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The people’s choice

/ 12:26 AM April 28, 2016

My heart goes out to the family of John Ridsdel. He was a fine man, a good friend. A lover of the Philippines who wanted to retire and enjoy the warmth of the country and its people, but was instead barbarously beheaded by monsters masquerading as human beings. Along with three others, he’d been held hostage since he was kidnapped last September. Seven months, and his colleagues are still in captivity today.

Mr. Aquino, what are you going to do to rescue them and bring them to safety? And don’t say you’ll bring “the full force of the law to bear” on the situation. You’ve had seven months where that “full force” could have, should have, worked. It didn’t, so why will it now? If this is your “daang matuwid” (straight path), then I don’t want it.

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Goodbye, John. I hope you didn’t suffer.

My grief was mitigated by a magical evening that John would have enjoyed, too. And perhaps it was a requiem to John; it had that appropriate heavenly feeling.

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On that magical Tuesday evening, Andrea Bocelli sang at the Mall of Asia Arena. He was joined by soprano Maria Katzarava, flutist Andrea Griminelli, and our own Christine Allado, a Filipino. What a wondrous night it must have been for her to sing beside this most famous of all tenors. What a wondrous night it was for us to just listen enraptured.

Mickey Muñoz and Gerard Salonga led the fine ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra with the Ateneo Chamber Singers. It was a professionally run evening that I hope will be oft repeated. It puts Manila on the world stage, and with this standing-ovation event, may there be many more. My congratulations to the organizers.

I slept little that night, torn between these two memories.

* * *

Now to the mundane, but ever so important, event: the election of a new president.

The third presidential debate produced nothing unexpected. And did little, I suspect, to change voters’ minds.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that Miriam Defensor Santiago, despite valiant, even heroic, efforts, is not well enough to handle the rigors of a six-year, 12-18-hour-a-day presidency. If she can’t stand for three hours, how can she work 12-18-hour days? Which is what the next presidency needs. She should gracefully retire and leave Bongbong Marcos to fend for himself.

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The only bit of color was a “fist fight” between Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte over PhilHealth services.

If the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia surveys are correct, and they have been in the past, then this is a fight between Grace Poe and Duterte, with Jejomar Binay having an outside chance, if local pols can exert enough influence.

An SWS survey conducted a week before the 2010 presidential election showed Noynoy Aquino (42 percent) leading his rivals—Joseph Estrada (20 percent), Manny Villar (19 percent), and Gilbert Teodoro

(9 percent). A Pulse Asia poll conducted two weeks before the election also showed similar numbers, with Aquino (39 percent) enjoying a comfortable lead over Estrada (20 percent), Villar (20 percent), and Teodoro (7 percent). The actual result was Aquino at 42 percent and Estrada at 26 percent. They got it right.

Looking at the surveys now, it’s Roxas who doesn’t seem to have a chance. You just don’t go from a steady 18-22 percent over the past eight months to over 30 percent in two weeks. The percentage-point differential just can’t be overcome —unless, maybe, if one of the other candidates withdraws. But no one is going to do that.

It’s a pity because Roxas is a good man. But it’s just that he hasn’t captured a sufficient public. He called for an honest, decent, hardworking government. And I fully agree, but would add: action-oriented. We can’t have another six years where decisions take far too long to be made, or aren’t made at all. So you choose who among the candidates have those four attributes. Underlying it, of course, is one who will have the right policies that will get this economy really moving—at all levels, not just a narrow top.

* * *

I hope the candidates recognize that the contractualization they rightly abhor is due to just one thing: security of tenure. That must go. If they try anything else, it will be the wrong solution. In a previous column (“Policy consistency and labor laws,” 10/16/14), I wrote: “The single biggest labor-related deterrent to running a business in the Philippines is security of tenure. It’s not beneficial to workers, it’s the most misplaced concept I can imagine. It’s one of those typical things that sound good, but in practice are in fact detrimental.

“Security of tenure does one thing: It encourages mediocrity. Why work hard when you can’t be fired? Why work at all if you don’t want to? It has led to that inhuman policy of hiring ‘5-monthers,’ or people who get a job and then are kicked out before the six months are up.”

Banning contractualization is not an answer. There are projects where workers are needed only for the time of the project. The solution is to apply benefits from Day 1 of employment, not after six months. Pay overtime, holiday pay, 13th-month pay and social security benefits. Pass a law to make all of these obligatory, on a pro rata basis, from Day One. If a worker leaves after just a few months, he or she gets paid the earned holiday pay, pension entitlement, and the like, with the Social Security System benefit transferable, so it just moves with the employee.

Security of tenure is provided by doing a good job. If a person loses a job due to inefficiency or whatnot, another person takes his or her place. Tenure is secure. That person works hard not to lose the job. The loser, meanwhile, will have to work harder in his or her next job.

* * *

E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: abduction, Abu Sayyaf, Andrea Bocelli, beheading, concert, Election surveys, Elections 2016, John Ridsdel, murder, Music
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