Sonny Matula is a lawyer, educator and labor advocate. He is the national president of the Federation of Free Workers, and chairperson of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, the biggest and broadest labor coalition in the country. Matula is also a law professor and resource person on workers’ rights and welfare who has served as legal counsel to workers, trade unions and labor groups.
FFW and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition were among the labor groups that filed the 9th petition assailing the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, questioning the “vague” definition of terrorism, the description of acts prohibited under such definition, the undue delegation of authority to the anti-terrorism council and other provisions deemed violative of the bill of rights. The high court ultimately left most of the feared law intact.
He ran for senator in 2019 as part of the Labor Win alliance but garnered only 400,339 votes and placed 50th out of 62 candidates.
Matula is a convenor of the Alliance of Labor Leaders for Leni (ALL4LENI) which supports Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential bid.
In the 2022 election, Matula is running as an independent but is included in the senatorial slates of Robredo and the 1Sambayan opposition coalition.
Matula is campaigning on the promotion and defense of democratic, human and trade union rights, such as banning endo and contractualization schemes and imposing a national minimum wage. He pledges to pursue an “Ayudang Sapat at Trabahong Ligtas” policy that would strengthen the public health system and focus on speedy completion of the agrarian reform program and modernization of industries, including a sustainable agricultural sector.
He supports the renewal of ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise and shifting to a federal system of government but is wary of recent charter change proposals in the lower house. He opposes the death penalty, the legalization of divorce and marriage equality but is open to same-sex civil unions.
“Ating ipaglalaban ang uring manggagawa sapagkat walang tunay na makapagsalita sa manggagawa maliban sa mga taong nagmumula o kasama ng mga manggagawa. Ating tayuan ang trabahong ligtas para sa lahat, ayudang sapat para sa lahat. Dapat ang minimum, ang mga manggagawa, may disenteng trabaho, hindi kontraktwal na trabaho.”
JOSE SONNY “SONNY” GITO MATULA
Full Name: Jose Sonny Gito Matula
Birthday: January 21, 1965 (Age 58)
Residence: Biñan, Laguna
Province: Agusan Del Sur
Languages Spoken: Bisaya, Filipino, English
– Carlos Matula, Sr., father, landless farmer
– Basilia Gito Matula, mother, dressmaker
Siblings: Eight siblings
Spouse: Melba Cubal, certified public accountant and current faculty member at the University of Santo Tomas
– Ignatius Matthew, BS Applied Mathematics, UP-Los Banos, works in the private sector
– Theresa Isabel, BS Accountancy UST, works in the private sector
Profession/Occupation: Labor Lawyer
- Certifications on courses in American Constitutional Law, English Common Law, International Law from Yale University, the University of California Irvine, University of Pennsylvania and London University and Leiden University; Social Security, ILO Training Canter-Turin, Italy
- Multi-state study grant by the U.S. State Department under the International Visitors Program, on accountability of government and business in the US, 2002
- Bachelor of Laws, Manuel L. Quezon University
- AB Political Science, Mindanao State University
- Professor of constitutional law and labor law:
- University- of Perpetual Help College of Law
- University of Manila College of Law
- Manuel L. Quezon University School of Law
- Member, National Tripartite Peace Council
- Chair, NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
- Workers’ Delegate and Worker’s Adviser of the Philippine delegation,International Labor Conferences, 2009-2021
- Trustee, Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development
- Legal Counsel, Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka
- Legal Counsel, Lakas Magsasakang Pilipino
- Commissioner, Social Security System, 2016-2010
- Federation of Free Workers:
- National president, June 2011-present
- National vice president, 2006-2011
- Chief legal counsel, October 1998-2006
- Executive Assistant at the Office of the President
- Executive Director V, Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, 2001-2002
- Chief of Staff of the Chairman of the Social Security Commission
- Deputy Director, Pedro Abad Santos Social Institute
- Labor Desk Officer, Institute of Social Order, Ateneo de Manila University
The Thrust of His Senatorial Bid
Other than the promotion and defense of our democratic, human and trade union rights, Atty. Sonny Matula wanted to pursue “Ayudang sapat at trabahong ligtas”, strengthen public health system, the creation of decent jobs by following legislation for the modernization of sustainable agriculture, speedy completion of the agrarian reform program, national industrialization and preparation for the coming industry where human, robots, and artificial intelligence will interact.
He wanted to end the endo contractual schemes and rampant “labor-only” contracting practices as well as the promotion and defense of freedom of association and promotion of collective bargaining. The pursuit of living wage as mandated by the Constitution (Article XV) and adoption of a National Minimum Wage, wage increase for workers that would immediate tide them and their families amid the rising cost of living. Lastly, enhance social protection, covering domestic and overseas Filipino Workers as well as the informal sector, the young, those with disabilities and the seniors, that would include enhancement of existing social security programs, plus enhanced unemployment insurance and the adoption of family allowance.
His Humble Beginnings
Atty. Matula was born to Mr. Carlos Matula, Sr. and Mrs. Basilia Gito Matula in 1965. His father was a landless farmer and his mother was a dressmaker. He is the eldest of 9 siblings, 1 of whom died in infancy. Their family originally lived in Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao (formerly part of Cotabato) when the fratricidal war between “Muslims and Christians” broke out that forced them to evacuate to a safer place in Loreto, Agusan del Sur where he grew up.
He graduated valedictorian at the Loreto Central Elementary School. His pursuit for higher education, prodded him to move to Butuan City where he worked as a newsboy to sustain his secondary education at the Agusan National High School. He worked also as a plantation worker at the Valentina G. Plaza Rubber Plantation in upper Agusan during summers. He graduated in 1982 and was recognized as one of the Outstanding Boy Scouts and CAT cadet officer in his batch. He obtained a scholarship from the Mindanao State University (MSU) where he finished his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
He took the entrance exams at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and passed the theoretical exams but failed to make it in the final screening. He proceeded to take the entrance exams at the MSU College of Law and landed in the top ten which qualified him for a scholarship. He initially enrolled in the College of Law in 1987. The following year, he was invited by Rev. Fr. Romeo Intengan, SJ to do translation work of the social democratic documents as well some Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) campaign materials from English to Visayan at the La Ignaciana Apostolic Center in Santa Ana, Manila. He later worked at the labor desk of the Institute of Social Order (ISO) at the Ateneo University campus in Quezon City.
He continued his Law studies at the Manuel L Quezon University (MLQU) while working at the ISO. Fr. Intengan would later appoint him Deputy Director of the Pedro Abad Santos Social Institute (PASSI), a foundation for workers and farmers with Social Democratic orientation. When the PASSI projects terminated he was endorsed for employment by Fr. Intengan, SJ to the Federation of Free Workers’ (FFW) founding president, Mr. Juan C. Tan.
At FFW, the young Sonny Matula rose from the ranks, from union organizer and a staff, to an Executive Assistant at the office of the FFW President. He was later made Chief of Staff of the Social Security Commission (SSC) when Mr. Tan was appointed Chairman of the SSC.
Meanwhile, he continued taking up a few law subjects every semester. In 1997, after 10 years in an on and off study of law, he finally graduated. His persistence paid off. He successfully hurdled the bar in 1998. After taking his oath as a lawyer, he left his post at the Social Security Commission (SSC) and went back to FFW and started serving as a legal counsel for the workers, a dream he always had in his heart since he was young.
He later became FFW’s Chief Legal Counsel from in October 1998. Then he was elected FFW National Vice President in 2006 and later as FFW National President, a post he has been holding since 2011.
Atty. Matula has served thousands of workers throughout his decades of service in the labor movement. Some of the cases he handled had even became landmark cases in the Supreme Court.
He has earned the trust and respect of his people, his colleagues from other trade union federations and even the employers groups. He was elected Chairman of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, the biggest and broadest labor coalition in the country in 2018.
Early Indicators of the Activist and Leader in Him
During his college days Sonny Matula was a leader of a social democratic group in the campus and an elected Council Member of the Supreme Student Government of the Mindanao State University. He was at the same time very active in the Catholic Students Organization where he had once been part of the CSO Core Group and Chair of the Catechetical Committee, the Spiritual Formation Committee and an active member of the Justice and Peace Committee.
He also worked with the late Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud in his radio program, Bido Lala which was then based in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City.
He was a prime mover of the Movement for Better-MSU that successfully introduced reforms after the EDSA people power. Subsequently, MSU welcomed a new president who was a true academician by the name of Dr. Ahmad Domocao Engracia Alonto Jr.
His Appointments and Involvement in Tripartite Bodies
Atty Matula was appointed as Workers’ Representative in the Social Security Commission (SSC). As commissioner he was able to solve timely and expeditiously hundreds of workers’ concerns and cases regarding social security and benefits without backlog.
He sits in the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council representing the workers together with representatives from government and the business sector.
He was the Workers’ Delegate to the International Labor Conferences and Worker’s Adviser of the Philippine Delegation in said conferences at Geneva Switzerland since 2009 up to 2021.
His Involvement in Other Civic Organizations
Atty Matula was appointed Executive Director of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission in 2001 until 2002.
He is a reserve officer of the AFP Reserve Command with a rank of major in the Philippine Army. He was the best field grade technical officer of the AFPRESCOM in 2008.
He is also a legal counsel of a number of affiliates of the Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) and the Lakas Magsasakang Pilipino (LMP).
He is also a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 12318/Judge Francisco Manabat Assembly CAN 2660, of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Binan, Laguna.
Atty Matula as a Lifelong Learner
He desires to remain relevant so that he can continue to serve his constituency effectively. To this end, he continues to get certification courses such as English Common Law, American Constitutional Law, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism, International Law from London University, Yale University, University of California-Irvine, University of Pennsylvania and Leiden University.
He completed a certificate course on Social Security at the ILO Training Center in Turin, Italy; while at the same time granted an international study grant by the US State Department on Accountability of Government and Business with study visit in several states in the United States.
Atty. Jose Sonny Matula is happily married to the former Ms. Melba Cubal from Bohol whose family migrated to Butuan City. Mrs. Matula is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Mindanao State University with the degree of BS in Business Administration major in Accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant and an MBA holder from the De La Salle University. She is currently a faculty member at the University of Santo Tomas. They have two children: Ignatius Matthew, a BS in Applied Mathematics graduate from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, and Theresa Isabel, a BS in Accountancy graduate from the UST-Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy. Both children are gainfully employed in the private sector. Their family currently resides in Binan, Laguna.