On the confirmation of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III
The nominee is our real peace czar.
He is waging peace in two fronts: labor and rural insurgency.
This has forced him to be our first Labor secretary in history to moonlight in another job, or work two shifts.
And it is a testament to his multitasking skills that he is able to perform both functions with distinction.
As Labor secretary, he has walked the extra mile to bring workers and employers to an accord of respecting each other’s interests.
And as head of the GPH panel talking to the NDF, he has flown 20,000 miles in two months, to Norway, to negotiate an end to Asia’s longest armed rebellion.
In short, his dual job requires lots of shuttle diplomacy and if only for that – on how punishing this is for a seventy-something but who can pass for a thirty-something – I have no qualms in voting to confirm his appointment.
Thankfully, he is no stranger to wearing multiple or a succession of hats.
He’s been a Justice secretary, in fact, twice under two presidents; was a Sol-Gen once; and was Cabinet secretary of President Arroyo.
He has also broken the myth of an unelectable bureaucrat. He was town councilor during that ancient period when the Beatles have yet to disband, and I was still singing nursery rhymes.
Last Congress, he was deputy minority leader in the House, standing bravely against the Yellow Horde. But what is almost unknown is that he was leader of the parliament of the streets, during Martial Law, when such a calling was hazardous to one’s health.
It is precisely because of his expertise and experience that he has been chosen to lead DOLE. His being there underscores the importance President Duterte has given to that agency.
DOLE’s mandate now extends beyond maintaining peace in the workplace, but in bringing more employees to workplaces.
It does not merely tell workers of their rights, but trains them with new skills.
Its jurisdiction goes beyond national boundaries, to places where there is a Filipino. It now maintains the most number of foreign outposts, next to the DFA.
DOLE does not merely provide succor to Filipino workers in distress. It provides them training to make them in demand. DOLE does not only teach our workers vocational skills, but also to be vigilant about their rights.
In terms of size, Bebot Bello’s constituency is hard to ignore, as there are 42 million of them in the labor force. Their demands are also hard to disregard because they are just: decent pay, good working conditions and regular employment.
Add to this is the pressure brought about by one million entrants to the labor force annually, who either have to queue for local job interviews or for passports that will allow them to look for jobs abroad.
It is for their sake that I am glad that we have Bebot Bello in DOLE, because with a President suffering from ADD – Attention Devoted to Drugs – the DOLE can go to autopilot mode, with Bebot at the helm, as it confronts a problem more pernicious than drugs, because worse than the proliferation of drugs is the non-proliferation of employment opportunities.
Another great challenge is ending contractualization without ending the viability of businesses, especially small ones. He is, indeed, in for a tightrope act. Kung paano wawakasan ang endo, na ang pagawaan ay hindi ma-de-dedo.
With these thoughts giving me comfort, I would like, therefore, to endorse the confirmation of the appointment of Silvestre Bello III, son of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and the holy land that is Davao, as Secretary of Labor and Employment.