NAGKAISA Condemns Killings of Labor and Community Organizers

Edilberto Miralles

Edilberto Miralles

NAGKAISA (SOLIDARITY), the coalition of 47 labor federations and workers organizations, which is the largest labor formation in the Philippines, strongly condemned the recent spate of murders of labor union and community organizers with seven incidents happening only this month. NAGKAISA expressed grave concern that this may just presage the start of more violence directed towards grassroots labor organizing.

Yesterday, 64-year old Edilberto Miralles, former union president of R&E Taxi transport service, was gunned down by unknown assailants right in front of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Quezon City. He was scheduled to attend a labor hearing that day.

On September 17, union organizer Orlando Abangan, 35 years old, was shot by unidentified gunmen on the way to his home in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City, Cebu.

Abangan was a full-time organizer for Partido Manggagawa (PM) in the province since 2001. During the last elections, he built an organization in Talisay that campaigned for social protection and social services for persons with disabilities. He was also engaged by the labor center Sentro as organizer for the informal sector workers.

Earlier this month, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. The armed men involved in the brutal slay were reportedly dropped from a helicopter seen hovering over the military reservation camp. The victims were Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay.

They were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.

On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to death by three men in his Villa Pereda farm in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Isabela.

Union and community organizers are the quintessential vital cogs of our still nascent and highly vulnerable grassroots democracy. Their collective struggle is key in helping realize inclusive growth and preventing “the race-to-the-bottom” particularly for the majority poor and their families in a Philippines where the gap between the poor and the rich are growing wider and deeper every day.

The wide ranging implications of their deaths further underscores the need for the government to ensure protection to ordinary citizens let alone labor leaders and community organizers. The killings, again, put into question the bragging rights of employers and government that we have stable industrial peace.

NAGKAISA expressed sympathy with the relatives of those killed, and also demanded swift justice for the victims.

NAGKAISA called upon Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to immediately convene the high-level labor-government-employer Tripartite Industry Peace Council (TIPC) that would not only draw up long-lasting measures to contain and prevent anything of this sort from happening again but place a spotlight into any attempt to short-circuit the Constitutional right of workers to organize, bargain collectively or engage in legitimate concerted action. NAGKAISA also, called on Secretary Emmanuel Sueno of the Department of Interior and Local Government and PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa to reconvene, with labor, business and civic organization membership, the National Peace and Order Council, and its regional, provincial, and municipal chapter counterparts to send a clear signal of the primacy of the law .

Investigate the Killings, Stop the Impunity

IDefendiDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) condemns in the strongest terms the killing of former union president of R&E Taxi Edilberto Miralles , who was gunned down in front of the National Labor and Relations Commission (NLRC) office in Quezon City before noon on September 23.

The group called for the Commission on Human Rights to step in and investigate the death of Miralles along with other extra-judicial killings whose perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

The death of Miralles comes after that of Orlando Abangan, another labor leader from Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) from Talisay, Cebu, who was gunned down by a lone gunman last September 17. Climate justice and anti-coal advocate Gloria Capitan was similarly gunned down by unknown assailants last July 1, the first day President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

iDEFEND asserts that a pervasive culture of impunity emboldens perpetrators of so-called vigilante-style killings, and has now claimed the lives not only of innocent citizens, children and bystanders but political activists and human rights defenders. The spike in vigilante killings could only boomerang on the PNP and the AFP as their inaction in this instance may be viewed as tacit approval of such crimes.

At the start of September, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.

On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to death by three men in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

On September 20, farmer-leader Arnel Figueroa, 44, was killed at the Yulo King Ranch in Coron, Palawan, while he was talking with a personnel of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB). The perpetrator was identified as Dan Nelson Mayo, a security guard on duty at the Department of Agriculture -Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). Figueroa was the chairperson of Pesante-Palawan and their members are CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) petitioners. Figueroa and his companions were peacefully cultivating the land at the time of the incident. According to reports, Mayo sought refuge in a nearby PNP facility and even attempted to flee the scene of the crime.

On July 1, Gloria Capitan, anti-coal communinty leader of Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya-Bataan, was shot in Lucanin, Mariveles, Bataan. At the time of her death she was leading petitioners seeking the closure of the open coal storage and stockpile in their community.

iDEFEND appeals to the concerned agencies to address these cases in a speedy manner and points out that the climate of violence and killings has distorted the people’s collective sense of right and wrong.

“Environmental activists, labour organisers, and farmers are defenders of human rights. They are important partners for change in the country and are at the frontline of the work for sustainable development goals. iDEFEND demands that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

“It is the duty of state security forces to immediately investigate, apprehend and litigate the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. If not, then the suspicion in people’s minds that state security forces are in collusion with private armed groups in perpetuating these killings will remain.”

“Development and peace go together, and this is why the United Nations sees as central to the achievement of sustainable development the drastic reduction of all forms of violence, the promotion of the rule of law, and equal access to justice for all. Their loss is the loss of our nation’s future in peace and security. This lack of accountability and impunity must be addressed and justice must be served,” iDEFEND spokesperson Ellecer Carlossaid.

SENTRO condemns 7th working class killing this September, result of culture of violence

miralles

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It is another sad day for human rights.

Edilberto Miralles, former union president of R&E Taxi, was gunned down in front of the National Labor Relations Commission this morning. Initial information suggests it was another daytime riding-in-tandem killing.

Sentro is appalled by the continuing violence against members of the working class, and the men and women who seek justice for workers who have been wronged.

This is at the least the 7th killing from our ranks within September alone of this year.

At the start of the month, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. The armed men involved in the brutal slay were reportedly dropped from a helicopter hovering the military reservation camp. Victims were Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay.

They were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.

On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to his death by three men in his Villa Pereda farm in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Isabela.

In the early morning of September 17, a labor organizer in Cebu vocal of his dissent against the administration’s execution of its war on illegal drugs was gunned down in the same violent manner murder was being executed in the drug war. The very object of his criticism was used in his slay. Orlando Abangan, 38 years old, has been rallying workers to collectively fight for their rights in the past 15 years. He is with Partido Manggagawa.

Today we forget differences and mourn for the deaths of each of our own.

We know the pain, courage, and patience it takes to organize working people at a time when organizing is met with doubt, evidenced by dwindling union density, union/workers’ association membership, and number of collective bargaining agreements.

Yet, these are all necessary for the protection of decent work. Studies have shown that unions are strongly linked to fairer wages and better working conditions.

While the motives behind the killings are undetermined at this point, we condemn the culture of violence spread by the current spate of summary executions in the name of the so-called war on drugs.

The ease by which men with evil intent can now execute unimaginable plans is gut-wrenching.

The fatalities in this war provide those with ill motives against others with an easy way out — add another number to the growing statistics of men and women killed execution-style.

We weep for those numbers, each with a face and a family left behind.

We condole with the kin of the slain, who have chosen legitimate avenues to demand base level of respect for working people’s rights, no matter how long and arduous processes have been for us.

Contrary to the claim that the bloody manner by which the war on drugs is perpetuated has made our communities free of crimes, it has instead normalized violence in our streets.

We, from the working class, no longer feel safe.

END THE KILLINGS. UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHTS. DEFEND DEMOCRACY

idefend-logoToday is the International Day of Peace.

Development and peace go together, and this is why the United Nations sees as central to the achievement of sustainable development the drastic reduction of all forms of violence, the promotion of the rule of law, and equal access to justice for all.

This day is especially significant for our country since for the last three months, the country has been wracked by seeming government-sponsored violence and lawlessness, by a war the administration has declared, ostensibly against drugs but which has become a war against poor and marginalized Filipinos. Since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, over 3000 people, practically all of them alleged drug users from the poor sector of Philippine society, have been subjected to extra-judicial execution either by the police or by vigilante groups. While President Duterte’s subordinates invent ever more complex arguments to exonerate him, he has made little attempt to conceal his preference for the extra-judicial execution of suspected drug dealers and users and his impatience with due process. He has also enthusiastically given the green light to vigilantes to shoot pushers and users. And he has made it very clear that he does not believe in rehabilitation, which is the principal policy of all other governments towards users.

Not surprisingly, the president’s approach to the drug problem has earned him widespread notoriety internationally, to which he has responded by cursing his critics, including world leaders, and threatening to take the Philippines out of the United Nations.

While the police and vigilante groups go on a killing spree, his rabid followers intimidate those who stand for human rights and due process, branding them as protectors of drug lords.

Adding to the spreading sense of threat to basic rights among the citizenry is the president’s determination to bury the remains of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. By enshrining the dead dictator as a hero, this move would legitimize his 14-year reign of terror, from 1972 to 1986, with its countless violations of human rights, political rights, and economic and social rights. It would constitute an airbrushing of history.

Democracy is under threat today.

In Sept. 4, the President has put the whole country under a State of Emergency due to lawless violence, indefinitely. Recently, we witnessed the most vivid manifestation of the failure of democracy being the Malacanang-directed ouster of Senator de Lima as head of the Justice Committee. This is the latest move of the Executive to gain total control of Congress. As for the president’s stance toward the Supreme Court, the whole country witnessed how he angrily threatened to declare martial law when the Court asserted its authority in the investigation of judges that Malacanang had linked to drugs.

Forty four years ago today, Marcos declared martial law. Today, we face a similar if not a greater threat to our lives, liberties, and democratic rights . These rights, for which so many of our people fought and died for, are enshrined in our constitution. We cannot allow anyone to take those rights away from us.

Thus, on this International Day of Peace, we demand that the Duterte administration put an end to extra-judicial killings. We demand that this administration:

  • respect human rights and due process,
  • refrain from subverting the separation of powers,
  • uphold democratic processes instead of curtailing them.

But above all, we call on our fellow citizens to join us in defense of our rights, our liberties, our democracy. For as the old saying goes, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good women and men should stand by and do nothing.”

(Statement of iDefend Coalition, Sept. 21, 2016)

The alleged “Win-Win Solution” to Endo is an absolute farce

End Contractualization

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The so-called “Win-Win Solution” now being peddled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is nothing but a farce!

This is the response of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) to the claims of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez in a briefing last Friday, 17 September 2016. The secretary reportedly said that a way to solve the problem is through outsourcing wherein a company taps a service provider or an agency for the supply of workers on a project basis. The service provider would hire the workers as regular employees.

The problem is, even if service providers hire employees as regular workers, their employment would continue to remain precariously dependent on the whims of the principal employer who, at any time, could decide to change service providers.

“It is obviously a win-win for the unscrupulous employers and the fake employers – the subcontractors, including those posing as ‘labor/manpower cooperatives’,” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, said. “It is a lose-lose situation for workers and their families,” he added.

It is quite unfortunate that while President Dutere expressed on many occasions that he wants to end contractualization, DTI is now trying to perversely justify the use of illegal subcontracting, under the guise that the subcontractors will be the ones to ensure and guarantee the end of ENDO.

The truth is, the iniquitous insertion of the “cooperative” and the “legitimate service contractor” on the employment arrangements would always allow employers to disguise their employee-employer relations. This is why the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the subcontracting practices that these sectors seek to legitimize are in fact illegal even under DOLE Department Order D.O. 18-03. But due to the provisions on registration and capitalization contained in the said DO, they were able to twist the regulation in a manner inconsistent with the Labor Code.

It is now clear that DO-18-03 has failed. Instead of containing the proliferation of contractualization, it has made it more widespread. It is thus imperative to repeal the DO-18-03 and replace it with one that would unequivocally prohibit all forms of subcontracting and ENDO practices.

The new rule should be simple: All contracting and subcontracting arrangements should hereby be declared strictly prohibited. And any employer engaged in contracting and subcontracting shall automatically be considered as the subcontracted worker’s direct employer.

“We have tried regulating contractualization for decades and we failed,” Mata said. “Now it is time to prohibit it,” he added.

But even a new Department Order would not be sufficient to solve the problem. We need a new law that would strengthen the constitutional guarantee for security of tenure for all workers, be they in the public and private sectors.

We thus earnestly call on Secretary Sylvestre Bello III to enforce the campaign promise of President Duterte to end contractualization and immediately replace D.O. 18-03, Series of 2011 with a new department order that would prohibit all forms of subcontracting.

We call on President Duterte live up to his promise of ending contractualization by certifying as urgent a bill that would strengthen the constitutional right to security of tenure.

Then and only then can we end Endo in all its forms!