BPO workers group hits snail-paced vax program, asserts inclusion in A4 priority group

Press Release

MAY 13, 2021

The BPO Industry Employees Network hits the snail-paced vaccination program of the Duterte administration after Philippine Vaccination Tracker revealed that daily distribution is pegged at around 65,000 dosages per day while the national target is 500,000 per day. The group continue to assert for inclusion in the vaccination program in the A4 priority group.

“Before the DOH released the guideline for the A4 priority group, we appealed to be included. But we were left out. Amid the COVID-19 breakouts documented thru our independent monitoring and the risk that onsite BPO workers face to contract the virus, we re-echo our appeal to be included in the A4 priority group. We likewise remind the government to act swiftly in the distribution of vaccines and inoculation as we heard that 1.5 million doses of Astrazenica are set to expire at the end of June and additional 500,000 doses in July.” averred by Sarah Prestoza, BIEN VP Externals

The group was dismayed by the non-inclusion of BPO workers in the vaccination program. Considered as economic frontliners, the BPO industry remained operational despite varying degrees of community lockdown classification in NCR and nearby provinces. 

“We are called economic frontliners but we do not feel it. That’s why we are being critical and doing our best to amplify our voice to be heard by the government. BPO workers deserve to be included in the A4 priority group. At the same time, the government must speed up its distribution and inoculation so vaccines won’t go to waste. There are sectors like us that are waiting in vain to be vaccinated while BPO workers and the industry strive to keep the economy afloat. Plus, to achieve herd immunity, medical experts suggest to increase its current daily target per dose and accelerate its vaccination program.” Prestoza added.

The group documented an alarming hike of COVID-19 positive cases or outbreaks in different IT-BPO hubs from January 2021 to the present:

1. Baguio – 255 cases

2. Iloilo – 105 cases

3. Bacolod – 41 cases

4. Clark, Pampanga – 27 cases

5. Bacoor, Cavite – 14 cases 

6. Quezon City – 511 (105 – QC residents, 406 – living outside of QC)

7. Other parts of NCR – 40

“BPO workers do not work face to face with our clients but it doesn’t mean we are immune from the virus especially those who are working onsite. Not all clients and accounts permit work at home arrangements. In this sense, it is imperative for BPO workers to be included in the A4 priority group and recognize our valuable contribution to national economy. Seemingly, there are sufficient doses of vaccines to inoculate the 1.3 million BPO workers in the whole country. It’s just a matter of formulating the right policy and then execute the vaccination and distribution plan with a sense of urgency.” Preztosa ended. 

The group also sent a letter to DOH Secretary, Dr. Francisco Duque, to assert and appeal for the inclusion of BPO workers in the A4 priority group. However, they have not receive any reply yet.###

BIEN to Pres. Duterte: Choosing between life and livelihood is no joke

Press Release

May 11, 2021

The BPO Employees Network expresses strong dismay to President Rodrigo Duterte after a public address was televised yesterday, May 10. The group’s disappointment stems from how the government put national issues as a joke instead of seriously addressing them.

“We do not expect such statement coming from a President. From campaign promises in 2016 to addressing pandemic crisis and response, it seems like everything is a joke.” BIEN President Mylene Cabalona said.

The labor leader did not mince words in pointing that public statements coming from an elected President affect the public’s morale. The group drew ire following President Duterte’s remark that anyone who believes his campaign joke is stupid. The group lamented that such statement is an utterly inappropriate, tasteless, and unfitting word coming from a national chief executive. 

“The Filipino people, including the BPO workers, are braving the storm of the pandemic to keep the economy afloat and amid workplace COVID outbreaks. We are in a dilemma to choose between life and livelihood as we navigate this pandemic crisis. It is not a joke! We remind the government, especially the President, to act, speak and work as a President. We expect more than blabbering and tasteless remarks.” Cabalona added.

“The ‘stupid’ remark of the President sends a wrong signal to the public. It is reflective of how they respect people’s aspiration for good governance. It is reflective of how the government treats its people. The people who put them in power. We must call for better leadership and governance. We deserve better than this.” Cabalona said.

The group further explained that better leadership and governance are key to better pandemic response. 

“In the BPO industry, leaders are always taken as role models of company culture. In the same breath, a sitting or elected President of the Republic of the Philippines should carry the same sense of leadership. Public addresses should unify the people, provide action plans and fill communication gaps. We remind the government that public officials are public servants, not masters or monarchs. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” Cabalona ended.

On Labor Day 2021, the group staged a unity ride in Quezon City to call for a better government pandemic response. Using the hashtags #WeDeserveBetter and #WeAreEssential, the group highlighted the importance of a comprehensive, science-based, health-centered pandemic response and the role BPO workers play as economic frontliners despite the lack of aid and government support.###

BIEN expresses support over proposed legislation to criminalize red-tagging, defunding of NTF-ELCAC

Press Statement

May 7, 2021

The BPO Industry Employees Network vehemently condemns the new episode of red-tagging and vilification campaign against its officers and former President, Lean Porquia. 

A few weeks before Labor Day, Facebook posts made rounds by fake pages and organizations showing faces and names of BIEN leaders, officers, and organizers as terrorists. This non-existent, unregistered, and fake organizations and some dummy accounts are believed to be part of an online network of social media pages and accounts used as a tool to peddle fake news, launch disinformation and misinformation, wage vilification campaigns, and tagged legitimate organizations like BIEN and its officers as a communist-terrorist group. This term is often used by no less than state agents, the NTF-ELCAC, and its troll army to malign individuals and organizations to the armed insurgency. They use the term CTG or communist-terrorist group to paint legitimate dissent, valid causes, and critical voices to the point that infringe fundamental rights, freedoms, and civil liberties. This practice of red-tagging has transcended online and is now being used to create and hijack popular opinion and designed to irresponsibly tag organizations, like BIEN, as a threat to peace and order. 

In hindsight, it was no other than Gen. Antonio Parlade and the NTF-ELCAC who red-tagged our Bacolod organizer when she was illegally arrested due to a faulty warrant and planted evidence in 2019. Since then, BIEN has been subjected to periodic red-tagging and attacks. We do not understand the reasons behind the attacks if the pressing issues we raise are mostly about labor rights and government support for BPO workers. BIEN is publicly known as an ardent advocate of BPO workers’ rights and welfare. With the passing of the Anti-Terror Law, many rounds of red-tagging campaigns were launch against BIEN and its officers, including our former President Lean Porquia, who is being targeted anew as tarpaulins bearing his name and face has been posted in Iloilo City. Without legitimate bases, the NTF-ELCAC never failed to always harp brash, baseless, and ridiculous innuendos that by experience creates direct harm to individuals and organizations that they red-tag. In worst cases, those who are red-tagged are either illegally arrested or extrajudicially killed, like the case of Lean’s father, Jory Porquia. BIEN strongly believes that under this vicious practice, the state itself is slowly killing the very fabric of democracy. The state, including the NTF-ELCAC, must always

respect the workers’ rights to freedom of association, speech, and expression. 

We hold the NTF-ELCAC accountable for spreading hate, prejudice, and stereotypes against labor rights activists and defenders and remind them to draw back from addressing the root causes of armed insurgency. In this sense and basis that we support the public clamor to defund and abolish the NTF-ELCAC. We likewise call to rechannel the 19.B of its budget to socio-economic aid and include the BPO workers who are displaced because of the raging pandemic. We express support over the proposed legislation to criminalize red-tagging by state actors and the call for a full audit of the agency’s budget as these public funds came from tax revenues of BPO workers.

Heads must roll and it is high time to make these public officials accountable for their irresponsible, unsubstantiated, and baseless actions. ###