I texted my best friend to give me an update on what was happening in Manila and his terse reply was "Wala, korni nga eh." Neverthelesss, I got back to Manila May 1 afternoon dreading all sorts of worst case scenarios, which thankfully, did not come to pass. I guess this whole psy-war thing which the government, the opposition and militants have mastered is truly overrated.
May 1 being labor day, I expected that there would be a clamor for wage increases. This has been a tired constant refrain in the last decade. What I did not expect were populist statements from religious figures about the minimum wage issue. The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lamented that workers in the Philippines are often deprived of their just share of the fruits of their work. Sadly, the statement was coached in very general terms and was full of theological gobbledygook. I wasn't really clear about what exactly the good bishop was advocating. Bishop Oscar Cruz was more direct accusing the government of being "deaf, dumb and blind" to the cause of workers.
I can understand where the bishops are coming from. There is no denying that the current minimum wage, for example, is inadequate. However, wage increases is a very complicated issue and the reality is that there are many small and medium enterprises that can not even afford to pay the current minimum wage. If the church truly cares about the welfare of their flock, I suggest that they begin within their ranks. I know for a fact that many churchworkers do not even receive the minimum wage and many are not paid at all. I have a cousin who works as secretary of a parish, and her salary is a paltry P3,000 (this is way, way below the minimum wage). If the church truly cares about workers in this country, I suggest that they walk the talk. First, they must pay their workers well. They can donate the riches of the church to the poor and truly live with the people instead of living in palaces. They can also stop charging for church services, or at least reduce the rates (do you know how much it costs to have someone baptized? or for a mass to be said for a dead loved one?) . And then then can start pointing their fingers somewhere else.
Is it time to legislate wage increases? I do not think so. Wage increases is a very complicated issue. And if only for this reason, it should be left out of the hands and interference of politicians - all types of politicians.