[Press Release] Labor demands tripartite investigation over raids and mass arrests in Bacolod -NAGKAISA Coalition

The country’s biggest labor coalition, Nagkaisa!, is demanding a tripartite investigation over the simultaneous raids and mass arrests conducted by security forces Thursday night against members of militant labor and women groups in Bacolod City to protect workers’ right to self-organization.

“We won’t let this assault on freedom pass without demanding accountability from authorities who ordered these Gestapo-style raids. We also want to send notice to the government that labor organizations in the country are jointly opposed to this kind of highhanded approach in dealing with legitimate sectoral organizations,” said Nagkaisa! in a statement sent to media.

Some 57 people were arrested during the simultaneous raids conducted by a joint military and police forces against the Kilusang Mayor Uno, National Federation of Sugar Workers and Gabriela offices in the cities of Bacolod and Escalante in Negros last Thursday night. Cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed against those who were arrested, a charge vehemently denied by said groups.

Nagkaisa! is pointing out that while the raids and mass arrests were carried out by virtue of a search warrant issued in Quezon City, it believes that this legality is eclipsed by the repressive character attending it which is common only under authoritarian rule.

The least that could have been done by security forces, the group said is to coordinate with the labor department under the spirit of the Guideline on the conduct of the DOLE, DILG, DND, DOJ, AFP, and PNP relative to the exercise of Workers’ Right and Activity.

“We envisage further that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Its chilling effect was obvious as they happen at a time the democratic spaces in the country were shrinking fast, including, among others, the systematic repression of trade union rights and the employment of violence against trade union organizers. We, therefore, demand a stop to the institutionalization of these draconian measures,” stated Nagkaisa!

Labor groups were deeply concerned that the labor department’s ineffective response against trade union killings and red-tagging has emboldened our security forces to step up its brazen campaign against organized labor.

“Thus we urge Secretary Silvestre Bello to step in, form a tripartite body and remind the military and security forces that DOLE has the prerogative in dealing with organized labor,” Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa! is also urging the government to invite the ILO High-Level Mission to visit the country the soonest time possible.

The group finally reminded the government that the labor movement will always come to the defense of freedom and human rights as it values the union principle ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.

“An assault against a part of the labor movement, therefore, is an attack against the whole movement,” concluded Nagkaisa!

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