Señeres uses ‘Kalyeserye’ style in campaign
WITH neither money nor machinery, OFW Family party-list Rep. Roy Seneres has resorted to small, street-to-street meetings in his campaign for the presidency in the May 2016 elections.
“Kalyeserye is my approach, and my audience is mostly contract workers of big malls,” he said, referring to the noontime show “Eat Bulaga” that includes a romantic comedy between handsome TV host Alden Richards and a nanny named Maine “YayaDub” Mendoza.
“I also talk to the parents of the workers to explain to them that contractualization is illegal,” Señeres said.
The meetings are held in parking lots of the big malls that have proliferated in major urban centers nationwide, he said. The malls are the biggest employers of temporary workers who are terminated after five months, the so-called endo—or end-of-contract—workers.
“Contractuals have no benefits and no security of tenure. Billions of pesos that should have been given to them as benefits (13th month pay, etc.) are held by their employers and used to build more malls here and even abroad,” Señeres said.
A former labor attaché and later ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, he served chair of the National Labor Relations Court (NLRC) after his years as envoy. Señeres, 68, said he is the only candidate who can tackle the issue of contractualization head on.
“I am not asking nor expecting campaign funds from big business firms. The other candidates are using the private jets and helicopters of the mall owners. They are beholden to them,” Señeres said.
His message is short and directed to all temporary workers in private sector as well as those in goverment where they are called “casuals” or “job order employees.”
“Make me President and I will make you permanent,” Señeres would often tell contract workers and their parents. He said “security of tenure” for workers is enshrined in the Constitution.
Preelection polls, however, show Señeres with low awareness and recall among voters. Even members of the fraternity he cofounded as a law student at San Beda College in 1969 have asked him to give way to brod Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Señeres said he has “irreconcilable differences” with Duterte. “I am prolife, he is prodeath. I am prayerful, he cusses at the Pope,” he said. Señeres said he has one wife, while Duterte has confessed having two wives and two mistresses.
“I have a senatorial lineup. I have a solid base composed of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), contract workers and job order employees. Who will take up the cudgels for them?” Señeres said.
As labor attaché in Abu Dhabi from 1983 to 1989, Señeres opened his home to runaway Filipino workers. “There were 5, 10, sometimes even 20 runaways living with me, my wife and six children,” he said. “Some OFWs were sleeping under the dining table!”
The dire situation in his house led to the creation of the first Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) center in Abu Dhabi. Today, Owwa centers can be found in major cities abroad where there are Filipino workers.
How he rescued Sarah Balabagan made Señeres a hero among OFWs. Balabagan, a 15-year-old from Cotabato, was meted the death penalty for stabbing her male employer. She said she was only defending herself against rape.
Through his friendship with members of the royal family, Señeres managed to secure a pardon for Balabagan. But he had to convince them she was only 15, not 22 as stated in her falsified passport.
There was also the case of John Aquino and many other OFWs who had languished in jail overseas. One of them, Bong Roy, had served three years of a 12-year sentence for drug trafficking when he appealed for Señeres’ help.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.