services was met by, as expected, an obdurate union leadership.

Upon receipt of the decision, Gerry Rivera, the union president, came out in the media with his guns blazing, denouncing the decision as ‘Halloween’, complementing his description of the original decision as ‘Midnight’.

Both adjectives mean, figuratively, ‘deathly scary’. Of course, literally, as he said, it means the ‘death of job security at PAL’.

Listen to the unionist: “The decision would conjure 3,000 zombie positions which will have cheaper wages, less benefits, no security of tenure, and no protection by a union.”

The end of the world?

Wait a minute. Has he read the decision or was he referring to another? Or, was he so blinded that when he read the decision his vision was clouded by tears of hatred for the DOLE?

I have, and I believe the decision was, unlike Rivera’s rant, sober and correct. Only three issues were resolved by Secretary Baldoz when she considere

First, whether PAL may validly contract out the functions and positions d PALEA’s motion for reconsideration of the original decision. that are presently performed and occupied by regular rank-and-file employees and union members under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Second, whether PAL may validly terminate the services of the employees under the CBA, the Labor Code, and Department Order No. 18-02.

And third, whether the termination of services of the employees constitutes an unfair labor practice of the PAL.

The CBA, the law, and Department Order No. 18-02, collectively supported by jurisprudence say “Yes” to the first two issues and “No” to the last. Baldoz, knowing her law and her morals, followed them, as she should.

The world of labor has changed, Rivera should be told. The world of business has metamorphosed, he must be reminded. Our unions in the Philippines must recognize these for them to remain relevant. They must adapt to new business realities and to modern bargaining strategies to preserve jobs and, thus, obtain the benefits due them.

The fact is outsourcing is a valid and legal business strategy in this Knowledge century. It is also a fact that businesses, by virtue of their prerogatives, may trim fat, reduce cost, enter into alliances, contract out non-core functions, and terminate employees if only to survive.

Even governments nowadays resort to the above-enumerated strategies. Who says governments can’t go bankrupt? It can, financially and morally. The Philippine government, if any one will bother to ask, has just been from a fresh rationalization program, resulting to the early retirement and separation from the service of thousands of bureaucrats, many of them with non-essential functions.

But such acts of management should be tempered with social responsibility. It doesn’t mean that just because a company is losing, it can already ride roughshod over the rights of workers to just and humane treatment, like the payment of appropriate benefits.

Baldoz saw to it that this will happen. She modified the benefits to ensure that the to-be-terminated workers will get the just reward of their having been ‘regular’ employees, and more. The ‘regular’ is in direct marks because in this era of globalization, regular employment is no longer the norm. Sad, but true.

Security of tenure?

Security of tenure nowadays is equated with workers having an array of knowledge and skills that they can sell to the market—a market which happened to be so choosy, competitive, and exacting. It is not a market for the worker with moribund skills, the insecure, and the inflexible. It is not a market that looks at what you know, but a market that looks at how much you will learn more while working. It is a market that frowns on the narrow-minded and smiles on those with a world-view of innovative ideas.

Such is the market that PAL is in. The airline industry is so competitive that PAL’s failure in the past to abandon its comfort zone and to innovate—secure as it was in the wrong thought that it is indispensable in the scheme of things in this country—left it at the mercy of its more service-oriented, innovative competitors.

You want proof? Well, when Cebu Pacific, the budget airline, came out with its ‘dancing flight stewardesses’, the flight attendants’ union at PAL cried foul and said it was demeaning to women. Wake up, people. It was a marketing strat, did you know that?

So, PAL is losing money. The documents supporting the DOLE decision showed that it is profusely bleeding financially. Very few now ride PAL primarily because its level of services delivery has declined from so-so to mediocre. Its planes arrive late. Its workers are grumbling, instead of working and thinking. Cebu Pacific is beating it black and blue. PAL, if it would not be allowed to do what it needs to do to survive will not last a full year. It will run aground.

Why? There are many reasons, but one I can hazard as guess is because its owner badly treats his employees. He is generally believed to be so “kuripot”. No wonder, the unions in his companies are always up in arms.

Now, give me a company whose owner treats his workers with contempt and I will show you what industrial restlessness means.

Many say: “Why not allow Philippine Airlines to sink?” Indeed, why not.

But alas, this case is imbued with national interest. If PAL closes shop, not only 2,600 workers will lose their jobs. All 7,500 of them, including Rivera, will walk on our streets, zombie-like and jobless.

And for this, the Philippines could lose face. Can you imagine the business repercussion if the government does not allow Asia’s first airline to exercise a valid prerogative because one of its unions happens to be allergic to, say, contracting out its catering services?

If PAL is only a bus company, then we can allow its buses to rot and find jobs for its drivers and conductors and mechanics somewhere else. Unfortunately, it is not. It is an airline carrying our national tri-color; a company that employs thousands and whose importance in the life of our country is strategic because it connects us to the world.

This lends PAL its national value, but it doesn’t mean it should not be disciplined. Its responsibility is not only to keep flying but, more so, to sustain and keep decent the lives of the people who make its planes fly, regardless of how late.

This is why the DOLE decision in this case was balanced. It weighed the importance of PAL as a company and the equally valuable asset of its people who run the airline.