MANILA, Philippines — A presidential candidate in the 2022 national elections has asked fellow aspirant and labor leader Leody de Guzman if he ever considered the employers in pushing for a labor-centric agenda, saying that the company owners are Filipinos too.

During the CNN Philippines Presidential Debates on Sunday, De Guzman and Senator Manny Pacquiao were asked about their ideal minimum wage across the country, which the former said P750, and the latter said P700 to P800.

But another candidate, physician Jose Montemayor Jr., asked whether De Guzman considered company owners who may get hit with this higher minimum wage — as it seems workers are now biting the feeding hand.

“I have a question to Ka Leody, kayo po ba — ako I am pro-labor — kayo po ba iniisip niyo rin ‘yong mga employers?  Kasi po you have to balance it ano, gusto niyo ba sa pagtaas ng kanilang wages, parang kinakagat niyo na ang kamay na nagpapakain sa inyo?” Montemayor asked.

“So ang ibig sabihin in being a pro-labor, hindi niyo ba ini-infringe din ang right ng mga employers?  Do you also mind people who are owning these companies?” he added.

De Guzman, a long time factory worker and labor union organizer, answered that he thinks of business owners too in pushing for the proposal.  However, he stressed that workers need to have a dignified salary, and not be given bits just like slaves.

“Nasa isip natin ‘yan, na kailangan natin — lalo na ‘yong mga micro, small, and medium enterprises — nasa isip natin ‘yan.  Pero ang gusto nating sabihin ba ay patuloy nating pahirapan ‘yong ating mga manggagawa, pasahurin ng slavery wage, gano’n?” De Guzman countered.

“Gayo’ng klaro na ang mga study na dapat ay sahurin ng mga manggagawa ang ganitong halaga?  Gusto ba nating patuloy na alipinin ‘yong ating mga manggagawa na siyang lumilikha ng kaunalaran ng ating bayan?  Bakit hindi natin ibigay sa ating mga manggagawa ang tamang pasahod na dapat nilang tanggapin,” she added.

The labor leader said that people should not be glorifying workers as heroes only on Labor Day and then disregard them the rest of the year with meager wages.

“Huwag nating gawin na ‘yong ating mga manggagawa na maging miserable ang buhay, ‘wag nating purihin lang ang ating manggagawa na sila’y bayani tuwing Mayo Uno.  Lagyan natin ng konkretong tulong ‘yong ating mga manggagawa nang sa gayo’y magkaroon ng dignidad ‘yong ating mga manggawa,” he added.

Montemayor tried to ask a follow-up question but moderators reminded him that De Guzman had already answered him.

Labor concerns are one of the issues discussed by candidates, especially as the dangers of low wages have been exposed by the recent economic crisis, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Currently, the minimum wage is at P537 in Metro Manila, which many experts believe is not enough to feed a family of four.

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