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Monday, April 21, 2014

THERE is poverty and suffering in the country and the world, not because of overpopulation but because of inequality, manifested in the huge mass of people being excluded from gainful livelihood (unemployment).

Pope Francis lamented, “The unemployed and underemployed risk being relegated to the margins of society, becoming victims of social exclusion.”

Myrna, a worker in an Export Processing Zone in Mactan, Cebu, shared with me how the company summarily terminated her from work when they started organizing workers against the oppressive working conditions in the garment factory where she worked.


Myrna is not alone. Despite the Philippines registering the highest gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in Southeast Asian regions last year, “the latest Labor Force Survey pegs unemployment at 6.5 percent of the national workforce and, more tellingly, underemployment at 17.9 percent (the latter being the percentage of the workforce that is employed but looking for additional work).”


Pope Francis considers unemployment as a very serious problem affecting many countries: “It is the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create work, because it has placed at its centre the idol of money.”

The CBCP 2014 Lenten Message said that we experience moral destitution as inequality.

It quoted Pope Francis’ critique of capitalism:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (EG, 54).


Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid (EG, 187).

The Visayas Clergy Discernment Group and the Cebu Archdiocesan Discernment Group have, in various instances, supported workers’ struggle against union-busting. Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma mediated a labor dispute where the company was set to terminate 18 workers, including leaders of the labor union. After interventions, termination of workers did not push through.

Pope Francis said to workers and managers: “The various political, social and economic actors are called upon to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity, to ensure the possibility of dignified work for all.”

Workers’ Empowerment

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP 2) in 1991 said that in our country “where the poor and marginalized have little genuine participation… we realize that integral development of people will be possible only with their corresponding empowerment” (PCP 2, 326).

For the workers, it is important that they become organized in labor unions and workers’ associations for them to be empowered in charting their future. It is imperative for the Church’s Social Action Centers to have programs in helping facilitate the building up of workers’ organizations.

It is only through organized strength that workers will participate in social development, as “No social transformation is genuine and lasting where people themselves do not actively participate in the process” (PCP 2, 325).--Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, DD, Convenor, Visayas Clergy Discernment Group

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 22, 2014.


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