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Stop Trade Union Repression

Trade union and human rights violations have exacerbated in the Philippines under the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Since assuming power on Jan. 20, 2001 until June 30, 2006, 64 leaders, members, organizers and supporters of trade unions and informal workers organizations have been killed. They are but part of the more than 750 victims of political killings under the Arroyo regime as of September 30, 2006.

More than 982 cases of trade union and human rights violations victimizing 77,028 workers were recorded by the independent Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR). Aside from killings, other violations include assault in the picketline, illegal arrest and detention, grave threat, intimidation, abduction and harassment.

The manner of the killings is utterly despicable. Some were killed in broad daylight, in front of their families, were stabbed to death, assassinated or massacred. Majority of the killings were carried-out by motorcycle-riding gunmen in ski masks or helmets – an apparent deliberate design to make them practically impossible to identify.

Independent investigations revealed that most of the cases were premeditated, i.e. victims were under surveillance by suspected elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or Philippine National Police (PNP) before their deaths.

Among those killed were union leaders in multinational corporations and local big business establishments whose interests the Arroyo government protects. Notable of them are Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, union president in Nestle Cabuyao Philippines and Ricardo “Ka Ric” Ramos, union president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU).

The Nestle workers under the United Filipro Employees-Drug Food and Allied Industries -Kilusang Mayo Uno (UFE-DFA-KMU) has been on strike since January 14, 2002 due to Nestle’s refusal to include the workers retirement benefits in the collective bargaining negotiation. Meanwhile, CATLU is one of the two unions in Hacienda Luisita Inc. that went on strike for more than a year from Nov 2004-Dec 2005. The Hacienda is owned by the family of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.

Factory Terrorism

Alongside its neo-liberal policies of deregulation, liberalization and privatisation, the Arroyo government is trying to project an environment of industrial peace in order to entice more foreign investments and gain continued access to more foreign credit. This is aimed at trumpeting a “growing” and “stable” economy amidst a worsening economic and political situation in the country.

In a speech before newly-elected barangay officials in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Southern Tagalog on September 22, 2002, Pres. Arroyo said: “Let us fight against criminals, gambling lords, drug lords… and those who terrorize factories that create jobs.” It is an obvious reference to trade unions and a vulgar attempt to de-legitimize workers’ strikes and other forms of concerted actions.

The Arroyo government has thus included legitimate trade unions and informal workers associations in its war on terror campaign, branding them as communists, communistsupporters, terrorists or “enemies of the state”.

Strikes and other concerted activities of workers, aimed at airing legitimate workers demands and grievances, are being regarded as factory terrorism and are met with violent attacks and repression. Those in opposition to the government’s neo-liberal policies are being arrested and/or detained. Most prominent is KMU Chairman Emeritus and Anakpawis Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran who was arrested on Feb. 25, 2006, a day after Pres. Arroyo declared a state of emergency. Ka Bel was arrested without warrant on the basis of trumped-up charges dating back two decades ago and already been quashed by the Philippine courts. Later, the government thru the Department of Justice implicated Ka Bel in failed attempts to overthrow the Arroyo government. He continues to be in hospital detention at the moment, owing to his
failing health.

These widespread trade union violations are committed directly and indirectly by government agencies, instrumentalities, and officers in the current civilian government and/or in the military including their agents.

International Day of Action

The rampant trade union and human rights violation in the country has caught international attention. Thirty international delegates from 12 countries participated in the International Labor Solidarity Mission last May 2006 and spent four days listening to the testimonies of families, members of the communities and organizations of victims of political killings and harassment in four regions. The mission noted that the violation of labor rights and human rights in the Philippines is systematic and nationwide in scope, and concluded that the Arroyo regime is clearly culpable both by its pronouncements, actions and by creating a climate of impunity.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Amnesty International, Asia Human Rights Center, and a number of trade unions, church-based organizations and Parliamentarians from Asia, Oceania, North America and Europe have likewise expressed grave concern and condemnation on the spate of extra-judicial killings victimizing workers, peasants and other sectors.

At the 22nd KMU International Solidarity Affairs held last Apr 30-May 11 of this year, delegates coming from 13 countries have called for an International Day of Protest against Trade Union Repression and Political Killings in the Philippines. This is to condemn the wanton violation of trade union and human rights and to show solidarity to the struggle of the Filipino workers and people for genuine freedom and democracy.

Nov. 16 was chosen for the Day of Action because of its highly significant nature. It was on Nov. 16, 2004 when the infamous Hacienda Luisita Massacre occurred, where seven (7) workers and supporters were killed following a violent dispersal of the Hacienda Luisita strike by police, military and paid goons under the direct orders of the Arroyo government thru the Department of Labor and Employment.

Thus, the International Day of Protest against Trade Union Repression and Political Killings in the Philippines this coming Nov. 16, 2006 would serve as a recognition and commemoration of the martyr-workers not only of Hacienda Luisita but of the martyrworkers in all the other workplaces and communities in the country. More so, this day would serve as a testament to the continuing pursuit of the Filipino workers and people for economic and political emancipation.

We call on you – our comrades, friends, compatriots and advocates – in the trade unions, informal workers organizations, migrant organizations, support groups and other associations in various sectors to participate in this International Day of Action on Nov 16, 2006.

Please join us on this historic day. Together, let us call on the Arroyo government to recognize and respect the most fundamental right of the Filipino workers to live and to live with dignity, to organize and fight for just wages, regular jobs and to exercise their trade union and democratic rights. Let us condemn the systematic and widespread human rights violations that destroy the life and livelihood of the Filipino workers and people. Let us call a stop to the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines victimizing workers, peasants and other social justice activists. Let us demand the Arroyo government to stop the culture of impunity, which drives authorities and its armed minions to kill people like chicken.

Together, let us reclaim our right to life.

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