Category Archives: Extrajudicial Killings (EJKs)

SENTRO calls on Working People to Sustain the Call to End Contractualization, Stop Authoritarian Policies

Photo by RBanares

MANILA, Philippines (May 1, 2017) – The national labor center Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Center for United and Progressive Workers), or SENTRO, calls on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living, “sustained by the Duterte’s regime biased for the elite.”

In a rally this morning in conjunction with the 130thglobal Labor Day commemoration, the 100,000-strong SENTRO criticized the “fake news” that contractualization is over. According to SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, “We gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization, in hoping that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A.” He said their hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of DO No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

Mata stated that DO 174 will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. “Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised,” said Mata.

SENTRO assailed the President from being only true to its promise to kill, and to bury the late dictator Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery. In a statement, SENTRO noted that in almost 365 days in Malacañang, the President’s hands are bloodied in calling on the police, and later jobless migrant workers to kill drug users. However, it failed to deliver genuine resolution of the drug problem as it allows the escape of drug traffickers like Peter Lim.

SENTRO marched from Welcome Rotonda and converged with the 10,000 marchers of NAGKAISA Coalition to push Pres. Duterte to prioritize the prohibition of all forms of contractualization by supplanting DO 174 with an Executive Order and by certifying as urgent the passage of HB4444.

Allies from human rights groups such as iDEFEND, the World March of Women, and students marched with the workers to call on all “freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for regular and sustainable jobs, to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritarianism.” The march followed a coffin with a chick on top, a derivation from a Filipino custom, hoping that the deaths will stop immediately.

“Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor,” added Mata.

SENTRO vows to continue the struggle against contractualization

Photo by JTMata

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa joins the global working peoples in their 130th commemoration of International Labor Day. Filipino workers have been commemorating the International Labor Day and the continuing struggles of the working masses since 1903, inextricably tying it to the anti-colonial struggle. Faced as it is by monumental challenges and massive societal roadblocks, SENTRO remains undaunted and steadfast in its commitment towards organizing, fighting and winning on behalf of the working peoples of the Philippines.

In less than a year, President Rodrigo Duterte has seen his popularity and trust ratings erode by 7% and 11% among the working poor. While a number of the population remains unperturbed by this, this development is an indicator that a significant section of our people is beginning to fear for their lives— and perhaps even regretting their complicity to the election of an unrepentant violator of human rights and democratic institutions.

The working people gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization. We hoped that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A. But our hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of Department Order No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

This policy will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised.

Truth is, the Duterte regime is only consistent in one thing: it wants to kill, and the freedom to kill who it wants to kill. The spate of extrajudicial killings occurring all over the country—ostensibly sponsored and abetted by the Philippine National Police’s Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel—has claimed anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 lives already. This has worsened the situation of poor women, leaving them in trauma, isolation and greater vulnerability to further abuse such as prostitution. In addition to this,the Philippine Congress reintroduces the death penalty,and was passed by the House of Representatives last March 7, 2017, awaiting advancement in the Philippine Senate—despite the Philippines’ international commitment to treaties not to do so. Another legislative bill intends to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to nine (9) years of age, pushing back the victory in the past of children’s rights groups.

It is probably not without reason that this culture of death has been roundly condemned by the international community. The “War on the Poor,” as it is, has made a mockery of its initial propaganda to rid us of the menace of drug dependence and promote a secure, living society. While the poor is being killed, the drug profiteers like Peter Lim are left scot-free.

As expected, the elites are in no hurry to oppose or even modulate the Duterte regime’s reign of terror and death. Many of these politicians have kowtowed to Malacañang, probably in anticipation of the impending push for charter change, which may see the Philippines parcelled around longstanding political dynasties and the further dismantling of the country’s economic infrastructure through their hard-selling of Federalism.

Once again, it is up to the working people and their labor movement to defend our rights, even as we continue to deepen democracy in the country. It is for this reason that SENTRO, together with its allies amongst the progressive forces, is calling on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritharianism.” SENTRO believes that workers’ and trade union rights cannot genuinely exist if human and democratic rights are compromised and thrown to the gutter.

We call on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living sustained by the Duterte regime’s neo-liberal policies. Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor.

Organize! Fight! Win!

Download FIlipino version of the statement

SENTRO Statement in Support of the CBCP Pastoral Letter

File photo / Bullit Marquez

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) welcomes the Pastoral Letter released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last January 30, 2017, entitled “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies (Ez. 18:32)”. In these times of confusion, fear, state-led intimidation, and a seven-month Reign of Terror, the statement of our respected Bishops is just about the right kind of disturbing voice in the wilderness our lost compatriots need right now.

We nod in agreement when the CBCP states: “The deep root of the drug problem and criminality is the poverty of the majority, the destruction of the family and corruption in society. The step we have to take is to overcome poverty, especially through the giving of permanent work and sufficient wages to workers (underscoring ours).”

We have to confront the socio-economic and cultural factors that create this malady – including the lack of sources of income, the job insecurity, the loneliness and predatorial culture that individualistic capitalism engenders, the unreformed, syndicated and corrupt police and law enforcement.

We, as militant workers from all sectors of our society, are ourselves men and women with families, who are as adamant in protecting our own children from the dangers of the drug trade. And yet we ourselves know, from our mutual experiences in our communities, that shunning, shaming and cutting off both drug victims and drug trade elements from a second chance at reform and turning around their lives save no one in the end. We ourselves know, from our long, bitter struggle for justice and reparation in our sectors, that no solution is garnered unless a mutual acknowledgment of the dignity of our counterparts in litigation and negotiation is achieved. At the same time, we as well are aware of protecting the quality of life of our members and our allies—and are very, very wary of anyone who would dare foist easy solutions to us in the face of complex problems, at the cost of our principles and dearly-held freedoms.

We in the workers’ movement, coming as we are from all social and religious slants, see the value of transformative justice, as well as rehabilitating even our criminal elements.

With this statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Philippines stands with an awakening larger majority of our Filipino people. They are now aware of the dangers of the government’s Death Policies — Oplan Tokhang, the bills reimposing the death penalty and lowering the age of criminality – that threaten to or have destroyed our institutions, granting us a “reign of peace” that is more the peace of the grave, cramped as they are with the skulls and bones of thousands of innocent and untried victims.

We in SENTRO therefore reiterate: the Death Policies of the Duterte regime must be stopped.

As much as we workers do not always share the political views of many of our religious groups, we nevertheless loudly proclaim our conviction with them right now: a civilization built on peace, justice and love.

Forward, not Backward: The Youth’s Statement on Human Rights Day

APL Youth

Today, as we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, young Filipinos stand united in recognizing as regressive, anti-people, and anti-poor the Duterte administration’s policy of restoring the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), and the vigilante-style “war on drugs.” This government’s policy runs contrary to President Duterte’s claim to genuine, forward, and transformative change that we demand.

On the Restoration of the Death Penalty

We vehemently condemn the move to restore capital punishment in the country through House Bill no. 1 for we believe that the purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate convicted criminals, that is to bring them closer to humanity even after having erred. We believe in a view of Justice that allows the person to reform and reintegrate as a changed person into society, one that affirms human dignity and the right to life.

We reject this policy for even if we consider the end goal of the measure of restoring capital punishment, that is to deter crime, the claim holds no scientific evidence. As research shows, the death penalty will not deter crime. On the contrary, in 1999, the bumper year for executions, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year). In addition, the Supreme Court released that 71.77 percent judicial error rate in capital cases in the period from 1993 to 2004, years when we still implemented the death penalty.

In addition, restoring the death penalty is a direct violation of international agreements ratified by the government. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” We believe that the act of murder, especially as it is rendered by State instruments must be condemned.

Further, women’s groups have been expressing that the death penalty deters victims-survivors, especially among children from reporting rape. Women fought for the abolition of death penalty, alongside human rights advocates for 20 years, only to be restored by this administration in a matter of months.

We believe that in the end, this policy only puts already oppressed Filipinos in a more vulnerable position. When the poor are unable to afford effective attorneys during trial, they may not be able to make the most effective case for themselves. The majority remain at the losing end at the cost of a false promise of a lower crime rate.

Back in 2006, the government already repealed the death penalty (RA 9346). Let us not regress as a society by reinstating the death penalty, and inhumane retributive form of punishment.

On Lowering The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)

We strongly denounce the lowering of MACR which seeks to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 years old. The motion to criminalize children who are but victims of violence and exploitation neglects their dignity as persons. This undermines their human right to security — a right that is most essential especially with regard to their status as one of the most vulnerable sector in any society.

When the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or JJWA (RA 9344) was enacted in 2006, the MACR was raised from 9 years old to 15 for the purposes of complying to the international standard that 9 years is an unacceptable age of criminal responsibility.

Children are dependent on adults for survival; their everyday activities are influenced by those who nurture and provide for their needs. The government recognizes this through RA 9344 as amended by RA 10630 that seeks to strengthen the juvenile justice welfare system in its commitment to always deliberate and enact motions that serve the best interests of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) throughout the justice process. However, the implementation of JJWA which House BIll No. 2 seeks to amend has been very weak: programs enacted in pursuant of the law are underfunded, government facilities for rehabilitation operate like jails, and incarcerated children are being subjected to inhumane conditions.

The prevalence of CICLs in the country is a manifestation of the incompetency of both the local and national government as well as of child custodians to provide a safe space for children. The move to lower MACR rejects the underlying issues why children are involved in criminal activity to begin with. House Bill No. 2, in seeking to divert the blame from the real problem seeks to make use of children as a scapegoat for the persisting socio-economic problems that only capitalize on their vulnerability. JJWA was crafted precisely to protect children from harmful elements and we owe its full implementation to them.

Ten years ago, RA 9344 was enacted partly to raise the MACR in order to reinforce the protection of children and now, there is an attempt to nullify that change. To scrap efforts to improve the country’s conditions will not pave way for progress. To return to the Philippines that was a decade ago is a backward notion of development; to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 is definitely not the way forward.

On the President’s “War on Drugs”

While drug traffickers deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we condemn the fact that the current campaign has taken on an arbitrary, discriminatory and anti-poor tone that has led to the deaths of thousands of poor Filipinos.

The President’s careless pronouncements calling for the indiscriminate killing of even suspected drug dependents all connected to drugs, emboldened the police to shoot and kill those who are suspected of using or selling drugs. Worse still, the President has also encouraged citizens to take matters into their own hands, which has heartened vigilantes to protect the streets, killing their fellow citizens. This has fortified a culture of violence of an unprecedented magnitude. Since the President has taken office, this cruel war on the poor has already taken 5,882 lives from 01 July 2016 to 06 December 2016.

The poor are easy targets in this war. Not only have structures in society forced the poor to resort to or sell drugs to escape the pains of day-to-day life, the poor also live in penetrable communities where armed people can easily enter, and safety is a daily concern. The poor also cannot afford the protection, legal and otherwise, that those of means can afford. To attest to this, Oplan Tokhang has been asymmetrically enforced—homes of the poor are searched through haphazardly, while gated villages are able to protect their residents from being searched or able to dictate the terms of the operation.

Most of all, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant disregard for human rights that the President and his administration has exhibited time and time again. Drug dependency is not merely an issue of security or crime, but one of public health. Drug dependency can be addressed with rehabilitation, which in October 2016, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has said is actually the new goal of its anti-drugs campaign. Despite this, many continue to be killed on the streets.

The state must not kill Filipinos, but aid them in improving their lives through a rehabilitative approach in order to let them move past their chemical and economic dependency on drug.

The change we demand

We the Filipino youth demand nothing less from the government than for it to recognize the fundamental human right to life– that is for the government to affirm that all have the right to live a life free from fear, to live a life worth living. Such cannot be attained through the Duterte administration’s myopic view of progress that takes the short route which in the end, does nothing but breed a culture of violence.

We demand that the government instead invest in youth development programs that provide opportunities for us young Filipinos to improve our lives and to develop our skills, a government that likewise seeks to increase our participation in institutions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We hope for programs that enable young people like us to dream of better solutions for our country.

We demand that this government stop its sexual attacks on women, especially those who are critical of it. The President and his men, who have been encouraging the rape culture and the treatment of women as objects, should be made accountable.

We demand that the government instead focus on social welfare measures that alleviate poverty which we recognize as the root cause of many of society’s ills, measures that should lead to the transformation of oppressive political, economic, and social structures towards structures that take the primacy of the fundamental human right to life.

With this view, we call on the Filipino youth to stand and fight! Let us demand accountability from President Duterte and reject his administration’s policies that bring us back to the old age of strongman dictatorship and the preponderance of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings. We shall continue to resist forms of change that lead to our regression as a society so as to assure our future and the future of our nation.

Sigaw ng kabataan: Pagbabagong pasulong, hindi paurong!
Itigil ang mga paatras na polisiya ng gobyerno ni Duterte!
Kilalanin ang karapatan sa buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino!

Alliance of Progressive Labor Youth (APL Youth-SENTRO) • Kilos Kabataan ng Ateneo
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD AdMU) • PUP SPEAK
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)
Marikina Polytechnic College Supreme Student Council (TINDIG-MPC) • Akbayan Youth

End Endo, Not People’s Lives

End Endo, Not People's Lives

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition marching along Morayta to Mendiola – Photo by Eva Arcos

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) today marched from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola, passing through Morayta to join other sectors who were in solidarity with the workers. In a statement, SENTRO said it marks the 153rd birth anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifacio, “founding predecessor of the Philippine mass movement and First President of the Philippine Republic by memorializing the heroic struggle of Bonifacio and the Katipunan in these trying times.” It added that SENTRO “looks back to our history of consistent action, and takes heart from it in continuing to carry the torch of seeking and advocating for economic and political justice for all.”

Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO, stated that six months into the presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the Philippines is now in a seething state of tension, division and political polarization. “For all his bluster, bravado and posturing in promising change since the May 2016 elections, he has only succeeded in worsening the social, economic and political gap between the privileged and the excluded in Philippine society,” added Mata.

The “war on drugs” Duterte has sanctioned continues to prove itself as a “war on the poor”—with 5,617 casualties. With a police hierarchy under PNP Chief Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa wholly subservient to the whims of the President, our police institutions, constitutionally-mandated to protect and serve the public from crime and violence, now glories in its role as the President’s praetorian guard of butchers and hatchet-men.

Mata stated that “the Duterte regime, proving its promise of standing up against the elites of Philippine society as full of hot air, has also visibly backtracked on its promise to dismantle the ‘endo’ system of contractualization in favor of the working peoples (both in the manufacturing and service sectors).” That the Labor Secretary, Silvestre Bello III, continues to vacillate between the just demands of the working peoples’ movements and the rapacious threats of the employers and capitalists, poses massive questions to whether this issue will actually be resolved in the name of social justice, the statement continued.

According to the 80,000-strong labor center, Duterte’s partisanship to the forces of oppression has finally surfaced by fully sanctioning the burial of the tyrant Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani last November 18, 2016—immediately 10 days after the craven decision of the Supreme Court to declare the absence of legal impediment to the burial, and without giving time to filing motions of consideration against the decision. “That this burial was done clandestinely, away from the eyes of the public and without any transparency whatsoever simply affirms once over that the heirs of the dictator Marcos has no intention of standing accountable for their two-decade ransacking of the Philippine state and society. The state-apparatuses are scrambling to continue justifying the actions of their clearly-beholden president—to the extent of inflaming the ire and resentment of the new generations of our youth.”

“The Filipino people are already waking up to the monumental costs of their choice in the polls,” according to SENTRO. “That mobilizations and indignation protests continue to be mounted by the millennial generation of today against the burial of the tyrant Marcos show that the administration is beginning to wear its welcome.” It says that even the President’s supporters are now beginning to be split in their condoning of the “war on drugs” suggests that this platform is unravelling without a clear end-goal in mind. “That a growing number of our population are now finding the perorations and propagandizing of the Duterte camp’s online “trolls” and unofficial spokespersons (all of dubious character and non-existent integrity) is a heartening sign that reason and basic decency have not yet left Philippine public discourse,” added Mata.

“That people are now finally choosing to stand up against the excesses of the Duterte regime after months of silence and patience simply mean one thing: They now know that their President is neither a father, nor a leader, nor a saviour. They now know he is a tyrant and a bully who cements his throne in blood and skulls. And we know from history how tyrants end their stories.”

Finally, SENTRO called on the Filipino people to remain vigilant and insistent on their social, economic and political rights.

“We call on the Philippine government to stand accountable for the growing number of dead and injured in their war on the poor. We call to a halt on political prosecution of opposition actors who are simply doing their job of protecting the Filipino people’s basic human rights. We continuously call for the exhumation of Marcos from his undeserved burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We also call on the Marcos family and their partisans to finally come clean, stop the propagandizing, and finally own up to and pay up for their countless crimes against the Filipino people. We continue to assert that the Duterte administration must abandon authoritarianism and finally think on behalf of all Filipino peoples—not just his intransigent, intolerant and oppressive patrons. Lest he reaps the wind.”


Bonifacio Day
November 30, 2016