“Mahirap, pero ang tanong dito, kung hindi natin gagawin ito sino ang gagawa? Kung hindi natin sisimulan ang laban na ito kailan magsisimula? At dahil nasimulan na natin ito, kailangan may katapusan, at ang katapusan ay ang para sa positibong resolusyon ng ating ipinaglalaban.”
“It’s difficult dahil ang gobyerno natin, ang kinakampihan ay mga kapitalista, and we cannot rely on the speedy disposition of the case now pending in the court. Pero we believe with the help and assistance of all sectors especially the clergy, academe, studentry, labor sectors, sa tingin natin makakamtan natin ‘yung hustisya rito.”
“But more than the PALEA issue, let us now transcend the PALEA issue. It is not just a PALEA issue, it is the issue of the whole Filipino work force. This is our legacy to the next generation.”
This was four months ago after a minimally-attended talk in AIT, when the threat of spending Christmas in the picket lines was inevitable for the red-shirted Gerry Rivera. That December, I approached to ask him more questions, this time personal.
The broadsheets have portrayed an outspoken man who has blasted Lucio Tan and the giants in a battle of sling shots and job security. In real life, Gerry Rivera would not stand out in a crowd with his altitude, but his resilient face is enough to hint that he is not the person you’d like to mess with.
Despite the illustration of a strong Gerry Rivera, there are many hardships in the leadership. Beyond PALEA, he is a father of two. His wife works abroad and he is with his collegiate youngest son who, interestingly, has also taken the anti-contractualization campaign to the streets with his father.
Every day is a struggle. How do they sustain themselves without pay? Removed from their employment and with the half-million peso compensation package waiting to be availed, Rivera admitted the hardship of sustaining the morale of his co-employees. Out of the 2,600 terminated by the Philippine Airlines, about one-fifth had awoken to a different reality—a practical plight hostile to the idealist protest—and took their packages with them which reportedly were above the industry average.
PAL is continuing its operations without Gerry Rivera or PALEA. Despite his claims that PAL would never achieve full operations, the airlines show that it can potentially reach that level in no time. Amid his high hope that they the unrightfully displaced would relinquish their former posts in the end, reality seems to better favor “corporate greed” than compromise. As media focuses on the tiring impeachment case, Holy Week, and “noynoying”, I can’t help but think that the world seems to be moving on at a much faster pace, leaving Rivera and the union to deal the issue alone.
Where are the students? Where are the other sectors? The radicals?
David and Goliath would have been the best way to describe the story, but unlike the biblical chronicle, this is a battle that Filipinos seem to have grown tired of in its fourth year. Without government and even an obvious significant backing from the people, the slim chance of progress insists.
Four months have passed and still no significant events unfolded. This crusade, contained in a pattern of legal fights and the picket, would continue to draw out greater sacrifices from the PALEA crusaders while the uncertainty of an end increasingly puts pressure on Gerry Rivera’s struggle in keeping the fire burning, and keeping their stomachs full.
What if in the end, the legal system fails PALEA and there are no more options to fight except to take it on the streets? How do they move on? What legacy would they leave to the students who have begun thinking of ways to adapt to the lesser insecurity of employment in the Philippines?
These are questions for Rivera to find out. These are questions that the world, with all its changing landscape, would have to answer eventually.
Editorial Note: This article was submitted by the author to the START-AIT’s official magazine called Simula.