Uphold Workers’ Right to Free Association! Junk Anti-Labor Policies of the Arroyo Regime!

December 4, 2009

Uphold Workers’ Right to Free Association!
Junk Anti-Labor Policies of the Arroyo Regime!

Speech at the National Tripartite Conference
Dec. 2, 2009

Coming from the conduct of the ILO High-level Mission last September, this national tripartite conference provides us a venue to briefly share our assessment of the mission and the government’s response. Generally, we view the mission as a landmark in terms of international response and action on the worsening trade union situation in the country. Its outcome, however, has yet to be tested. The findings have yet to be formally released.

Because the ILO representatives’ statement after the mission implicitly points to the Arroyo government as responsible for the attacks against the trade union movement, it encourages us, and most especially the families of slain workers, to look forward to a stronger condemnation of these violations and of the Arroyo regime in its final report which will be released in March 2010. It also encourages us to look forward to stronger and more fool-proof recommendations from the Mission in that important and historical report.

It is important to note that even after the conduct of the ILO High-level Mission, violations of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association or C87 and Collective Bargaining or C98 persist. Workers continue to experience harassment by the military. Factories and workplaces remain militarized, concrete examples of which are the Robina Farms and Console Farms in Rizal. We have also noted the continuing anti-union campaign in DOLE Philippines, wherein a documentary versus unionism is being circulated in CD format. Recently, another labor organizer was harassed to death by agents of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines. Danilo Belano has become the 93rd victim of trade union repression under the Arroyo regime. Clearly, these continuing cases of trade union repression bolster our demand to the international community to impose more severe sanctions on the Arroyo administration.

We have always been clear and firm on our recommendations to the ILO: 1) Recommend economic and political sanctions to the Arroyo government as it is found liable for the worsening trade union situation in the country 2) Pressure the government, through the Commission on Human Rights, to prosecute government officers who are liable for the attacks against unionists 3) Urge the Philippine Government to junk its counter-insurgency program, which has been proven as the root of the violations.

It should be recognized by this tripartite conference that tripartism will never work out if the Arroyo government keeps its anti-labor stance and policies at its core.  The Assumption of Juridiction order, which has been used to justify bloody preemptive response to organized actions of workers, remains as the deadly prerogative of the labor secretary versus trade unions. For the longest time, is is the government that has failed to respect and fully implement the ILO conventions. Unless the government scraps its anti-union policies and ensure speedy prosecution of violators, unionists will always be vulnerable to repression. Workshops, technical cooperation programs and conferences like this will eventually come to naught if criminals liable for the violations remain scot-free.

If the Arroyo regime keeps its anti-labor and anti-people policies intact, a body that will monitor adherence to ILO Conventions will merely become a dumping ground of cases, which the government will use to say that things are being done to resolve violations of the Convention.

Thus, it is highly necessary for the ILO to categorically hold the Arroyo adminstration and the institutions under it liable for the continuing attacks against the trade union movement. The recent death of another labor organizer highlights such need, because it proves that the government is unrepentant for its violations. Likewise, we demand the Arroyo government to stop playing with cosmetic measures in addressing the continuing violence against unionists. Social dialogue can never put the issue of trade union repression to rest. What the government must do is to face squarely its liability on the extrajudicial killings and harassment of workers by the armed forces. If it is really sincere in ending trade union repression, it should abolish policies and privileges which imperil trade unionism like the Assumption of Jurisdiction order.

Even with next year’s release of final report on the ILO mission, we vow to continue our crusade for justice and protection of workers. And we do believe that the only way to serve justice to all the victims of trade union repression is to punish the criminal, rather than treat her and her regime as if they are innocent. #


NEWSBREAK: ILO mission asks RP gov’t: Denounce rights abuses

October 10, 2009
Written by Aries Rufo
Thursday, 01 October 2009

hort of indicting the government, a high-level fact-finding mission of the International Labor Organization (ILO) asked the Arroyo administration on Thursday to categorically denounce the killings of workers and the rampant violations of trade union rights.“A statement of the highest level of the Government instructing all government actors to make special efforts to ensure that their actions do not infringe upon the basic civil liberties of trade unionists could go a long way in reassuring the workers that have brought their complaints to the ILO,” a statement from the high-level mission said.

Mission member Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO international labor standards department, said this would send the message that the government “does not condone” human rights violations and the killings of workers.

She added “it will help clarify allegations of the impunity” of abductions, harassments and extra-judicial killings of laborers, which the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement) brought to the attention of the ILO two years ago.

The mission arrived September 22 and concluded its task Thursday.

Facts gathered for ILO higher bodies

Members of the mission interviewed families and relatives of labor leaders killed allegedly by the military. They also went to the economic export zones to look into alleged violations of labor standards and laws, and inquired into the labor problem in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Government officials and legislators were also interviewed.

Other members of the ILO mission are Karen Curtis, deputy director-general of the ILO International Labor Standards department, and TIm de Meyer, International Labor Standards Specialists of the ILO sub-regional office for East Asia.

The ILO, the only tripartite body of the United Nations composed of government, workers and employers, earlier requested the Arroyo government to accept the high-level mission to probe the alleged labor rights violations.

The government initially rejected the request. But in this year’s International Labor Conference, the government finally relented.


Inquirer.net: ‘Exhibit A’–gunshot scars–shocks ILO team

September 25, 2009

ILO watch logo upperBy Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — “Exhibit A” was labor leader Joel Ascutia’s scars from gunshot wounds he sustained on July 13 during a strike by public transportation drivers in Bicol.

Panel members of a high-level International Labor Organization (ILO) fact-finding mission were “shocked” during the hearing they conducted on Wednesday night, Elmer Labog, chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday.

Laced with dark humor, Labog referred to Ascutia’s 15-centimeter wound on the right side of his stomach as “Exhibit A” at the hearing, proof of how the attacks against labor leaders and workers had gone on with impunity in the country.

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Near-death motorcycle stories and other testimonies at the Int’l Labor Org’s meeting with KMU

September 24, 2009

ILO watch logo upperILO WATCH

They were nearly killed. But they still went out, risked their security, and trooped to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Manila office to testify on how the Arroyo regime threatened their lives and ruined the lives of many fellow workers. They really expect something substantial to come out of ILO’s first-ever mission to the Philippines to investigate the spate of trade union rights violations.

KMU leaders from various provinces yesterday met with ILO representatives who will be in the country this September 22-30 to conduct a High-level Fact-Finding Mission on workers’ rights repression, in response to the complaint filed by KMU in 2006. They will also meet with representatives of government and employers’ groups.

Vicente Barrios, president of the union in Suyafa Farm banana plantation in Compostela Valley, Mindanao, suffered two gunshot wounds when he and his companions were shot at by unidentified men riding a motorcycle in December 2006. His fellow union member Jerson Lastimoso was killed. A few months earlier, two armed men broke into Barrios’ residence. He hid in his bedroom, and the trespassers were not able to harm him physically. Until now, Barrios notices armed men trailing behind him.

Nicanor Briones, Camarines Sur president of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW-KMU), sustained 5 gunshot wounds when two armed men riding a motorcycle fired at him. Briones had just joined a people’s caravan against Arroyo’s Charter Change and political repression when the incident happened.

Joel Ascutia, chairperson of Pinag-Isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nation-wide (PISTON-KMU) in Bicol was in the middle of preparing for the nation-wide transport strike last July 13 when he was shot. It was still before daybreak when a man riding a motorcycle stopped at their strike center and shot him 5 times.

“The Philippines is really one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a labor leader, an active union member, and a labor advocate,” said KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog in his speech before the ILO.

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Witnesses recount violent attacks versus trade unions to ILO representatives

September 23, 2009

His wife and children will never forget how armed men barged into their house and shot dead their loved one before their eyes.

Armando Dolorosa, vice chairperson of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Occidental, was shot dead inside his house by two assassins wearing ski-masks on June 6, 2008. Autopsy report showed that he had 20 gunshot wounds caused by a M16 rifle.

Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and the local federation said Dolorosa was killed by the paramilitary force of Hacienda Myrianne owners because he was an active leader of NFSW, which campaigns for higher wages and benefits for sugar workers.

In today’s meeting by International Labor Organization (ILO) representatives with victims’ kin and witnesses, more similar cases of extra-judicial killings will be recounted as part of the ongoing probe of the ILO on trade union repression in the country.

EPSN0096KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog said they will present facts and testimonies that will concretize a nationwide pattern of attacks versus trade unions and labor leaders.

“We will make sure that the investigating panel will look into the string of government policies in place to demonize and liquidate unions, specifically Oplan Bantay Laya I and II,” said Labog.

Labog said that apart from blatant killings of trade union leaders, the obvious violation of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association is the vilification campaign being done by the military against unions, tagging union leaders and members as “terrorists” and “communists.”

In Cebu, photos of 30 active members Anita’s Home Bakeshop Workers Union (AHBWU) federated under KMU were posted on company bulletin board and labeled as “troublemakers” and “a terrorist group.”

A rally was even held against the union at the labor department by the anti-communist partylist group Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) in connivance with the management. Leaflets were distributed tagging AHBWU as a “communist organization.” Placards carried by ANAD also called for the union’s deregistration.

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Another unionist arrested on false charges amid ILO High-level Mission

September 23, 2009

22 September 2009

As ILO High-Level Mission begins:

Another unionist arrested on false charges

Combined elements of the Philippine Army (PA) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested and detained another unionist from Southern Tagalog in an entrapment operation in Angono, Rizal at around 6PM on September 21.

Declard Cangmaong, 36 years old, a garments worker, was with his family for a holiday in his sister’s residence when handcuffed by two (2) army personnel in civilian and seven (7) CIDG men armed with 45 calibre pistols. The CIDG men reportedly wore white shirts and no nameplates except for their ID slings with abbreviations “CIDG”.

“We were all horrified in the suddenness of the incident. Declard’s children and mine were shocked,” said in Filipino by Shiela Cangmaong-dela Cruz, Declard’s sister.

“I asked the arresting officers what the charges are and if they have a warrant of arrest. They replied ‘yes’ but presented nothing. Instead, the army personnel showed a Conduct Pass issued by Tabak Division in Pagadian City,” added dela Cruz.

The operatives immediately took Cangmaong, his wife, and two daughters to Fort Bonifacio. In the military camp, Cangmaong was charged of frustrated murder.

The following day, September 22, Cangmaong was taken to Camp Crame at around 2PM. Dela Cruz, in her visit, learned that his brother was charged with “multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property” in a court in Misamis Oriental.

“This is much worse and conflicting with the earlier allegation against him,” said dela Cruz.


Dela Cruz reported that the two army personnel, identified themselves as Zaldy Rubia and a certain Ricky, were brought along by their father, Francisco Cangmaong from Pagadian City in the morning of September 21.

“We received these strangers with hospitality only to find out that they will be traitors right inside our premises.”

“They (army) were pressuring our father to surrender Declard for being a top-ranking officer of the New People’s Army in Mindanao. How can it be when Declard has been a factory worker in Laguna for a long time? They deceived our father that they will ‘help’ clear Declard’s name,” added dela Cruz.

At around 6PM, dela Cruz noticed that Zaldy and Ricky stepped outside the house. Zaldy was playing with the children while Ricky was having a conversation thru his mobile phone.

“Not more than five minutes after the phone conversation, CIDG men raided our house and declared, ‘Huwag kayong kikilos! Mga pulis kami! (Freeze! We are police officers!)’.”

Dela Cruz said that after putting his brother in handcuffs, the CIDG men searched their house.

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Fourth ni Ka Fort: Start of ILO Mission

September 22, 2009

Fourth ni Ka Fort

Workers mark start of ILO High Level Mission by picketing Nestle Makati office on Ka Fort’s fourth death anniversary

Joint News Release
September 22, 2009


Workers led by Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis Partylist staged a picket in front of Nestle Philippines’ office in Makati to commemorate the fourth death anniversary of Nestle union leader Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, one of the highlighted victims in the upcoming ILO high-level mission. Fortuna is also chairman of the KMU regional formation PAMANTIK and Anakpawis in Southern Tagalog.

On Sept. 22, 2005, Ka Fort was shot dead on his way home by suspected military agents hired by Nestle amid Nestle Cabuyao workers’ strike to protest illegal dismissal and non-negotiation of retirement benefits.

“On Ka Fort’s fourth death anniversary, we want Nestle and this regime to know that there’s no letup in our struggle for justice, especially in view of the ILO mission. The timing of the ILO visit somehow gives us a ray of hope that finally, the world will see the suffering of workers in the Philippines. This will show that our government is not only the most corrupt and gluttonous, but that she is also the most merciless and vicious human rights violator,” said KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog.

“Until now, workers continue to suffer from the rabidness of the Arroyo government in violating the workers rights. We are subjected to harassments, intimidations, unfair labor practices, non-recognition of our union rights and even summary executions, torture and abductions. With the ILO-High Level mission, we seek the help of he international community to join us in fighting the enemies of human rights,” he added.

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ILO Mission: Background and Expectations

September 22, 2009

The ILO is United Nations’ tripartite agency responsible for drawing up and ensuring the compliance of its member states to international labor standards. It was founded in 1919, and the Philippines has been a member since 1946.

ILO-LogoILO representatives from Geneva, Switzerland, in coordination with ILO Asia-Pacific, will conduct consultations with the Philippine government and workers’ organizations, and inspect two major manufacturing plants in Central and Southern Luzon. The Mission will be on September 22-29. They will also meet with the families of victims and survivors of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and labor-related harassments. Representatives of the ILO who will conduct the mission are Tim de Meyer (Standards Specialist, ILO Subregional Office, Bangkok), Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry (Director, International Labor Standards Department, ILO Geneva), and Karen Curtis (Deputy Director, International Labor Standards Department, ILO Geneva).

When the complaint was filed to the ILO in September 18, 2006, 64 workers have already fallen victims to extra-judicial killings since Arroyo’s presidency in 2001. After the complaint, 28 more workers were added to the list. Also, a relatively new form of repression hit the workers since last year after the complaint: using trumped up criminal charges to detain workers. Multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, arson, and other grave criminal charges were slapped to more than a hundred workers even without preliminary investigation. Six have already been jailed because of this. More and more factories have been turned into military camps to silence unions.

These are but some of the grave examples of trade-union rights violations we hope to highlight with the upcoming ILO mission. We hope that the Mission will bring added pressure to the government to stop its rampant violations of workers’ rights, and the gravity of the issue will be exposed to and will draw support from the international community.

Vain effort to downplay attacks vs. trade unions ridiculous

September 22, 2009
DOLE Sec. Marianito Roque (right) with Pres. Gloria Arroyo and Vice Pres. Noli De Castro (Photo from Daylife.com)

DOLE Sec. Marianito Roque (right) with Pres. Gloria Arroyo and Vice Pres. Noli De Castro (Photo from Daylife.com)

The release by Labor Sec. Marianito Roque of a lower count of slain unionists is a ridiculous attempt to downplay attacks versus trade union leaders in time for the International Labor Organization (ILO) probe, according to labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno.

In his recent statement, Sec. Roque said that 92 is an exaggerated figure of extra-judicial killings of workers and that there were only 39 reported cases to the ILO. “This absurd statement only shows how callous this regime is towards slain workers whose assasins remain unpunished,” KMU said.

“Roque is trying to twist the present figure on the extra-judicial killings of workers, which is at 92, by citing the ILO report on the KMU complaint which was made more than two years ago. The figures have risen since then. More importantly, the probe will concern all cases of extra-judicial killings of workers, not only those committed before 2006,” said Labog.

“He makes it appear that for a violation to be considered as such, a certain number of slain unionists must be reached. Yet the fact that even one worker was shot dead for actively joining union activities is enough to constitute a violation,” he added.
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RP: Asia’s most dangerous country for workers

September 22, 2009

Nestle kills workers

Just as when the Arroyo government postured in the ILO 98th Session as very supportive of the ILO probe, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a report which further highlighted attacks on Filipino workers: the Philppines is Asia’s most dangerous country for the exercise of workers; rights.

According to the same report,  the Philippines ranked third in the list of countries around the world with the most number of trade union-related killings last year at four. The Philippines’ ranked next to Guatemala with nine cases of unionist killings, while Colombia retained its title as the most dangerous place on earth for trade unionists at 49.

“The ITUC findings is a validation of our accusations against the Arroyo regime’s murder and oppression of workers,” said Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson Elmer Labog (see statement).

KMU said that with the ITUC report, the high-level mission becomes more necessary in exposing various violations of local and international labor standards.