In June 2014, I sued my employer, GMA Network, Inc. Signing those documents sealed my future, or the end of it. Scratch that. The company does not actually recognize me as its employee, and that’s precisely why I, along with other members of the Talents Association of GMA (TAG), filed a case against the network.
Yes, we sued the network that gave us ‘that big break.’ Yes, we pressed charges against the bigwigs of one of the largest media conglomerates in the country. Yes, we took to court the proverbial hand that feeds us. And yes, our uphill battle is far from over.
Being Marked, Leaving a Mark
Joining the case against the network earned me the unimaginative title: case filer. That title is now my VIP pass to different forms of discrimination and harassment that are a shared experience among TAG members. These came as various policy changes, including some concerning our salaries and engagement in our programs, that were implemented without any formal written memorandum.
“Markado ka na. (You are marked)” — that’s how one officemate bluntly put it. Many people will not understand how I, just three years in the industry, jeopardized my entire career by placing myself in an unfavorable light in the eyes of media employers.
You see, a large number of case filers have been with the network long before I even graduated from college. I’ve gotten unsolicited pieces of advice, telling me I lack experience, that I haven’t fully maximized my time in the industry, thus, I am not in the position to judge whether what was being practiced was just or not. Such conversations usually end with Ganyan naman sa lahat (That’s how it is anywhere) or Magtiis ka lang muna, baka masanay ka rin (Just be patient and you may get used to it).
But I didn’t live for 23 years to just stop, look, and listen.
- No, my parents didn’t incur loans to finance my education for me to endure unjust labor conditions.
- No, my mom, who happens to be a teacher, did not argue with drivers who won’t grant 20% discount to students, call out smokers for puffing cigarettes in public places, and run after smoke belchers, only to watch me let injustice slip.
- No, my dad, an OFW, did not sacrifice being away from his family so I could worship a network more than I worship God and morals.
- No, the taxpayers did not fund my public school education for 14 years so I could serve private interests.
- No, I did not study at the University of the Philippines to care just for my own welfare, and ignore those of others.
- And finally, no, I didn’t join the industry just to watch the media violate the truth, the very principle it should be guarding.
A wise man once told me,”Maging tapat sa propesyon, hindi sa istasyon. (Be faithful to the profession, not to the station).” That, for me, sums up how we should practice our profession even within the framework of operations of local media oligarchy. What good is a journalist, who forms the so-called fourth estate and dubbed as watchdog of the government, if he cannot call out the injustice happening in his own yard? It’s so ironic to be reporting about workers subjected to unfair labor practice when we actually experience the same thing.
In 2006, a study by the International Federation of Journalists supported by the International Labor Organization indicated a rise in the number of media workers being engaged under atypical conditions: subjected to contractual employment, without social security and other benefits due to them.
Such unjust job conditions greatly affect the manner in which journalists conduct their work. It threatens the core values of truth-telling, humaneness, accuracy, stewardship and justice, which are easily lost when one’s job and means of survival is put on the line. Journalists aren’t superheroes. They are as human as everyone else. They have basic needs to attend to in order to live a decent life. Unfortunately, nine years later, the number of media workers subjected to contractualization continues to grow.
We have to admit it, fellow UP alumni and fellow public school graduates, that we don’t really prioritize fulfilling our promise to ‘repay the Filipino taxpayers’ when we finish college. When we get a job, we get lost in the process of improving our own lives that we forget we also carry the hopes and dreams of the Filipino people on our shoulders.
That is why the labor case of TAG against GMA Network is important. More than fighting for our own rights, we are also paving the way for other journalists and for future media practitioners to practice the profession with dignity under lawful conditions. It is our duty, as journalists who came before them, to make sure that they don’t sacrifice their credibility and to make sure we don’t allow them to report injustice when they are part of an unjust system themselves.
And if you are a Filipino, read closely: it is our duty to uphold the constitution and the laws of the land. TAG’s battle to end contractualization only aims to implement the laws that have long been established to protect workers in the country.
This Generation Fights
Try as I might, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that to some people, there’s an age requirement or ‘experience meter’ for acting against injustice. Somehow, we case filers were reduced to our number of years in the company, or the position we hold, or whatever intangible badge we supposedly should have earned from our experience in the field.
Age and experience, to some, are what give you the right to go against your employer — because it is unacceptable for us to be biting the hand that feeds us. There’s supposedly such a hand that feeds us. Without the network, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are now — as if the company did not benefit from our hard work at all.
How many years of service in the company does it take to recognize the flaws in the system? How many years of service in the company merits the right to go against the flawed system? All eyes and ears are on us now, as an entire nation and the rest of the media industry watch us defy the long-standing system of unfair labor practice in the Philippines.
Many media practitioners chose to keep quiet when they experienced labor injustice. They silently worked their way up and now reap the benefits of tolerance. They waited, they were patient, and now they are our bosses enjoying the rights we are fighting for. Some of them wanted us to do the same thing they did.
That’s not going to happen. This is a battle to end contractualization. The problem is real and it has gotten worse. We, at TAG, are taking on this battle. We are 110-strong, and we are in it for the long haul.
About the Author:
Dawnavie Dadis is a producer from the Philippines. She previously worked for GMA News and Public Affairs. She now produces documentaries and multi-platform media content for ABS-CBN.
Read more of her articles here.