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Philippine Labor News & Analysis

March/Apri 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1

 

Church Leaders Visit Washington, DC; Call for Justice for Slain Church Workers and Political Prisoners

ILRF

Washington, DC -- “The Aquino government had done nothing new. The human rights situation is the same. The killings, abductions and tortures continue and justice has not been rendered. Carnage is still the flavor of the day and the climate of impunity has not waned. The US government should cease to extend whatever aid, partnership and support to a government that has not stopped to intimidate and harass its own people. It is also to the benefit of the American public to look into the Obama administration’s expansion of its military footprint in the Philippines and Asia.”

This was the message of a delegation of Filipino human rights advocates from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch to staff of US Senate and House Committees on foreign affairs and the Department of State as they visited the US capital the last week of March. The delegation include Angelina Bisuña Ipong, a former political detainee, Bishop Reuel Marigza, Secretary General of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church.

Human Rights Violations Are Still Pervasive in the Philippines

Ipong, who was the oldest woman political prisoner in the Philippines, was arrested on March 2005 but was just released on February 2011. She is the living proof of the onslaught against human rights in the Philippines. Angie is now working with an organization of former political detainees; she has learned that her ordeal was so much the same with everyone. Presently, there are still more than 350 political detainees languishing in jails all over the Philippines.

Describing her ordeal, Ipong recalled, “They barged into a meeting that I had with farmers of Western Mindanao. Burly men handcuffed and blindfolded me. Without any charges they brought me into a military camp and I was held incommunicado for twelve days. They tortured me. They physically harmed me with body blows. I was placed in a very cold room, they took off my clothes and they started to touch me in my private parts. I protested and I appealed to them by saying that they would not let their mothers and sisters experience such abuse. I went into a hunger strike and it was just right after that, that they transferred me to a regular prison jail and it was just by then that I learned that I was charged by the government of murder, frustrated murder and arson. I just can’t imagine that a 60 year old-woman who gave her life to indigenous peoples and peasant families could ever do such a thing.”

Church Leaders Continue to Be Killed for Their Human Rights Advocacy

Bishop Marigza described the continued killings of UCCP church leaders, including most recently the murder of Jimmy Liguyon, a council leader of their local church in Bukidnon, Philippines.

Liguyon, who was captain of his barangay -- the local government unit in the Philippines – and a Vice Chairperson of an Indigenous Peoples local organization from the Matigsalog tribe, was shot dead on March 5, 2012 by paramilitary groups opposing his staunch anti-large mining advocacy.

Some months ago, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME , an Italian missionary who has worked for decades with the tribes in the Arakan Valley of North Cotabato, Mindanao was also killed while inside his parish compound. “Pops” as Fr. Tentorio was fondly called by the community was a beacon of hope for the tribes in their struggles for land rights, ancestral domain and self-determination.

A staff member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations showed interest on the number of convictions. Apparently, with the Philippine government’s ineptitude and policy of indifference, there was just one conviction out of more than 1,000 cases. Former Major General Jovito Palparan, President Arroyo’s henchman is still at-large and the government has failed to bring him to justice.

Aquino Government's Military Policy Continues to Promotes a Climate of Impunity

Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church whose jurisdiction is in Northern Mindanao laments about the plight of his church members. He fears that the government’s deployments of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) will escalate further the precarious conditions in the mining areas. CAFGU's are civilian militia's armed by the military, and have a long history commiting human rights violations. CAFGU's are responsible for many of the killings of leaders and members of peasants and indigenous peoples organizations. CAFGU's are also used by local warlords as private armies. Recently, President Aquino announced plans to expand the use of CAFGU's as private security forces for mining companies.

According to the UPR Watch delegation, since Aquino came into power there have been 68 cases of extrajudicial killings and 8 cases of enforced disappearances. The victims’ profile still match those of the victims of the previous administration of Arroyo which claimed 1206 lives of church workers, youth activists, labor and peasant leaders and others who were red-baited in the government’s counter-insurgency programs. Though the Aquino government and its military have recently attempted to project an image of reform, they continue to implement a counter-insurgency program, known as Oplan Bayanihan, in the same fashion as previous President, Gloria Arroyo.

The delegation also raised concerns over the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement, as well as concerns about the United States’ expanding partnership with the Philippine military at a time when human rights violations continue with impunity. They demanded that any support of the United States should be tied down to the human rights situation in the Philippines.

In a meeting at the US Department of State, officials maintained that the US government has continued to withhold more $3 million in foreign military aid to the Philippines citing the failure of the Aquino administration to fully implement the recommendations of Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

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Unions Call for Minimum Wage Hike; Condemn Aquino Administration Wage-freeze

ILRF

There is no relief to the woes of Filipino workers as the Aquino government continues to implement a wage-freeze policy. Workers have not received any substantial increase for more than nine years during Gloria Arroyo’s presidency, Aquino’s predecessor, and it would be most likely that they will be facing the same predicament in the present. Several unions characterized the government’s stance as callous and irresponsible.

The Philippine government rejected proposals for a daily wage hike even as the real value of wages for Filipino workers has plummeted in recent years. As prices continue to skyrocket, though, the Government has continued to impose a 12% Value-Added tax on petroleum products, which has had a disproportionate impact on on poor Filipino obrero and their respective households.

Conservatively, 40% are living below the poverty line, and 4.1 million households in the island nation suffered involuntary hunger in the first quarter of 2011, with little relief in sight.

At the same time, the income gap continues to grow. The poorest 10% of Filipinos share only 2.3% of the country’s wealth while the richest 10% share over one third of such. This year, 11 Filipino billionaires were listed on Forbes Magazine annual list of billionaires, many of whom made their money through implementing, job outsourcing schemes in their business operations to ensure low wages and job insecurity.

Unions Call for Minimum Wage Hike

Philippine trade unions have called on the government to ensure that the benefits of the recovery accrue to the Filipino workers. The Kilusang Mayo Uno has stepped up its campaign for a Php125 across-the-board, nationwide, legislated daily wage increase. This prodded the Philippine House of Representatives Committee on Labor to announce that it is set to approve House Bill 375, otherwise known as the Php125 Wage Increase Bill. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), a conservative labor group, recently filed petitions for a Php75-Php100 ($1.79 - $2.38) increase in daily wages to three regional wage boards: National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog.

Labor leader and KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said that they will intensify their call for the Philippine House of Representatives to approve the P125 wage hike, and members of the House have pitched in their support. Several months ago, boxing great and Saranggani Representative Manny Pacquiao sat down in a press conference with KMU leaders and was quoted as saying that big businesses have long been deceiving the people and the workers deserve a salary hike.

KMU has called on TUCP to unite on the workers’ wage demands despite the differences in their approaches. The call for unity enjoys widespread support as a recent Pulse Asia survey showed that 54% of Filipinos thinks that the government should raise wages. TUCP has been actively petitioning the wage boards which KMU views as a legal mechanism of big business in dampening workers’ unity by segregating them into regional barriers.

KMU has long maintained that there is no significant difference on the cost of living among the regions. It should be noted that the living conditions in the National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon are almost the same. There is also not much of a difference between the capital Manila and Cebu or Davao.

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Workers Band Together; Form Largest Trade Union Coalition Since 1989

SENTRO, Press Release

Trade Unions Join Forces to Fight for Wages and Secure Jobs

As the labor movement gears up for their actions towards May 1 in celebration of the International Labor Day, a new labor center was formed with membership of at least 80,000 workers covering major industries and sectors nationwide.

Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) was launched today in a press conference as they declared April 16 (Monday) as a National Day of Protest with simultaneous rallies to be held in Quezon City, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Welcome Rotonda and Mendiola in the National Capital Region. Regional actions will also be conducted in Cebu, Davao, General Santos City, Cotabato City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Coming at a time when trade unions are weakened by internecine fights, contractualization and the repressive labor environment, the formation of SENTRO is a breakthrough labor center that promises to help rejuvenate the labor movement through industry and sectoral unionism and by consciously working for broader unities.

“This is the first time that a labor center is formed covering the different industry unions from the hotel and restaurant industry, beverage, metal workers, automotive industry, broadcast media network, transport, energy, postal, banking and the public sector. It also includes national sectoral groups in the informal sector and urban poor, youth and women,” said Daniel L. Edralin, chair of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL).

According to group’s Declaration of Unity, neo-liberal capitalism has died many deaths around the globe but continues to exploit the workers because the labor movement is weak and fragmented.

“We bear the brunt of the failure of this neo-liberal globalization. Trying to keep itself afloat, this flawed economic system veered towards even more virulent cruelty and blatant forms of exploitation – contractual employment, decreasing real wages and increasing costs of utilities and public services as a result of privatization and deregulation,” said Frank Mero, president of the Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA).

The industry and sectoral unions vowed to reverse the “reign of blood-sucking terror of a failed system that sustains the concentration of wealth and political power amongst the elite of big business, both foreign and local, and their political henchmen.”

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Flight Attendants for Philippine Airlines Victims of Travesty of Justice

Philippine Airlines Employees Association, Press Release

March 22, 2012

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) called the decision of the Supreme Court to affirm the reopening of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association (FASAP) case as a “travesty of justice.” “Only in the Philippines can a case that had already been ruled with finality twice by the highest court of the land still be reviewed once more on its merits. Indeed justice delayed is justice denied for 1,400 our sister and brother flight attendants,”asserted Gerry Rivera, PALEA president.

He added that “FASAP’s case is relevant is PALEA’s fight since if the retrenchment of cabin crew in 1998 at a time when Philippine Airlines was bankrupt is illegal then so much more is the layoff of 2,400 ground staff after the flag carrier posted PhP 3 billion in profit for its previous fiscal year.”

Meanwhile Renato Magtubo, chairperson of the Partido ng Manggagawa, declared that “The timing of the release of the Supreme Court resolution clearing Chief Justice Renato Corona is perfectly timed for the defense presentation in the impeachment case. It leaves everyone thinking that it is part of the impeachment defense of Corona.”

Magtubo said that the plight of FASAP and PALEA reveals the failure of the labor justice system in the country. “It is not just with the Supreme Court but even more with the graft ridden National Labor Relations Commission, National Mediation and Conciliation Board and Department of Labor and Employment that workers lose to the power of money of abusive capitalists,” he added.

“Workers demand reforms beyond the prosecution of Gloria and the impeachment of Corona. For workers at least get a taste of fair share of justice, the NLRC, NCMB and DOLE must be cleansed, and the policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization that have led to thousands of closures and layoffs, and collapse of industry and agriculture must be rolled back,” Magtubo explained.

PM announced that the May Day campaign will start early with a “Kalbaryo ng Manggagawa at Maralita” on the first week of April that will highlight the issues of low wages, high prices, mass unemployment, contractual jobs and urban poor demolitions.

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KMU Legal Counsel Hails 3rd Dismissal of Charges Vs. St 72

Kilusang Mayo Uno, Press Release

For the third time in three years, the “multiple murder” and “multiple frustrated murder” charges against 72 workers and activists in the Southern Tagalog region, who are also known as the ST 72, were dismissed by the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office in San Pablo City, Laguna in a resolution received by the respondents last week.

Atty. Remigio Saladero, Jr., chief legal counsel of militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, expressed elation over the dismissal of the charges, saying “Now we can focus our time and effort fully on our respective advocacies, free from distractions caused by the trumped-up charges filed against us.”

The charges arose after a military deep penetration agent Vincent Silva surfaced in 2008 and named 72 persons, many of whom are well-known activists in Southern Tagalog, as responsible for an ambush conducted by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members in Sitio Minolo, San Isidro, Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental last 2006 where two policemen and a CAFGU personnel were killed and several others were wounded.

Seven of the respondents were arrested and detained at the provincial jail in Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental including Atty. Saladero.

“The Regional Trial Court of Calapan first dismissed the charges on Feb. 5, 2009 since the charges of murder and frustrated murder were contained in one information, a situation prohibited by the rules. The detained respondents were released but one month after, Vincent Silva executed another affidavit and the cases were refiled. The cases were assigned to the Office of the Regional Prosecutor of Region 4 in San Pablo City in 2011, after the city prosecutor of Calapan inhibited herself from handling the charges,” Saladero said.

Chareges Dropped when Only Witness Couldn't Positively Identify Respondents

Deputy Regional State Prosecutor Elnora Lambro-Nombrado, who penned the Feb. 13, 2012 Resolution dismissing the case, decided to throw out the charges for insuffiency of evidence and lack of probable cause. She wondered why Vincent Silva failed to positively identify the respondents when they were presented before him.

“This third dismissal of our case due to lack of evidence proves that these charges are fabricated and our names were dropped simply to harass and intimidate us from performing our duties in the labor and people’s movement,” Saladero said.

He expressed sadness, however, that three of his co-respondents – namely, Rogelio Galit, a peasant organizer in Cavite; Nestor San Jose, a transport leader in Teresa, Rizal; and Romeo Aguilar, an urban poor organizer in Antipolo City – had already died when the Resolution acquitting them was issued.

“The case of the ST 72 illustrates the weakness of our judicial system, starting from the filing of the trumped-up cases against us, to the unreasonable length of time that elapsed before the preliminary investigation was finally terminated, thereby becoming part of the harassment against us,” said the KMU lawyer.

“The Aquino administration must end its policy of political repression against labor and people’s organizations and instead heed their legitimate demands for genuine change and democracy in the country,” Saladero ended.

Reference: Atty. Remigio Saladero, Jr., KMU chief legal counsel, 0918-5435609

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Filipino Solon Raises Concern on Child Labor

ILRF

A member of the Philippine Senate called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)to step up efforts to eliminate child labor in the country. Senator Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano took note of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) data which says that the Philippines has around 2.4 million children who are mostly working in precarious and unhealthy conditions.

Agence-France Press reported on October 2011 that the Philippines together with India and Bangladesh lead the in the number of products made by child laborers.

Senator Cayetano lamented that despite the Philippines being a signatory to various ILO conventions with regards to the elimination and prevention of child-labor, the country still has an astounding number of child laborers. The ILO noted that intense poverty and lack of access to education, drives Filipino children into the worst forms of child labor.

The Philippine DOLE Secretary claimed that they have intensified the campaign against child-labor. They have targeted 80 communities to be child-labor free at the end of the year.

Recently, United Stated Department of Labor provided more $4.75 million to assist the Philippine Government in its fights against child labor for a program called “Towards a Child Labour-Free Philippines: Supporting the ‘Philippine Program Against Child labour’ in Building on Past Gains and Addressing Challenges.”

The Kilusang Mayo Uno trade union noted that child labor is the result of the abject poverty of working families, who have little option but to send their kids into labor or face hunger and malnutrition, as well as scarcity of jobs.
Hunger incidence in the Philippines remains high, with more than 4 million households suffering from involuntary hunger in the past year.

In the face of this overwhelming poverty, the Aquino government said has optimistically announced that it will end child labor this year.###

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