Labor problems in govt, the police, and military

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

The controversial transfer of a career police official to Central Visayas a week after he arrested a big-time fugitive of justice, the highly questionable sacking of a topnotch PMA cadet (who is considered an employee of government while studying in the academy), and the many other alleged illegal  dismissals, so-called unlawful transfers and unjust demotions of career civil service and personnel all put into focus the central issue of how the government treats its own people, while appearing to be very vigilant in regulating employer-employee relationships in the private sector. All these do present valid questions on the ability of the Civil Service Commission, as a constitutional body mandated to protect security of tenure in the public service to perform its task, as well as challenges to the competence, sense of justice and fairness of senior military, police and other government officials.

To peremptorily dismiss the grievance of Senior Superintendent Conrado Capa, in connection with his highly controversial transfer to a regional assignment as deputy regional director of PNP Central Visayas, and call it a ''promotion'', would be adding insult to injury. Promotion? Tell it to the marines, General. Instead of rewarding a very hard working and loyal Task Force Tugis Commander, who was able to accomplish what all the other generals could not achieve since 2011, Director General Alan Purisima, allegedly, without even giving Capa the courtesy of being talked to first, simply announced his new announcement to media. Of course, as a human being, Capa expressed his surprise when interviewed by reporters, and displayed his obvious exasperation and disgust. Nonetheless, as a good soldier that he is, he decided to comply, lest he could be sacked for insubordination. But such a high-handed display of naked power did not endear the PNP to the people.

On the other hand, PMA Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia, who was slated to graduate number two in the honor roll of Class 2014, euphemistically calling themselves ''SIKLAB-DIWA,'' was unceremoniously sacked and barred from graduating simply because he was allegedly late for two minutes in his 3:00 pm English class on 14 November 2013. The reason that he gave was that they were supposedly ''dismissed a little bit late in a previous class.'' He was investigated by the Honor Committee, which, under the rules, must have a unanimous decision. It was alleged that one member of the committee did not agree to dismiss Cudia on the basis of that misdemeanor. It was also alleged that such a dissenter was pressured to change his vote to affirm the dismissal. And so, the four years of rigorous training and studies was lost only because of that incident. That was more "PASIKLAB", without "DIWA."

It should be stressed here that Cudia was not only a student and a cadet. He was a government worker because the four-year study in the PMA is counted as part of the tenure of a military officer. Therefore, the sacking of Cudia was a dismissal. And, with due respect, it has all the ingredients of an illegal dismissal. The question that the PMA and its generals should answer to the Filipino people is this: Was there a just and sufficient cause to dismiss such a fine and promising soldier? Was due process afforded? Were the fundamental rights of Cudia amply protected? The obvious and patently correct answer to these questions was NO, as expressed by no less than a top government lawyer, Atty Persida Acosta, director of the Public Attorney's Office. She said bluntly that the so-called Code of Honor of Cadets cannot be higher than the Constitution. And we strongly agree. Let the PMA answer that. The Commander-in-Chief should also answer that directly, and candidly.

Still from the government front, two career deputy directors of the NBI, Atty. Reynaldo Esmeralda and Atty. Ruel Lasala were dismissed from their posts for reasons that are unknown to us. When they started to complain, the DOJ responded that they would be probed for their alleged links to Janet Napoles. Dismissal first, investigation later. Well, Janet Napoles may be guilty although she has not been convicted of any offense yet. But to create so much collateral damage by sacrificing career officials, just because of apparent guilt by association would be highly unjust, irregular, and downright illegal. All these peremptory and hasty decisions, the Capa affair, the Cudia hullabaloo, and the NBI collateral damage would be undermining the career system in public service and would demoralize the small guys in government. There are generals accused of laundering millions, senators charged with alleged plunders, and Cabinet members who are generally perceived as inept and incompetent. The administration appears to cuddle them. The small fry is condemned and marginalized unceremoniously.

It pains me, having served the government for more than twenty years, to see all these happening in the public service. If we can not protect government officials and lowly civil servants from the schemes, machinations and importuning of the politicians, then we shall lose the best and the brightest people in the career service. What will be left will be those who will kowtow to the whims and caprices of those with vested interests to protect, political ambitions to promote, and positive  public image to project for personal gains. The government is losing moral authority to tell a private corporation to reinstate an illegally dismissed private sector employee. The government violates its own laws, endangers the job security of its own people, and commits unfair labor practices against its own personnel. How then can it enforce the laws without fear or favor? All these, with all due respect, constitute culpable violations of the Constitution. Let the government spokesmen explain these in Plaza Independencia.

The government has been created to serve and protect the people. Public officials and personnel are appointed to promote the general well-being and defend the rights of the people. But, if they themselves are being victimized, who shall protect the peoples' protectors?  There are simply too many questions left unanswered, too many issues left hanging. The government has a battalion of  PR geniuses. Let them face these issues squarely. Let them come to Fuente Osmeña and present their explanation to the ''hoi polloi." I therefore pause for any reply.

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