[Press Release] Soldiers crackdown on trade unionists, Labour rights organization CTUHR decries extrajudicial killings, arrest and forcing them to surrender as NPA supporters

Soldiers crackdown on trade unionists, Labour rights organization CTUHR decries extrajudicial killings, arrest and forcing them to surrender as NPA supporters

As the Philippines commemorates the 32 years of EDSA People Power that deposed the Marcos dictatorship, labour rights organization Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) decries what it considers the return of tyrannical rule. It underscores the ongoing crackdown on people and people’s organizations critical of Duterte administration’s policies and programs inimical to democratic exercise of people’s legitimate rights to freedom of association, of assembly, of speech of and of rights to defend their own rights.

CTUHR cited the politically motivated killing of Roland Manlanat’s, 30, and a union organizer of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Sagay, Negros Occidental last February 22. NFSW said that Manlanat had been active in organizing and assisting the sugar workers in the surrounding areas and had been receiving threats for participating in the land cultivation campaign in Barangay Luna, where the hacienda workers and farmers called for the implementation of agrarian reform. Manlanat was also the union member killed in Sagay since NFSW city chapter chair Flora Gemola was stabbed dead last December.

On the same day, 39-year-old Marklen Maojo Maga was nabbed by eight (8) plainclothes state forces while playing basketball with his neighbors in San Mateo, Rizal. He was handcuffed and told to board a van and blindfolded and the men took him without telling why he was being arrested.

His wife only learned about the arrest when alerted by the witnesses and neighbours after several hours. There is no standing warrant against Maga but at the Police Camp, he was charged with murder that happened in Agusan del Sur, Mindanao. His arrest came almost a month after his father in law, Rafael Baylosis, a labor advocate and consultant of the National Democratic Front during the peace negotiation with the government. Maga is a fulltime Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) organizer in port area, in Cengral Luzon and has assisted PISTON transport workers that launched a successful two-day strike last year. The government has cancelled the peace talk and ordered all consultants to get arrested.

In Compostela Valley, workers and trade unionists seem to have nowhere to go after elements from Bravo Company 66th IB Philippine Army 1st Lt Jose Enrico D Noas based in Compostela Valley (Mindanao) began conducting village meetings and hound trade unionists to present themselves to the Army detachment in Brgy. San Miguel, Compostela, Compostela Valley since January 22, 2018. Members of the trade unions from Sumitomo Fruits Co, Shin Sun Tropical Fruits and Freshmax banana plantations are specifically targeted by such military operations. The local unions of these plantations are all affiliated with Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)- a militant and progressive labour center.

Residents who are mostly working or dependent on banana plantations told a Fact Finding Team composed of Nonoy Librado Development Foundation (NDFI), CTUHR, KMU and other local volunteers that visited the area from Feb 17-19, that the military from Bravo company asked them to call out their relatives to surrender, clear their names or get killed as they possess a list of New People’s Army (NPA) supporters in the area. The 66th IBPA alleged that they got the list from members of the NPA during an encounter with the state troops.

However, Mr. Lito Catap, an elected village council member assailed the so-called list, when he saw his name and the name of a long-dead relative. He said that they, and his villagemates are now worried as they are not clear who else are included in the list and when they present themselves, they are called as surrenderees.

Interviewed workers narrated that at the house to house visits and meetings, organized by the military, the latter underscored that they are implementing the President (PDuterte) order to hunt the communist rebels as well as their front organizations and KMU is one of the identified fronts of communists. `As you are a member of KMU affiliated union, you are also considered as NPA supporters. And if you gave even a grain of salt or MSG to them (NPA), then you are an NPA sympathizer or supporter”, the military told them.

Welma, 50 years old and working in Packing Plant 250 of SUMIFRU, Compostela Valley told CTUHR that on January 22, 2018, around 1.30 in the afternoon, five (5) soldiers from the Bravo Company ng 66th IB of Phil. Army barged into her house. One of the soldiers she was able to identify, a certain Pfc Paulino asked her to go to their camp in San Miguel to surrender because they (the workers) have union. Another soldier, whom she was not able to identify asked her why she joined the union and Adora replied that they want to protect themselves and their job. The military told her that she has to come to the camp on January 23, a scheduled meeting to surrender. Then the soldier left the house.

Adora did not report to the camp the following day. She knows that she did nothing wrong, she is not an NPA and nothing to be fearful about being in the workers’ union. She and her family worry about their safety and do not want to leave her community where their livelihood is.

Several other union members from Shin Sun Tropical Fruits and Freshmax plantations testified the same. Melfer, 32 years old, narrated that on January 28, his brother in law and himself, on order of the village chief Harry Cabiling, reported to the Bravo company of the 66th IB PA in San Miguel, Compostela, Compostela Valley to surrender and clear his name. A soldier on civilian clothes who did not say his name asked him why did he join the union and what is the money that they are collecting for, is that for the NPA? Melfer responded that the money is for the union and for the ongoing union strike. He also saw the list of names that the soldiers want them to surrender. The soldier pressed him about the activities he joined which he admitted to having participated in the march and workers’ camp-out in Manila last year, and then asked for the whereabouts of Arman Blasé. Blasé is a NAFLU-KMU fulltime union organizer. Marvin said, he does not know where Blasé is. The soldiers coaxed him that it is really better to surrender, to clear his name and asked him to sign a logbook. He was not sure of what kind of logbook was that but believed he is now listed as rebel surenderees.

It can be recalled that on June 2, 2017, more than a week after Martial Law was declared in Mindanao, the military violently dispersed the striking Shin Sun Tropical Fruits workers protesting illegal dismissal, underpayment, violations of other labor standards and contractualization. At the dispersal the military was caught saying that `this is Martial Law and we don’t honor the Labor Code in local language’ when workers asserted that the military has no right to intervene in the labour dispute. At the dispersal, eight (8) men and women workers including a child were arrested. A Korean owner of Shin Sun Tropical Fruits ran away to escape from her legal obligations to the workers. The case is still pending at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

On February 19, the military went round the community again to ask all union members to surrender at the camp.

CTUHR cited that on September 28, 2017, Reneboy Magayano, 50, an agricultural worker and chairperson of Maragusan Workers Association was extrajudicially killed by suspected agents of 66th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) on his way to Maragusan Public Market in Compostela Valley to buy fish. Lando Moreno, 60, an oil palm worker, an agrarian reform beneficiary and an active union member before he retired, was also gunned down on November 29 in Rosario, Agusan del Sur. To date, 23 workers and trade unionists and organizers were killed under Duterte administration.

CTUHR decries these crackdown on trade unions and their members as wanton violations not only of their right to freedom of association, but their (workers and their families) right to both physically and mentally safe. The labour rights organization also urged President Duterte to withdraw and refrain from any pronoucement labelling organizations such as KMU critical of his policies as communist fronts as they instigate spiralling workers’ and human rights violations. “The statements are not simply maligning the trade unions and organizations, but they are indictment for members of these organizations to be harassed, threatened and even killed, CTUHR added.

The organization also called for an end to Martial Law in Mindanao. “It only brings back the darkest period of the nation’s history that many leaders and members of various democratic movements had given their lives, disappeared, arrested and detained that all peace and freedom loving people must resist”.

Media Release
25 February 2018
Reference: Roben Casalda, Documentation Program Officer
Telephone # 0998 5613036
Daisy Arago, Executive Director
Tel# 0916 248 4876

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Website: ctuhr.org
Facebook: @ctuhrph

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