SENTRO brings home 43 fishermen left by Citra Mina in Indonesia; demands compensation for all the ‘abandoned’ as Congress sets to investigate Citra Mina


43 fishermen detained in Indonesia arrive in Manila airport


WELCOME home and let the “fight” begin.

After almost six months of being abandoned by their employer – the giant fishing firm Citra Mina – and left to rot in a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia, the 43 fishermen are now in Manila before going back to General Santos City.

The “abandonados” arrived onboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J 760 at 5:30 a.m. today in NAIA from Jakarta bringing with them harrowing experience following the seizure of their boat Love Merben II off the coast of Indonesia for alleged illegal fishing last Aug. 26.

“Mission accomplished,” Herbert Demos, SENTRO staff who went to Indonesia as part of the rescue team, announced. “All Filipino crew of Love Merben II accounted for,” he reported.

The rescue campaign was led by the national labor center SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs DFA).

Demos arrived in Ternate Island on Feb. 20 to ensure that all 43 fishermen are issued their tickets and travel documents. What he witnessed in the island shocked him.

“I am poor, and was raised in poverty, but I cannot eat what our compatriots were eating in Ternate. The rice they ate had more rice weevils (lice) than rice grains, but they had no choice. I learned that sometimes they quarreled over food because of extreme hunger. What is painful, too, is that they were never visited by our consulate personnel in Manado,” Demos said.

SENTRO asserted that ultimately Citra Mina is to blame for all that the fishermen have gone through.

“Citra Mina should compensate all the fishermen for the whole time they were stuck in Ternate Island,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, stressed, adding that “Citra Mina should also be investigated for its alleged involvement in illegal fishing.”

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan has pushed for a congressional inquiry on Citra Mina’s alleged labor and human rights violations and its culpability in what had happened to the 43 fishermen. A hearing was set on March 18.

This morning, the repatriated fishermen are scheduled to meet with Jesus Yabes, DFA’s Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.

They are set to fly to General Santos tomorrow morning where a big welcome celebration awaits them.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations. Its Asia-Pacific regional office extended much needed help in the rescue efforts.

The 43 abandoned fisherfolk are Felix G. Ababon Jr., Reynaldo A. Ano-os, Joemer G. Ababon, Dennis A. Ave, Clayde G. Batelante, James D. Bermil, Julie A. Curay, Jonald B. Caliso, Arnel Ariel D. Cezar, Aries S. Cezar.

Marjun S. Columnas, Alvin S. Flora, Jovanie S. Flora, Warren S. Flora, Leonardo L. Flores, Marcelino E. Gumera, Eugene S. Hunan, Loreno B. Ignacio, Jhon James Q. Inantay, Adonis A. Janohan.

Cecilio S. Lerin Jr., Antonio B. Robledo, Joe Michael F. Maambong, Jomer S. Mongosera, Edsel M. Mamugay, Jerwin T. Mahinay, Carl Philip S. Maybuena, Edilito G. Maybuena, Alberto S. Pasco, Leopoldo P. Poliquit Jr.

Antonio R. Quiban Jr., Harry A. Redoble, Joey R. Robledo, Jojo S. Ricafort, Archie S. Senina, Noel S. Walog, Kevin Mark R. Saturos, Emmanuel S. Senina, Roberto C. Senina, Edimar S. Sinena, Edgar S. Sigudan, Rolando S. Sayson, and Rodel D. Toyco.

43 Filipino fisherfolk abandoned in Indonesia by Citra Mina to be rescued


Citra Mina workers in Indonesia


FORTY-THREE Filipino fishermen who were abandoned by Citra Mina when their boat, Love Merben II were apprehended off the coast of Indonesia last year, will be repatriated next week after an intense “rescue campaign” led by SENTRO and IUF.

Families and co-workers of the imprisoned fishermen bemoaned that Citra Mina, who they believe financed the fishing expedition of Love Merben II, did not even lift a finger to assist the hapless workers.

Citra Mina is the giant General Santos City-based fishing firm and the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh and other brands. It is notorious for not respecting workers’ rights. Owned by the wealthy Lu family, the company started to hog the headlines when it illegally terminated 237 of its workers in August 2013 as part of its effort to bust the union.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, described the mass termination as a “brazen and illegal move to bust the fledgling union – a blatant violation of the workers’ right to organize.”

The cases against the Citra Mina management are still pending.

The SENTRO also accuses Citra Mina of perpetrating alleged “human rights violations,” including purported “disappearances” of workers who complain of company abuses.

The Love Merben II was seized by Indonesian authorities last Aug. 26 and the crew members, who were reportedly undocumented or with no IDs and passports, were brought to a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia. The plight of the forsaken fishermen only surfaced when their families and friends began asking help to locate them. Some union members in Citra Mina later learned about it and requested assistance from SENTRO, to which the local union is affiliated. SENTRO, in turn, relayed the information to the international union IUF.

SENTRO and the IUF’s Asia-Pacific regional office then launched a campaign to free the Filipino fishermen, including urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to appeal to the Indonesian government for the immediate release of the fishermen.

After nearly 6 months the fishermen will finally return home to the Philippines. Their return poses the question of why Citra Mina, whose massive profits rely on fishing crews like the crew of the Love Merben II, abandoned them for half a year and failed to take any responsibility.

“This demonstrates a pattern of abuse of workers’ human rights throughout the Citra Mina supply chain from fishermen to fish processing workers,” Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, Acting Regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific, said.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Stay the Course: Labor, Women and various groups reassert the need to continue the Peace process, but the guilty from all sides must be held liable


ALONG with our fiercest denunciation of those few heedless and inept local brains and foreign instigators behind the foolish adventurism in Mamasapano, we the undersigned, likewise expressed revulsion over excessive acts in the battlefield. The tragedy resulted to the needless deaths of dozens of police commandos, Moro fighters and innocent civilians. Even wars, where combatants are expected to kill and be killed, have universally recognized rules of engagement that at least lessen the dehumanization inherent in armed conflicts.

Thus, if the video circulating in the social media that supposedly shows the cold-blooded and uncalled-for execution of an already wounded and helpless government trooper in Mamasapano is authentic, it should, without hesitation, be vigorously condemned regardless of who the shooter was or what group he belongs to. Bear in mind that summary killing and mutilation of (and other undignified acts against) an injured enemy survivor as well as fatalities in combat is a blatant violation of the humanitarian law, including International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Rule 113: On the Treatment of the Dead, which is specifically stipulated in the Geneva Convention.

At the same time, we reiterate our previous calls to conduct a thorough, honest and no-nonsense probe on those responsible for the tactless and incompetent planning as well as the gung-ho implementation of that police operation, which utterly disregarded all the standing ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF and which sent the unfortunate PNP-SAF troopers to a veritable death trap in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. We have  specifically identified those most likely to have an actual role in this debacle: President Aquino himself; then suspended (and recently resigned) PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.; and the ubiquitous and shadowy Americans, particularly those in the US military’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

Likewise, we again warn the public not to be deceived by rightwing hawks and demagogues who are fanning the flames of Islamophobia and knee-jerk call to arms.

Amid all these, we still support the noble ideals and aspirations of the current peace process. This initiative, while admittedly painstaking, complex and protracted, remains the only viable, just and ultimate solution to the decades-long bloodshed in Mindanao and elsewhere. Let us give “peace with justice” the chance it fully deserves and the goal that the people need and longed for. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has to pass in the form that reflects the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Transform Asia

Youths warn of trending ‘zero hour’ job contracts

ff009VALENTINE’S Day was celebrated today by youth members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor by picketing a bustling McDonald’s outlet in Quezon City as part of the Philippine leg of the international campaign against “zero hour” work contracts.

Activists of the APL-Youth, an affiliate of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), staged their protest outside the McDonald’s branch near MRT Quezon Ave. station to denounce the global fast food chain giant’s penchant for contractualization and other precarious work arrangements like the zero hour job practices.

According to the global union IUF zero hour contracts are those with no specified work hours and which do not guarantee jobs or income, but which are now becoming rampant in the rapidly expanding fast food industry. The IUF is supporting the campaign by the Unite Union New Zealand against zero-hour work.

Young workers are particularly vulnerable under these exploitative contracts since they comprise the bulk of the fast food workforce throughout the world, the IUF said, adding that “workers on zero hour contracts live with the uncertainty of how much they will earn each month (and the unpredictability of) when and if they will get work.”

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 serving 68 million customers daily in 119 countries and territories, enabling it to amass $27.6 billion in revenues and $5.5 billion in net income – but it also pioneered and systematized the use of contractual labor, especially among the youth, in the multibillion dollar fast food industry.

A 2012 BBC study reported that McDonald’s is also the world’s second largest private employer (behind the US retail firm behemoth Walmart) with 1.9 million workers, “1.5 million of whom work for franchises” – a tactic that enables McDonald’s to perpetuate contractual labor and amass superprofits.

McDonald’s rampant practices of hiring workers with low salaries, few benefits and no security of tenure – as well as its rabid resistance to labor unions – to ensure bigger profits have prompted even the venerable international dictionaries Merriam-Webster’s, Random House Webster’s and Oxford English to coin or list the word “McJob” to denote a “low-paying” or “low-quality” job.

McDonald’s anti-worker and anti-union practices have also been widely imitated and intensified by both global and local brands in the fast food industry, including its American competitors Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, among others, as well as homegrown fast food restaurants led by Jollibee.

The country’s top fast food chain, Jollibee is also notorious for its low pays and routine use of “endo” – acronym for “end-of-contract” workers or those with short-term and unprotected work contracts, which are also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from having permanent or regular employment status.

The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Sentro slams sectors sowing anti-muslim prejudice and anti-peace talks sentiments after Mamasapano


#TruthandJusticefortheFallen64+ #MoroLivesMatter

SEEPING OUT of the so-called “misencounter” last Jan. 25 are the troubling questions and apparent evasions and cover-ups: Who really are responsible for sending the PNP-SAF troops into a veritable death trap in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao? Why did this police operation flagrantly disregard the existing ceasefire mechanisms, including not notifying the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)? What are the exact roles and how are is the accountability here of President Benigno Aquino III; his favorite PNP chief, the suspended Alan Purisima; his alter ego and executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa; and the shadowy US military-led Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines?

However, these are not the only ones that unfortunately cropped up in the Mamasapano incident. Impulsive hawks with their knee-jerk reaction and rightwing demagogues with their messianic blabbers are fanning the flames of Islamaphobia or indiscriminate hatred and distrust of anything Muslim, of Hollywood-inspired call to arms for an all-out war, of a distorted black and white worldview of good and evil, of wholesale anti-MILF stance, of reckless and sweeping call to terminate the peace process between the government and the MILF.

Centuries of attempts to violently subjugate and wantonly exploit the peoples in Mindanao (or anywhere else for that matter) – from the colonial invaders to Manila-based “imperial” government – have resulted only to interludes of fleeting “peace and order” but followed again and again by either scattered or organized uprisings. Indeed, a long lasting peace will be realized if genuine justice and freedom are ensured. On the other hand, sincerely talking and striving for peace, however difficult and painstaking, is also a very promising avenue for paving the way for this elusive “peace with justice” dream.

Thus, while actively seeking honest and unedited answers to the Mamasapano incident – from both the government and the MILF – we must consciously strive for an inclusive justice to ALL those who have fallen from this tragedy – the 44 PNP-SAF personnel, the 7 unnamed civilians and the 18 MILF fighters. Their respective families also lost a husband, father, brother, kin, comrade and friend.

This is why the DepEd directive – that during flag raising ceremonies, schoolchildren should offer one second of silence to every SAF operative killed “plus one more second for all other casualties” – is a half-baked tribute for justice and peace. Why not extend the same homage to every civilian and MILF fighters who were also killed in Mamasapano? What does such a “tribute” tell our kids? That the life of one PNP-SAF is equal to the lives of all the civilians and MILF who were killed?

We must continue to support the current peace process as it remains a viable, just and enduring solution to the never-ending armed conflict in Mindanao. At the same time, any form of religious or racial bigotry should be vigorously opposed as it has no place in human society and it would only further inflame anger, violence and mistrust.