COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE MARIKANA MASSACRE

“We are all Marikana.”

This is the call of the South African miners, workers, activists, as they commemorate the brutal killing of 34 miners who were in the picket line in the hills of Marikana, South Africa, two years ago. The slain miners were part of the 3,000 who walked out of their jobs to demand for wage increase from the Lonmin Mines. This was considered as the worst act of police brutality since the dawn of democracy in South Africa.

It was on the 16th of August 2012, when thousands of miners who were converging at a hill or koppie at the Lonmin Mine were fired at by the police. Recent evidence presented to the Marikana Commission showed that the firing was unprovoked. On site, there were 34 miners killed, and scores were injured. But the number of casualties increased even after, as the crackdown on the strikers and supporters went on. News reports in South Africa said that “people died, violently, before and after that date” http://marikana.mg.co.za/The Marikana Commission, which was convened to investigate the killings, has not put any police or government official implicated in the murders, to prison.

As daughters and sons lost their fathers, and women were widowed, and mothers still grieved for their sons, Lonmin Chief Executive announced that after two years since the Marikana massacre, and after successive workers strikes, “we are making good and steady progress in terms of our plans to return to full production. . . I am pleased with the enthusiasm in our management and all employees to the re-building of our relationships and operational credibility.”

Lonmin Platinum Mines in South Africa has Glencore Xstrata, a Swiss transnational corporation, as one of its major shareholders. Glencore Xstrata is very familiar with us here in the Philippines, as it is the majority shareholder of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), the holder of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) in the gold mines in Tampakan, South Cotabato. Glencore Xstrata is very familiar too with incidents of violence against community members. The infamous Tampakan Massacre happened within its mining concession, involving the family of known anti-mining B’laan tribal leader. The brutal killing of Juvy Capion, and her two children, by the military in October 18, 2012, happened the same year that the Marikana Massacre happened. And more B’laans who continued to oppose the gold mining in their ancestral domains, continued to be killed violently, even after the massacre.

Two years after the massacre, the SMI announced that the Tampakan gold project, “despite its delays and challenges, remains on track.” Meanwhile, the court martial which was conducting the inquiry about the killings has not put any of the 21 soldiers who raided the Capion house, in jail.

The parallelisms are chilling. Even more so are the killings, the human rights abuses, and the impunity that the perpetrators enjoy. These mining companies continue to conduct their business as usual, with somechallenges, and delays, coddled by the national government because of the so-called contributions to the economy. South Africa boasts of the largest platinum deposits in the world. The Philippines is ranked as the 3rd in having the largest deposit gold. That is why some of the biggest mining companies in the world such as Glencore Xstrata are present in these countries. They come, they ravage, they enrich themselves, and leave the peoples hungry, landless, poorer, orphaned, widowed, and grieving for their killed daughters and sons. South Africa and the Philippines are both rich in mineral resources. Yet these countries are homes to the poorest of the poor people.

Today, we remember the killings in Marikana. We condemn the human rights abuses by the corporations against poor communities. We demand justice for the miners who were killed for asking what were owed to them – just wage and housing. We also demand justice for the Capions, and for the 25 of community leaders and activists who were killed under the Aquino administration, for standing up for their rights against large scale mining. We call for an international binding treaty that will make corporations accountable to human rights abuses, and break impunity.

Today, we affirm our continuing support to the struggles of the miners in Marikana, and the communities who oppose the encroachment of SMI and other mining companies into their lands, and in their lives.

LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)

Philippine Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA)

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

SENTRO ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)

Focus on the Global South

Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. 

CSOs cry for justice for Marikana Massacre victims

IMG_20140815_110108In solidarity with the Marikana Global Day Of Remembrance on August 16, social movements and Civil Society Oganizations (CSO) staged a protest in front of Glencore’s office in Ortigas to commemorate the brutal killing of 34 protesting miners who worked for Lonmin Platinum Mines, in Marikana South Africa. (http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/marikana-massacre-16-august-2012)

Glencore, a Swiss Transnational Corporation (TNC) is a major stakeholder of Lonmin Platinum Mines and has a mining project in, Tampakan, South Cotabato.

“We are one with the people of Marikana in remembering our brothers and sisters in South Africa whose fates have fallen ill to the dire reality of poverty and unjust labor systems and practices.” Said Josua Mata, Secertary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

“Though Marikana is miles away from the Philippines, it is not a far reality from our labor forces’ situation if we let our guards down and let capitalism oppress our rights as a work force.” Mata added.

SENTRO, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Miserior Partnership Incorporated (PMPI), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Focus on the Global South, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) and Indigenous Women Group LILAK spearheaded the rally which began in ADB Avenue to Emarald Avenue, Ortigas.

The groups performed an awarding ceremony and recognized Glencore as a World-Class Human Rights Abuser and put crime scene tapes around the building.

“ The degradation of our environment and the rampant human rights abuse caused by the mining companies, in this case Glencore and Lonmin, has turned our world into a big crime scene.” Said Fr. Oli Castor of PMPI.

“Until when should we keep our silence to their atrocities? Until when should we let them destroy mother nature? We should not wait until they have extracted everything that they can from the earth and until another Marikina or Tampakan incident happen.” He added.

Recently, Glencore was in hot water when five (5) countries including the Philippines presented cases of human rights abuse against the mining company in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Mining areas are really hot spots for human rights abuses and violations. Time and again we have been witnessed to this and without the state’s recognition of this reality, things are just going to get worse.” Said Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of TFDP.

Amistad also said that, “What we need is a system that serves justice and not impunity of abusive and greedy transnational corporations. Whether in Marikana in South Africa or in Tampakan in South Cotabato, the government should be pro-people.”

On June 26, 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council has approved the initiation of an international legally binding treaty that will hold TNCs accountable to corporate human rights abuse. (http://alyansatigilmina.net/2014/07/15/atm-press-release-csos-celebrate-hr-resolution-of-unhrc-urges-the-ph-government-to-follow-through/)

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator stressed the importance of such legally binding treaty to stop human rights abuses and violations committed by TNCs in different parts of the world.

“One of the reasons why TNCs are shamefully courageous on committing human rights abuses is the lack of a definitive and thoroughly monitored and implemented legally binding rules and regulations to protect the people, especially the work force.

“This has also become a gateway of human rights violations of states that prioritize capitalists instead of their people. This is what happened to Marikana, this is what’s happening to Tampakan. If we want justice for them, and for all the victims of human rights abuse and violations, we need to start setting a higher international standard to make this happen.” asserted Garganera.

On August 16, Saturday, the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel will also join the commemoration of the Marikana Global Day of Remembrance. A film showing of the Marikana massacre documentary Miners Shot Down (http://www.minersshotdown.co.za/) will be held at the Tampakan Parish to be followed by a candle lighting action.

SAC Marbel is a network of Alyansa Tigil Mina and the leading local organization opposing the operations of Glencore in Tampakan. It is also a member of the Tampakan Forum, an alliance convened by PMPI that works on mining and human rights issues in the area.

P-Noy’s amenability to 2nd term, Cha-cha sign of conceit

Superhero complex – or the belief of being the only one capable of saving the world, or the Philippines in this case – is afflicting President Aquino as he admitted during a TV interview Wednesday that he is now open to extending his single 6-year term and allowing a Charter change (Cha-cha) or amending the Constitution after vehemently rejecting them many times in the past.

This was the dire “prognosis” of the labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa as it attacked Aquino for showing his “height of arrogance to think that he is the only one fit to rule the country.”

Using the pretext of “listening” to his purported “bosses (the masses),” Aquino sounded like in doubt whether his “reforms” and “achievements” would continue under a new – and unfriendly – administration. (His touted handpicked successor, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, has miserably been lagging behind in the surveys on presidential wannabes.)

Carping on the Supreme Court – which replaced Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as his current pet peeve – Aquino hinted that his possible second term and certain provisions in a Cha-cha could check the high court’s “unrestrained power” in checking the executive and legislative branches.

Aquino was most likely referring to the successive rulings of the high court that declared the graft-tainted pork barrels of Congress (the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF) and the President (the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP) as unconstitutional last November and July, respectively.

“Genuine ‘reforms’ can only be done by strengthening democratic institutions and practices – the very things that PDAF and DAP are undermining by giving ‘priority’ to and ‘accelerating’ the fraud and corruption of top politicians and their accomplices outside the government like Janet Lim-Napoles,” Frank Mero, Sentro chair, said rather metaphorically.

Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, explained that “what should be implemented are structural or sweeping pro-people policies – agrarian and urban land reform, secure and decent jobs, increase support to agro-industrial sectors, freedom of information (FOI) law, ending the culture of impunity, etc. – and not Cha-cha, which would merely advance the vested interests of the few.”

“Tinkering or tampering with the existing 1987 Constitution will only lead to further weakening if not altogether repealing any remaining pro-people provisions in the Charter,” Mata warned.

Sentro hails arrest of Palparan, calls for no ‘VIP treatment’ and swift conviction

Gen. Jovito Palparan

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa eagerly welcomes the capture early this morning of fugitive retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan; but expresses at the same time apprehension that he will also be accorded VIP treatment in a “special jail” – like Janet Lim-Napoles and her “pork barrel senators” – and the lawsuits against him will drag on for years – like what happened to the Marcoses, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Ampatuans, and their ilk.

Dubbed “the butcher,” Palparan left a bloody and terrifying trail of murders and abductions of social activists wherever he was assigned an army command – from Mindoro, Romblon, Samar to Central Luzon provinces. Like a Grim Reaper, his mere presence in an area was a portent of increased number of extrajudicial killings or “salvaging,” forced disappearances of perceived anti-government individuals, and active harassment of mass organizations. Still, Arroyo lavishly praised Palparan for his “successful” counterinsurgency campaigns from 2001 to 2006, when he retired. He went into hiding in December 2011 when a court ordered his arrest because of the 2006 kidnapping in Bulacan of two UP students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who both remain missing.

Of course, no direct evidence was ever gathered and not a single witness has yet surfaced to implicate Palparan as the mastermind behind these heinous crimes. This is understandable since Palparan and his gang – not unlike the liquidation crew of gangsters and secret military assassination units during martial law – will ensure at all costs that incriminating proofs will be eliminated and would-be whistleblowers will be bribed or terrorized or “silenced” outright. However, an investigation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) admitted that there was “certainly (circumstantial) evidence pointing the finger of suspicion at some elements and personalities in the armed forces, in particular General Palparan, as responsible for an undetermined number of killings, by allowing, tolerating, and even encouraging the killings.”

Sentro calls on the Aquino government and the judiciary to ensure that Palparan and his cohorts should be immediately imprisoned in regular jails and not be given special treatment. They should be tried and convicted promptly so that justice will finally be served to their victims and the latter’s families.

The government should likewise vigorously work to end the impunity of violence against the people and their organizations; this includes the speedy resolution of abductions and murders of trade unionists and activists, including two Mindanao leaders of the National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU-APL-SENTRO) – Antonio “Dodong” Petalcorin and Kagi Alimudin Lucman – who were slain within the span of one month (July) only last year in Davao City and Cotabato City, respectively.

APL-Youth marks Int’l Youth Day by pushing for rights of fast food workers, reform in SK law

CELEBRATING the International Youth Day (IYD) today, a few hundred youth members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL-SENTRO) staged flashmobs and pickets in several key cities across the country to highlight the plight of the mostly youthful fast food workers and the need to reform the highly potential but anomaly-ridden Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

In Quezon City, about 150 APL-Youth members held a lightning protest at noontime at the Activity Center in Trinoma Mall in North Edsa, site of numerous fast food chains, including a McDonald’s restaurant, in support of the global campaign for higher wages and rights of fast food workers.

They then proceeded to the House of Representatives in the Batasan Complex to air their support to House Bill No. 3000, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines, specifically changing some of its provisions that would reform and strengthen the SK, the state-sanctioned grassroots youth council created by the LGC of 1991.

Joining the APL-Youth NCR (National Capital Region) chapter in these twin mass actions were their counterparts from Cavite province. APL-Youth also conducted flashmob-pickets at McDonald’s outlets in Lipa City (Batangas) bus station; Colon St., Cebu City; Ilustre St., Davao City; Magsaysay Park, Cagayan de Oro City; and Bgy. City Heights, General Santos City.

“McDonald’s is specifically targeted not only because it is the world’s largest fast food chain, it is also the pioneer – and remains the leader – in the rampant practice of granting low wages, scarce benefits and no security of tenure for most of its fast food workers, who are usually teenagers or young adults,” Marco Gojol, APL-Youth secretary general, said.

He added that “in fact, McDonald’s epitomizes the worst face of contractualization and anti-worker and anti-union policies in the fast food industry not only in the US but worldwide.”

As if receiving a cheap wage is not enough, workers also further fatten the McDonald’s pockets by serving for free for a certain period of time each day, which is called “charity work” or “turnover work” – in the Philippines, it ranges from no less than 30 minutes to as much as 2 hours, Melba Tampakan, APL-Youth chair, revealed.

McDonald’s is currently the object of widespread protests and lawsuits in the US, amid its vigorous rejection of the workers’ demand for $15 an hour pay and the right to unionize. But on July 29, the National Labor Relations Board finally ruled that McDonald’s could be named as a “joint employer” in several complaints of labor rights’ violations even at franchise-owned and -operated restaurants, which account for the vast majority of McDonald’s more than 14,000 joints in the US.

The NLRB ruling signifies that McDonald’s could no longer “hide behind its franchisees” and wash its hands of any liability for the long list of abusive acts against McDonald’s workers even those not directly employed by the corporation itself but by its franchisees or affiliate firms.

The labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) remarked that this unprecedented decision could also later be adapted to McDonald’s chains in other countries, including the Philippines.

The US-based McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants – in 2012 it has already over 34,000 hamburger joints in 119 countries and territories employing 1.8 million workers who serve 68 million customers daily, which enable it to earn $27.6 billion in revenues and $5.5 billion in net income.

However, McDonald’s is notorious for hiring workers with low pays and few benefits and mostly remain contractual, as well as for its rabid resistance to trade unions, to ensure bigger profits – this prompted the coining of the term “McJob” to denote a “low-paying” or “low-quality” work.

McDonald’s franchises in the Philippines are run by the Golden Arches Development Corp., originally owned by businessman George Yang but now controlled by taipan Andrew Tan, the third richest Filipino this year according to Forbes, and whose group of companies includes the giant real estate firm Megaworld and Emperador Distillers, maker of the highly profitable Emperador brandy.

The APL-Youth said that aside from McDonald’s, its next “targets” are other foreign fast food chains such as Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC and many others, as well as local giants like Jollibee, which also follow anti-worker and anti-union practices.

For instance, Jollibee, the country’s top fast food restaurant, is also infamous for its low pays and routine use of “endo,” meaning “end-of-contract” workers who toil for short-term and precarious work arrangements or likewise called “5-5-5” scheme in which workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers – who, by law, are entitled of higher wages and benefits, security of tenure, and can join a union.

Meanwhile, the APL-Youth admitted that while it is dismayed by the “degeneration” of many SK officers, from the barangay to national levels, into a “younger version” of opportunist and corrupt trapos or traditional politicians, the potentials of this mass-based organization could not be denied.

The APL-Youth agreed to HB 3000 declaration that the SK remains “a unique setup and provides possibilities for progressive interventions to advance meaningful youth participation, enhances access to education and youth employment, and democratizes delivery of social services for the youth sector.”

Thus, the bill explained, the SK’s abolition is not the solution to its becoming linked to “corruption, political disenfranchisement and patronage politics” since it “will contradict the entire essence of the devolution of the government, and will inhibit the Filipino youth’s vital role in nation-building.”

Among the bill’s list of reforms are the creation of an oversight body “to make SK officers accountable to their constituency in terms of clear processes in development planning, budgeting and disbursement of funds,” and a separate and functioning development council “with representation in the SK and mandated to draft the SK’s annual youth development plan.”

HB 3000 has been filed by the Akbayan party-list in the current 16th Congress, which is an updated version of its similar bill – HB 468 – during the 15th Congress.

The reforms are needed to be implemented before the next SK election, which will be determined by the Commission on Elections any day between Oct. 28 this year and Feb. 23, 2015, as stipulated in RA 10632 that postponed the Oct. 28, 2013 SK polls.