Right now, Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod’s office is not the usual air-conditioned one that can be found inside one of the buildings at the House of Representatives compound. Rather, it consists of a bamboo desk, made for him by farmers who also have carpentry skills, in a corner of a makeshift tent. On his desk is a logbook for visitors who come in for consultations or other important matters or purposes. Behind his desk is a small cot, also made by the farmers, where he could rest when he is not in the session hall.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Joel Maglunsod walks into his office in a barong Tagalog, complete with the pin identifying him as a member of the House of Representatives.
But right now, his office is not the usual air-conditioned one that can be found inside one of the buildings at the House of Representatives compound. Rather, it consists of a bamboo desk, made for him by farmers who also have carpentry skills, in a corner of a makeshift tent. On his desk is a logbook for visitors who come in for consultations or other important matters or purposes. Behind his desk is a small cot, also made by the farmers, where he could rest when he is not in the session hall. Surrounding his desk are placards on which are written slogans expressing the demands of farmers’ groups.
The tent, one of two that presently stand by the South Gate of the House of Representatives compound, has been sheltering farmers from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon who set up camp there on April 13 to manifest their advocacy for the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran’s House Bill No. 3059, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which provides for the free redistribution of lands to farmers.
Maglunsod, who hails from Mindanao and who has retained his Visayan accent through the years, was proclaimed on April 27 along with several nominees of other party-list groups following a Supreme Court decision junking the so-called Panganiban formula in computing the number of party-list seats in Congress.
His decision to set up his office at the peasant camp-out, he says, was prompted among other things by the supposed lack of office space for the new party-list representatives. “I told Speaker (Prospero) Nograles that the lack of an office should not hinder me from performing my duties,” he said.
“I’m fine here,” he added. “With this, I can easily hold consultations with the farmers and other constituents. I stop here before attending sessions and return afterwards.”
He said he intends to keep his tent office for as long as the camp-out continues – even after he gets office space inside the House of Representatives. The farmers plan to stay at the camp-out until June.
However, the House of Representatives, through House Secretary-General Marilyn Yap, has ordered Anakpawis Rep. Maglunsod and the farmers to vacate and dismantle the tent office.
Aside from pushing for Beltran’s HB 3059 – which has not gone through any committee hearing since being filed last year, shortly before Beltran’s death – Maglunsod also plans to push for bills legislating a P125 ($2.64) increase in the daily wages of private-sector workers, and a P3,000 ($63.49) increase in the monthly salaries of government employees.
Both demands were first put forward in 1999, during the presidency of Joseph Estrada. Private-sector workers and government employees have been given wage and salary increases in trickles in the last 10 years, but these were soon eaten up by inflation.
For workers affected by the global economic and financial crisis, Maglunsod plans to file a House resolution calling on Congress to enact a measure that would give them financial assistance.
“Our proposal for that is P10,000 ($211) monthly, for a period of six months,” Maglunsod said. “That would be taken from the President’s Social Fund.”
Earlier this year, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque had predicted that some 300,000 workers in the Philippines are expected to lose their jobs this year alone, while projections by Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto warned of the displacement of around 800,000 workers. A recent estimate from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) forecasts that as many as a million workers would be laid off this year.