Category Archives: Human Rights

ISDS Reforms Shove Human Rights Under Corporate Red Carpet

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For immediate release

11 September 2018, Incheon, South Korea: Trade union, women’s and environmental organisations from across the Asian region came to Incheon, South Korea this week for a regional meeting of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

“We expected to discuss real reforms to a fundamentally flawed international arbitration system that gives investors the right to sue governments, not in national courts, but in secretive offshore tribunals. This so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism is a one-way street where only corporations can sue. It is time to question the need for a system where states become liable for multi-billion dollar judgments for pursuing their obligation to safeguard the people and the environment. Systemic change is required, which means abolition of ISDS, not mere adjustments on procedural matters,” said Tony Salvador from SENTRO and Trade Justice Filipinas.

Massive awards of hundreds of millions, or even a billion dollars, drain taxpayer funds away from developing countries that need them to provide essential services to and fulfil basic need of their people. In the Cemex case, the Indonesian government paid USD 337 million to settle the case, which is equivalent to the yearly salary of more than 38,000 teachers.

“Statistics from the ‘experts’ were shocking. Even where governments win in this biased system and the foreign investor is ordered to pay their costs, they can’t recover these awards in 37% of cases. The investor may be a shell company that has no assets. The investor might be backed by a ‘third party funder’ (speculator) who can profit if the government is ordered to pay massive damages, but can’t be required to pay the costs if the case is lost,” said Jammu Anand from the international federation of trade unions Public Services International (PSI) in India.

The sub-text that was barely mentioned was the European Union’s proposal for a Multilateral Investment Court that would leave all the pro-investor rules of these agreements intact and empower unaccountable international tribunals to decide the validity of domestic policy and laws and override domestic courts.

“The international investment treaty regime is in crisis because its pro-investor bias threatens states’ sovereign right to regulate in the national interest. Developing countries have terminated treaties, withdrawn for the World Bank-run investment dispute system, and developed alternatives. Countries from the region that have questioned this system chose not to come. We missed the sharing of their experiences and attempts to address the fundamental failure of the system,” said Prof Jane Kelsey from Auckland University, New Zealand.

“There were a lot of discussion on how coherence and consistency is needed in order to ensure the protection of investors interests. Yet there is no consistency and coherence of international trade laws and UNCITRAL’s mandate with the broader United Nations’ principles of peace, justice and human rights as stated in the UN Charter and various other international human rights treaties and conventions. There was no reference to the critiques of ISDS from UN rapporteurs on democracy and indigenous rights, or the states’ environment obligations,” said Misun Woo, from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, a regional women’s rights organization based in Thailand.

The meeting was branded an Asian regional meeting. But the majority of delegations were from Europe, the international institutions and arbitration industry. Less than half the countries represented were Asian. “We were left in no doubt who is driving UNCITRAL’s false “reform” agenda. The answer is the rich countries, the foreign corporations and the arbitration industry who need to rescue their gravy train,” said Shoko Uchida, from Pacific Asia Resource Center in Japan.

“We call on our governments to represent the interests of the people of the region and tell UNCITRAL to either address the real reasons why ISDS is fundamentally flawed or to abandon its ‘reform’ agenda that is designed to reinforce and re-legitimise a self-serving investment dispute system,” concluded Heesob Nam from Trade & Democracy Institute in South Korea.

Additional Information:

  1. Read Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe’s briefer “Ten reasons why the EU’s proposal for a Multilateral Investment Court doesn’t fix a fundamentally flawed system”,November 2017

  2. Read Transnational Institute’s research “Profiting from injustice: How law firms, arbitrators and financiers are fuelling an investment arbitration boom”, November 2012.

  3. Korean version of the press release attached

For more information, contact:

Basic sectors to Duterte: Arestuhin ang presyo!

Bringing the prices down to affordable level is what the masses need under this regime of high inflation. It is therefore the surge in prices and the risks of economic downturn that must be contained immediately by President Duterte, not the freedom of his critics.

Arestuhin ang presyo, hindi ang mga kalaban mo, Mr. President. Sending Sen. Trillanes back to jail on flimsy grounds won’t benefit the people. It can only satisfy Duterte’s desire to eliminate his political opponents, not the people’s demand to be freed from economic crisis.

Ekonomiya ang problema ng bansa ngayon, hindi ang banta ng kudeta noon. Inflation hits more than 6% in August, the highest since 2009. The peso slid to 13-year low yesterday. Investments and the stock market are down. Quality jobs are getting scarce as underemployment is on the rise. Endo won’t stop while wages remain at starvation levels. Overall optimism on the economy is down.

All these point to the mismanagement of the economy and mishandling of priorities. The government rolled out the TRAIN to fund Duterte’s deadly war on drugs and the build,build, build (BBB) projects. The people, therefore, are the ones doing the sacrifice for this kind of mismanagement and misplaced priorities.

Yet the President is wasting his time, money and energy in unproductive search-and-destroy operations against his political enemies, creating in effect the notion that he is only on top of his personal agenda and not of the overall conduct of the economy because if he is, he can opt to stop his TRAIN to bring down prices, go after cartels to discipline the market, and arrest endo lords and mining lords who refuse to follow new policies and rules.

It is not the critics and political opposition who are pulling this country down. It is neither, Trillanes , Delima, Sereno, nor the protesting workers who are pushing the prices up or pulling the peso and investments down. It is clearly the President himself and his economic managers.

Arestuhin ang presyo! The basic sectors need immediate relief, not a continuing threat of a budding dictatorship.

Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa
07 September 2018

Nagkaisa! condemns violence against workers across the country

Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition is deeply concerned over the spate of violence that befell workers in separate incidents across the country.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible, the attempted murder of a trade union leader in Cebu City and the violent dispersal of striking workers of food giant NutriAsia and their supporters, in Marilao, Bulacan,” Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa! said.

The display of violence happened a few hours apart yesterday.

“There was an apparent attempt on the life of Jessielou Cadungog, labor leader of ALU-TUCP, vice chairman of the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) and it involved the police,” Matula said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cebu are owning up to the incident as a legitimate police operation.

Meanwhile, in Marilao, Bulacan, the picket of protesting workers and their supporters was violently dispersed by operatives of PNP Bulacan and security personnel of giant food manufacturer NutriAsia.

“A peaceful concerted action demanding the recognition of rights of workers such as what was being done by workers of NutriAsia, should never ever merit any and all kinds of violence, especially those perpetrated by the police and private security personnel,” Matula said.

Based on workers’ accounts, some 100 security forces, including 30 police officers violently dispersed the picket line as protesters were holding a religious ecumenical service.

At least 19 were arrested and scores arrested as many of the protesters scrambled for safety amid the chaos.

Back in Cebu, the gunman who was killed in the encounter by Cadungog’s aide was identified as PO2 Eugene Alcain Calumba. The accomplice who was taken into custody by the PNP was Michael Banua.

“Now, the PNP is trying to portray the assassination attempt on Mr. Cadungog as a legitimate police operation identifying him as a ‘person-of-interest’ involved in shabu,” Michael Mendoza, president of ALU-TUCP, a Nagkaisa member said.

“We stand by Mr. Cadungog and condemn this sordid attempt to justify and cover-up for what is clear police involvement,” said Mendoza.

Meanwhile, police in Bulacan are claiming that some of the arrested protesters had guns and drugs with them.

“It is becoming a sad refrain. The campaign against drugs is being used by the police as a flimsy excuse to either justify the use of violence or use it as an escape goat, when harassing workers and citizens who are exercising their legitimate trade union and human rights,” Matula said.

“We are calling on the authorities to conduct a thorough and objective investigation of the twin incidents of violence against workers that occurred yesterday. The police officers and their superiors who will be proven to have done wrongdoing should be made accountable. The culture of impunity must stop,” Matula said.

Kalipunan condemns the issuance of arrest warrants against former lawmakers

Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa (KALIPUNAN) —a coalition of labor, urban poor, peasant, women, human rights and environmental defenders’ organizations—condemns the issuance of arrest warrants for murder charges against former lawmakers Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino, Liza Maza (current secretary of the National Anti-Poverty Commission), and Rafael Mariano (former agrarian reform secretary of President Duterte).

The murder charges were filed 12 years ago in 2006 against the four Bayan Muna party list representatives on the basis of their alleged leadership roles in the New People’s Army in the 1960s. Recently, a regional trial court in Nueva Ecija has suddenly found probable cause for releasing the arrest warrants. Clearly, this old, baseless charge, and now the arrest warrants are forms of harassment. On the heels of the ascent to House Speakership of Pampanga Representative and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the public can’t help but ask and think about the powerful interests at work in the Duterte government. President Rodrigo Duterte himself, despite his popular rhetorics, has time and again exposed that he represents oligarchic interests.

If this kind of repressive action is not stopped immediately, it can lead to the creation of new trumped up charges, or old cases can be resurrected, against activists and critics of the Duterte government, including its powerful allies and supporters such as the Marcoses and Macapagal-Arroyo. Kalipunan, thus, calls on other peoples’ organizations to join ranks in resisting such acts before the government further bares its authoritarian and fascist agenda.


Photo by: Joshua Noguit/Sentro

Hindi na dapat ipagdiwang ng rehimeng Duterte ang Araw ng Kalayaan. Wala itong karapatang mag-alay ng bulaklak sa paanan ng estatuwa ni Rizal na siyang laging seremonya ng mga pamahalaan tuwing ika-12 ng Hunyo. Higit pang naging hungkag ang selebrasyong ito sa ilalim ni Duterte, na sa katotohanan ay matagal nang ritwal na lamang na nagtatakip sa hindi magagandang pangyayari sa ating kasaysayan—mga pangyayaring dapat magbunsod sa atin na magtanong kung totoo nga bang may kalayaan at soberenya simula pa sa sinasabing pagtaas ni Aguinaldo ng bandila sa Kawit.

Hindi katanggap-tanggap sa mga kababaihang Filipino na magpugay si Duterte sa Inang Bayan. Hindi ang pangulong ito na nambabastos, nang-iinsulto, nagpapababa sa katayuan ng mga kababaihan dahil ginagawa niyang biro ang panggagahasa, ang pandarahas sa mga babae, ang pagbaril sa aming mga puki, sa pagpapatindi ng tingin sa mga babae bilang mga sexual objects na tagabigay ng aliw sa kanya at sa mga kalalakihan.

Hindi! Hindi ang pangulong ito at ang mga miyembro ng kanyang pamahalaan na nagtataguyod ng kultura ng pagkamuhi, pandarahas, pang-aapi sa kababaihan; isang kulturang patriyarkal na matingkad kahit mismo sa hanay ng mga babae at matagal nang binabaka ng mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatan ng kababaihan.

Hindi! Hindi ang pangulong ito na nagdulot ng matinding kahirapan sa mga kababaihan sa Mindanao dahil sa kanyang batas militar; na naging dahilan ng pagkabalo ng mga kababaihan at pagkaulila ng maraming mga bata sa mahihirap na pamayanan dahil sa kanyang giyera laban sa droga samantalang inililigtas ang mga sindikato na nagpapakalat mismo ng droga; na tumalikod sa kanyang pangako sa mga manggagawa na ititigil ang kontraktwalisasyon; na nagpatupad ng isang batas sa buwis na higit pang nagsasadlak sa babae sa matinding kahirapan; na patuloy na hinahayaan ang walang habas na land use conversion sa kabila ng pangakong moratorium; na planong tanggalin ang buong probisyon ng katarungang panlipunan at karapatang pantao sa Konstitusyon at ang restriksyon sa pag-aari sa lupa at mahahalagang sektor ng ekonomiya para sa malayang pamumuhunan ng mga dayuhang negosyante.

Hindi ang rehimeng ito na tinatalikuran ang maliliit na mangingisdang Filipino; na nagtraydor sa bayan kapalit ng mga ganansiya mula sa Tsina at Estados Unidos.

Hungkag ang kalayaan at soberenya hanggang ang kababaihan at mayorya ng mga anak ng Inang Bayan ay dumaranas ng pang-ekonomiyang kahirapan, pinapatay nang walang pakundangan, pinagtataksilan upang itaguyod ang interes ng makakapangyarihan.

Babae kami. Nasa hanay ng mga manggagawa, maralita, magsasaka, katutubo, mga progresibong propesyunal, mga mulat na kabataan, mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao at kalikasan. Ang laban ng mga batayang sektor ay laban ng kababaihan. Ang laban ng kababaihan ay laban ng mamamayan. Ang labang ito ay para kay Inang Bayan!

Filipino workers among the most at risk anywhere in the world – SENTRO

Despite assurances of protection from local and national laws, including international agreements, Filipino workers are living the most perilous time in their own country and in almost all other countries they are working as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said over the weekend.

In its annual global report released last week, the International Trade Union Confederation has placed the Philippines and the majority of countries where OFWs are eking their living, under category five, which is a rating for the worst countries in the world to work in.

The report said that, “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.”

“What is notable in this report is that the Philippines is included in a long list of countries whose current regimes do not actively respect workers’ rights. Hence, despite the existence of national law and being signatories to international laws on labor, the workers’ safety and protection of their rights are not guaranteed,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro.

According to Mata, these include Bahrain, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates which are all major destinations for OFWs, “which means Filipino workers are really screwed up in and outside of their country.”

“The problem is, our own government do have the moral ascendancy to demand rights for our workers abroad when the Philippine government itself can’t protect its own citizens,” Mata explained. “It can’t even guarantee the fundamental rights of its own workers in its home country,” Mata added.

Another notable aspect of the report is that it included the Philippines as one of the top 10 worst countries in the world for the workers, saying “in a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines faced threats and intimidation.”

SENTRO suffered the first trade union killing under the administration of Mr. Duterte when Lando Abangan, a trade union and community organizer, was gunned down in Naga, Cebu, last 17 September 2016. Several other trade union and peasant leaders have been killed since then.

The greatest challenge Filipino workers are facing explained Mata, “is the destruction of the collective bargaining capacities of unions through violent reprisals against workers union-building capacities and the weakening of the labor movement in general by not regularizing the workers thus preventing the workers from joining labor movement.”

So long as trade union killings remain unresolved, so long as employers can abuse contractualization, the violent repression of workers’ rights in the country will continue with impunity.

“Mr. Duterte should now realize the folly of listening to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) when he issued EO 51. Rather than realize his campaign promise to end contractualization, the issuance only further legitimized the problem,” Mata said. “This will ensure that the Philippines will maintain next year its notorious distinction as one of the top ten worst countries for workers to work in,” Mata also added.

Southern Luzon network of civil society groups launch Manlaban Ka

File photo

A Southern Luzon-wide network of civil society organizations working for the promotion and protection of human rights was launched in Cavite.

Some 300 representatives of basic sectors from labor, urban poor, farmers, fisher folks, women, youth, transport workers, church and anti mining advocates, gathered Wednesday at the historic Casa Hacienda popularly known as the Tejeros Convention Center in Rosario Cavite, to launch the Mamamayang Nagkakaisa sa Laban ng Bayan para sa Karapatan or Manlaban Ka.

Made part of the launching program is a forum on charter change and human rights with constitutionalist Christian Monsod and former Representative Erin Tañada as guest speakers. Representatives of the CHR also graced the occasion.

The formal launching of Manlaban Ka ended up with the ratification of the group’s Unity Statement and a brief discussion on the network’s ways forward such as conducting grassroots education, database building on cases of HRVs, operational structures and ways forward. (see attached unity statement)

The formal launching was followed by a march of the participants to the Cavite economic zone in support of the strikebound workers of Dong Seung, a garments factory. During the past several months, a series of labor disputes around the freedom of association and working conditions have rocked the Cavite ecozone, the country’s biggest publicly-managed zone.

Ecozones particularly in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna and Batangas employ tens of thousands of workers. Regrettably it is also in these economic havens of foreign investors in the country where rampant violations of human and labor rights go unchecked and the violators go unpunished.

The launching of Manlaban Ka is the final outcome of a five-month process of consultations and focus group discussions among the basic sectors and civil society organizations working for the promotion and defence of human rights in the Southen Luzon region. This partnership building initiatives among the CSOs is in cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) under its Governance in Justice or Go Just program.

The Southern Luzon process was facilitated by Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa, with Partido Manggagawa (PM) and Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) as lead organizations.

Prior to this launching, consultation meetings were held in Calamba City last April 7-9, 2018 where participants discussed the state of human rights in their respective areas and sectors. Resource speakers were invited in this process to give inputs on the many aspects and forms of human rights issues, including the many cases of extrajudicial killings in the southern Luzon region due to the ongoing war on drugs as well as violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of our workers, farmers, urban poor, women; and the destruction of many communities due to mining and land-grabbing activities.

Representatives from Bicol, Mimaropa, and the Calabarzon areas have actively participated in the previous process leading to their decision to form this loose but highly coordinative network of organizations willing to work together for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Part of Manlaban Ka Unity Statement declared:

“NANININDIGAN ang MANLABAN KA na ang mga karapatang pantao at demokrasya kung saan maraming aspeto nito ay hindi pa namin ganap na natatamasa, ay nararapat lamang na ipagtanggol at ipaglaban sa halip na isuko sa harap ng sinumang kapangyarihan na may hayagan at tagong layunin na ito’y pahinain o kaya ay ganap na patayin.

KUNG GAYUN, at mula sa mga batayang nabanggit, kami’y nangangahas at ngayon ay ipinapaalam sa lahat, na kaming mga sektor at indibidwal na nabibilang sa koalisyong ito, ay nakahanda nang MANLABAN sa ibat-ibang paraan katulad ng pagmumulat, pag-oorganisa, pagpapalawak at mga direktang pagkilos para ipagtanggol ang karapatan at demokrasya ng buong sambayanan.”

Manlaban Ka

SENTRO Solidarity Statement for the Release of Han Sang-gyun

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) send its heartfelt congratulations to Brother Han Sang-gyun, former President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), for his release from prison last May 21. Together with KCTU we stand proud and happy regarding this positive development—a clear moral and political victory for the solidarity of the working classes.

Brother Han’s imprisonment is just one of the many violations and intimidations employed against the working peoples of the world when they stand up for their rights. Accused of leading “violent action”, Brother Han’s only action was to lead the organizing for the mass mobilization of 130,000 people against the now-deposed government of Park Geun-hye in November 2015. The release of Brother Han is a vindication—one not written by the courts and government of South Korea, but by history, one that will look favorably on him for sparking the light of freedom in South Korea since 2016.

That said, we acknowledge that the fight is not yet over. Brother Han’s fellow KCTU officer, Secretary General Lee Young-Joo, remains in prison. Many other political prisoners of the Park years remain languishing in their holding rooms. Despite the ascension of left-leaning President Moon Jae-In under the mandate of representing the Candlelight Revolution, the continued imprisonment of Sister Lee and other like her would continue to put the lie on the promise of change.

We in the Philippines share South Korea’s joy in their current exercise of reforming society through democratic revolution and representation. At the same time, our country’s history of reversals, witness how our own EDSA Revolutions eventually ended up with the fascist regime of Rodrigo Duterte, may serve as a warning. Indeed, popular democracy will always be a work in progress. And the working peoples of the world can only continuously rely on themselves and those willing to dream an equal and equitable world. Only by vigilance, dignified dissent and an educated people may the fruits of liberation be protected.

So we in SENTRO and the working peoples of the Philippines, while celebrating Brother Han’s release, also join in your on-going calls:

Free Lee Young-Joo!
Free all trade unionists and prisoners of conscience!
Organize! Fight! Win!

SENTRO Statement for International Labor Day 2018

“Panahon na ng paniningil.”

Two years after his election, Rodrigo Duterte continues to demonstrate his inability to deliver the promises of change and progress he sold to the Filipino people. The list of his transgressions against the working class is growing: failure to end contractualization, wanton loss of lives thru the war on drugs, more tax burdens via to TRAIN, high prices as inflation rise to new heights, low wages and wholesale destruction of jobs from PUJ phase out, the closure of Boracay and now the possible forced repatriation of 260,000 migrant Filipino workers from Kuwait.

It is time to hold Mr. Duterte to account! It is time to express our indignation and reiterate our demands!

Today, workers under the banner of SENTRO will pour out into the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao and General Santos to join the nationwide indignation rallies led by NAGKAISA and KMU.

It would be a remiss not to highlight that organized labor’s attempts at public and constructive engagement with the Duterte regime was met with disappointment at nearly every step of the way. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has already disillusioned us when Labor Secretary Bello issued Department Order No. 174 which legitimized labor contracting even more. Since then, SENTRO, together with NAGKAISA and KMU have been negotiating the issuance of an executive order (E.O.) that would correct DO 174 and realign DOLE policies as well as ‘guide’ the Legislative Branch towards amending the Labor Code to make direct hiring as the norm.

Acknowledging the need for reciprocity, the workers’ draft E.O. has moved “from total prohibition of contractualization to a framework of prohibition of contractualization that would allow certain exemptions for contracting out of work, but subject to the decision of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council”. And yet, despite promises to review the draft since February 2018, nothing has been settled to this very day—while Secretary Bello, President Duterte himself and their mouthpieces continue to paint the working peoples’ organizations as “selfish hardliners.” Clearly, the Duterte regime is negotiating with organized labor in bad faith.

SENTRO, together with the whole of NAGKAISA, is unequivocal in this: never in the history of employment relationship in the country has workers enjoying regular employment and implementation of strict rules in labor contracting been detrimental to the economy and job generation.

The only consolation we have, right now, is that House Bill No. 6908, the Security of Tenure Bill, was finally passed at the House of Representatives — the farthest it has reached since the post-EDSA period.

And yet, Filipino society still have very little to take comfort with. The past year has been a continuous string of disappointments and embarrassments not even the worst of our previous presidents will be caught doing red-handed. This has not only compromised the standing of the Philippine government as an institution, it is also starting to diminish the country’s standing as a member of the international community.

SENTRO is gravely concerned over the continuous creeping of authoritarianism in nearly all aspects of our country’s political life. Any semblance of “separation and balance of powers” as designed by the 1987 Constitution has been steadily eroded—with the persistence of a “rubber-stamp” Congress under the leadership of Pantaleon Alvarez and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. The unconstitutional ouster attempt against Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is clearly aided and abetted by her own fellow Associate Justices—not out of visible judicial independence, but clear marching orders from Malacañang. This is once again eroding the credibility of the highest court in the land, something that it has already tried to claw out of the past five years.

Our basic constitutional rights to freedom of organization, freedom of expression and freedom of information are also denied and quashed without a second thought. The harassment of long-standing mass media institutions such as ABS-CBN, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and even independent journalist outfits like Rappler continue unabated and unquestioned. Not only is the Duterte regime not willing to respect the social mandate of the Fourth Estate—it even dares to fabricate its own subservient propaganda machine to an extent not even dreamt of during the Marcos years.

No civil society organization, independent government body or religious organization, as long as they dare to oppose the Duterte regime, is safe. The continued harassment and killing of labor sector, agrarian reform and indigenous tribal leaders, the indignities pilloried against the Commission on Human Rights and the investigations of the International Criminal Court, the deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, and the assassination of Fr. Mark Ventura of Cagayan are likely only to be the first of many more crimes against the people that the Duterte regime will visit upon us.

And yet, even these pale in comparison with the high cost of human life the carelessness of the Duterte administration has wrought over the past two years. The human casualty of his bogus War on Drugs continues to balloon to the twenty thousands. It remains a bona-fide war on the poor, the helpless and those denied due process. The ruins and bakwits of Marawi continue as a mute-yet-loud testament to the failure not only of the leadership of our armed forces to resolve the threat of terrorism and extremism efficiently, but also the dismantling and disillusion of hope for recapturing peace in Mindanao. All of this, under the first Mindanaoan president.

All of our problems have only grown, with their toll becoming only more real and inhuman by the day. It would require not only the efficiency and empathy of our own government, but also the help and good-will of our international neighbors and trade partners. Yet under Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine state has only built walls, killed without second thought, and destroyed the lives of our countrymen. It embraced not the international community of solidarity, dignity, and freedom, but the Axis of conquest, dominion, authoritarianism and lies, emblematized by imperialist China, the United States, North Korea and Russia.

SENTRO, together with other organizations of the working peoples all over the country, as well as the rest of our country men tired with the bogus and failed promises of a small-town bully, reiterate what we said last year. Workers’ and trade union rights cannot genuinely exist if human and democratic rights are compromised and thrown to the gutter.

As such, SENTRO will march today to demand that Mr. Duterte live up to his promise to end contractualization by issuing labor’s version of the E.O. and certify as urgent a security of tenure bill that would make direct hiring as the norm.

Today we march for human rights – political, economic and socio-cultural! We demand an end to extra judicial killings; a just transition program for all those affected by the phase out of PUJs and the closure of Boracay Island; and, a comprehensive reintegration program for all migrant workers. We demand the strict implementation of “no relocation, no demolition” policy and the prioritization of People’s Plans to resolve the housing crisis. We demand an end to misogyny and the advancement of the protection of women’s rights and welfare, including the passage of the Extended Maternity Leave.

Today, we march as one – a unified labor movement!

Women’s Groups Decry Violence as Women’s Month Opens

On the second day of women’s month, women leaders expressed their opposition to the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte, including Charter Change, which they say aggravate violence against women.

“The killings on account of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign continue and will likely increase if his term is extended when the Charter is changed,” stated Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) and Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women (WMW). Enriquez expressed the group’s vehement opposition to Charter Change or ChaCha as the administration party’s proposals reflect the erosion of the Bill of Rights and Social Justice provisions of the 1987 Constitution. “We are currently helping 118 widows, mothers and orphans left defenseless by the government’s war on the poor, but they will rise,” said Enriquez.

Jelen C. Paclarin, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau stated that: “the Duterte administration has repeatedly disrespected the 1987 Constitution and Magna Carta of Women with his anti-women remarks which are always passed off as “jokes”. These actions only show his deep-seated misogyny that further contributes to the normalization of sexual violence against women and girls. Access to justice has become even more problematic and challenging for women victims of sexual violence especially now that the judicial institutions that are supposed to protect the people and ensure legal remedies for women are also being threatened by this administration. This government has continued to disregard the rule of law and allows blatant discrimination against women without any State sanction.”

Paclarin further added that “no one deserves to be violated and discriminated. We deserve no less!”

The statement is then followed by Lisa Garcia, Executive Director of Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), “misogyny is also about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance. This anti-women culture is very evident in our society wherein women who dare to be vocal are made fun of and insulted by people, and their opinions are disregarded by the President himself as he reduces them to mere body parts. Women are attacked with gender slurs, hateful and vitriolic comments, and even threats of rape as a tactic to intimidate and force them into silence. This culture of misogyny creates a chilling effect on every woman’s freedom of expression.”

Judy Pasimio, National Coordinator of LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), stated that the stature of Senator Leila de Lima as senator did not spare her from the vicious and malicious attacks by the President and his men, and has been imprisioned for standing up for the truth and human rights. “Imagine how vulnerable the indigenous women feel right now as they fight for their lands and their rights?” She added that, “out there in their communities, they face armed groups and big corporations forcing them off their ancestral domains for the minerals and natural resources in there.” She lamented that as indigenous women resist, they are branded as “militants or communist-sympathizers – labels which seek to justify harassments, threats and killings of their leaders.”

“With Duterte saying he himself will pick out mining and plantation companies to enter the ancestral domains, this runs parallel to the effort to remove protection of our environment in the Charter Change and we are afraid that violence will intensify among indigenous communities, who continue to resist land-grabbing by corporations, and wholesale theft of their resources,” added Pasimio.

According to Nice Coronacion, Deputy Secretary General of the labor group SENTRO, “for years, workers have been demanding a shift from taxing consumption (a regressive tax system) to one that is based on income (progressive taxation).” She said that “unfortunately, Duterte’s TRAIN, as it is currently crafted, is taking the wrong way.” Coronacion stated that they welcome the lower tax on personal income but rejects regressive impact of excise taxes.

“The workers’ gain in Personal Income Tax (PIT) will be offset in a regressive manner by the imposition of excise taxes on fuel products and the lifting of VAT exemptions in the sale of specific goods and services,” said Coronacion.

“Meanwhile, feminization of labor is increasing and women are in the vulnerable situation in the world of work, particularly contractualization,” added Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa. “It should be highlighted that since most of them experienced the 5-5-5 scheme or ENDO, most of them are already tax-exempted but will bear the cost of increasing prices of basic goods and services.” The labor groups asked, “Is having TRAIN worth it if you are part of the working poor? Even if part of the law is giving subsidies to the poor. Now, we have a more delicate issue: What happens with the poor once the subsidies are stopped 2-3 years from now? And even today, it’s not yet implemented.”

“So the key issues of the working women and of the working people have not been addressed. Yet, we are having an on-going debate to amend the constitution to give way for a new form of government that does not even guarantee inclusive development. Studies have shown that there is no correlation between a federal form of government and inclusive development,” said Coronacion.

To this day, proponents of federalism continue to argue that transitioning to a federal structure guarantees more economic activity. With research done by academics and policy advocates in the Philippines and abroad—and for that matter, even our own in-house researchers in the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) and SENTRO—we have found no clear correlation or guarantee whatsoever. The form of government has never guaranteed an automatic shift into equitable economic development. If any, they have only affirmed that government form shifts only normally tend to strengthen already-existing institutional features. “If the nature of Philippine institutions already foster anti-development, are we really planning on strengthening those inequalities at the expense of selling us a promise of change,” said the women leaders.

The group invited the public to their action on March 8, International Women’s Day, which will begin at 8AM in front of the University of Sto. Tomas in España. They will march to Plaza Miranda and hand flowers to survivors of EJKs, and will hold a program. Their main themes are “Kabuhayan, Katarungan, Kapangyarihan sa Kababaihan,” and “Rise, Resist, and Reclaim (our rights, our bodies and territories).”