Category Archives: Human Rights

Workers group sees danger in unqualified declaration of martial law for entire Mindanao

 

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition on Labor Day 2017

The Philippine Constitution under Article 7 Section 18 granted the President the power to declare a state of martial law. But such a declaration should meet certain requirements to justify suppression of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

We condemn and will continue to oppose any act of terrorism perpetrated by any group in any part of the country. And while we recognize the power of the President to address security emergencies like this one, we also will not disregard the danger posed by unqualified use of military power to deal with security threats at the expense of democracy and basic human rights. Filipinos will never forget the dark days under fourteen years of martial law.

In line with this, we find the Moscow declaration of President Duterte placing the entire Mindanao under the state of martial law as worrisome as it came with yet to be qualified basis except for the pockets of violence that erupted yesterday in Marawi City between the military and the combined forces of Maute and Abu Sayaff groups. Why place the entire Mindanao under a state of martial law when the military itself claimed it is in full control of the situation?

Even the fire and storm of Misuari in Zamboanga nor the firefights in Ipil were not sufficient cause for a declaration of Martial Law. Indeed, if there is any lesson, Mindanaoans have demonstrated in the last 40 years, is that they best cooperate, cohabit and interact with each other WITHOUT Martial Law. The historical memory of the Filipino race has been so foreshadowed by the totalitarian menace that even now, we feel more threatened than secured by the State under Martial Law. Workers will never forget, especially when workers’ rights to organize, to bargain and to strike occupy such a low level of political esteem from the powers that be. We ask all to step back from the totalitarian temptation.

Furthermore, the Filipino people deserve the right to be properly informed on matters of national security especially when their rights and welfare are affected by executive decrees, including military actions that reign supreme over civilian authority during a state of martial law.

Lastly, we call on the Congress and the Supreme Court to exercise their oversight powers over the President on the issue of martial law, and for the Filipino people to remain vigilant during these difficult and challenging times.

NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
PRESS STATEMENT

We condemn the declaration of Martial Law ! -iDEFEND

IDefendOn Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law on the entire Mindanao Island while on a state visit in Russia, following the fighting between the military and the Maute group.

It has to be clarified that the clashes were triggered by law enforcement operation in Marawi. This is a situation started by the government itself. Similarly, the Maute group is a local terrorist group, and not ISIS, even as the former tries to ally itself with ISIS.

We condemn the violence perpetrated by the Maute group to advance their political interest. Attacking civilian population not party to the conflict between government forces and the Maute violates duly recognized human rights of the people and violation of International Humanitarian Law on armed conflict.

While the fighting has endangered the life of civilians in the area, Martial Law does not alleviate this danger nor ensure the resolution of conflict and achievement of peace. Note that the National State of Emergency Due to Lawless Violence, declared after the Davao bombing, is still in place nationwide.

Martial Law adversely affects civilians as this would curtail many of their rights. Without Martial Law, the military has engaged and fought terrorist groups in Mindanao and can continue to do so as their obligation and mandate.

With Martial Law, the civil and political rights of the civilians, and their lives, are endangered more than ever. Confusion and insecurity among communities may be taken advantaged of by different armed groups, furthering the violence in Marawi, and the rest of Mindanao. Human rights abuses are bound to happen, especially under a presidency which has openly shown no respect for human rights. It could potentially endanger striking workers and other protesting activists in Mindanao.

The public has the right to be informed of the situation in Mindanao and as of the declaration of Martial Law, a lot of questions remained unanswered. Defense Secretary Lorenzana himself told media that “there is intelligence” about the situation in Marawi, but that this intel has been wrongly interpreted. If the situation in Marawi had to do with weaknesses in the execution of its job, Martial Law, and over the entire Mindanao Island, is NOT the answer to this shortcoming or failure.

The 1987 Constitution has limited the President’s powers to place the country or any part of it under martial law to two situations – invasion or rebellion – and only when the public safety requires it. Clearly, only compelling reasons must justify martial law. The current situation does not constitute sufficient factual basis for the proclamation of martial law or the potential suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

WE CALL ON THE CONGRESS TO REVOKE THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW!

Martial Law is Not the Answer!

Philstar photo

The Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) condemns the atrocious attack on the people of Marawi perpetrated by a local terrorist group. We solidly stand with them in this tragic moment. We believe, however, that the declaration of Martial Law is a heavy-handed response to the situation that even the AFP now claims is under control.

It is in this light that SENTRO condemns the declaration of Martial Law and joins the growing clamor of various social movements, civil society organizations and concerned citizens around the country, especially in Mindanao, in calling for the rescinding of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

The real possibility of a state of martial law being utilized for counter-insurgency and the suppression of civil liberties, including workers’ and trade union rights, is a well-founded fear of our people due to our two-decade experience of dictatorship. While the 1987 Constitution (under Art. 18, Sec. VII) has significantly constrained the latitude of abuse a state of martial law may entail, a pliant Congress does not inspire institutional confidence.

We are also calling on the recalibration of transparency ofinformation access regarding the unfolding crisis. While we respect the need for confidentiality and classification the AFP and PNP demands for such a sensitive operation, the humanitarian cost and the very real distress the relatives and friends of Marawi residents all over the country are experiencing also demand due diligence andresponsibility. Rescue the victims, pursue the perpetrators.

In placing Mindanao under Martial Law, the Duterte administration, ironically for a
Mindanao-based leadership, is merely repeating what other administrations have done – to treat Mindanao as a frontier to be subdued rather than governed.

Peace for Mindanao. Stop the War.

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