BMP hits Roque’s downplaying of bad unemployment rates
MANILA, Philippines — A labor group has condemned presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s alleged “toxic positivity” after he expressed optimism on the latest survey that showed unemployment in July hit a record-high rate of 45.5 percent.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) said on Monday that Roque’s comment — that they were glad that unemployment rates did not hit 100 percent despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — was an affront to the 27.3 million of adult Filipinos who are without jobs.
“By expressing his delight that the unemployment rate did not reach 100% and by further asserting that this was due to our supposed resilience, Mr. Roque deeply insulted the 27.3 million unemployed Filipinos who are currently at a loss on how they are going to survive the foreseeable future,” BMP President Luke Espiritu said.
“His toxic positivity is stupid and revolting,” he added.
Roque’s reaction came after a Social Weather Stations survey released on Sunday showed that unemployment rates in the country increased by 28 percentage points, from just 17.1 percent in December to the 45.5 percent in July due to the pandemic.
In an online briefing earlier, he said it is not a surprise if people would lose their jobs because of the several quarantine periods that have affected the country’s economy. With the world’s longest lockdown, the Philippine economy contracted as its gross domestic product shrank by 16.5 percent.
“Magugulat ka ba na nawalan ng trabaho sila e samantalang buwan-buwan nang inaabot na naka-lockdown ang ating ekonomiya? Ako po’y nagagalak na hindi tayo 100 percent na nawalan ng trabaho,” Roque said.
(Will you be surprised that they lost their jobs when the lockdown of our economy reached months? I am glad that we are not 100 percent jobless.)
According to BMP, this is just another attempt by the government to downplay the effects of the health crisis — noting that the 45 percent is not just a mere statistic as it shows the millions of Filipino families affected by the lockdowns.
The labor group also warned against labeling the bad employment rates as a sign of Filipino resiliency amid the pandemic, stressing it was a sign of the government’s incompetency.
“[The] 45% is not just a number. It represents 27. 3 million suffering Filipinos. What makes Mr. Roque’s callous indifference more infuriating is not only his disregard to the poverty and misery of the nearly half of the labor force, he also did not present any plan on how to alleviate their suffering,” Espiritu said.
“The data provided by the SWS isn’t evidence of the Filipino people’s resiliency in handling the pandemic-induced crisis. Rather, it is evidence of the Duterte regime’s inability or blatant refusal to sufficiently address the plight of the working masses,” he added.
Ever since the pandemic started, which eventually led to lockdowns in Luzon and several other areas last March, a lot of people who rely on daily earnings and those whose jobs cannot adjust to a work-from-home scheme have lost their income.
Several major companies have announced layoffs to avoid a total shutdown of operations — from transportation services and tourism-related industries like airline companies Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, bus company Victory Liner, tour operator Sun Cruises to food chains, restaurants, bars, and other industries.
Aside from that, Congress’ move to deny media giant ABS-CBN a new congressional franchise forced the network to adopt a retrenchment program to ensure that the company still operates despite free television and radio broadcasts being shut down.
ABS-CBN had around 11,000 employees before the National Telecommunications Commission released a cease and desist order last May 5.
As of now, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna remain under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status, which means a limited number of workers are allowed for some non-essential industries. [ac]
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