TRADE UNIONISTS LABELLED ‘FACTORY TERRORISTS’ – in the Philippines

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Trade unions have been labelled ‘factory terrorists’ by the regime of Gloria Macapagaal Arroyo in the Philippines.

Picket lines are being attacked and troops have been placed in workers’ communities to maintain ‘peace and order’, it was alleged by the revolutionary Filipino trade union, KMU yesterday.

In the trade union sector, 77 have been killed and the workers’ fundamental right to organise and to collectively bargain is continuously being violated.

The KMU are calling an International Day of Action on September 21, 2007 ‘in order to oppose Political Killings, Enforced Disappearances and Trade Union Repression’ which international organisations have identified as arising from the Filipino military.

Included in the political killings in the trade union sector were Nestle union president Diosdado ‘Ka Fort’ Fortuna, labour leader and teacher Vicky Samonte and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labour Union president Ric Ramos.

International fact-finding and solidarity missions in the country say human rights violations are the result of a state policy.

Various international organisations, church institutions, trade union bodies and parliamentarians have condemned Arroyo’s draconian policies and say the Arroyo government is culpable for these atrocities.

Martial Law was declared by the Marcos dictatorship on Sept 21, 1972, to brutally suppress the Philippine workers. He outlawed all legal progressive organisations until he was overthrown and driven into exile in the United States. But Thirty five (35) years later the same conditions continue to exist. 

While Martial Law was ‘lifted’ in 1981, an ‘undeclared’ martial law continues by the US-backed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime. 

Under its ‘war on terror’ campaign, progressive legal organisations of workers, peasants, women, youth, church, media, parliament and other opposition forces are branded as ‘communist fronts’ and ‘enemies of the state’, which effectively gives license to the military to attack and kill them. 

Since 2001 up to present, more than 870 political activists have been killed, 184 made to disappear, hundreds arrested and thousands experience grave threats, intimidation, persecution and mental and physical harassment.

 

Jonas Burgos, who taught peasants in Central Luzon about organic farming, was abducted on April 28 in broad daylight inside a shopping mall.

All evidence points to the military’s hand in the abduction. Witnesses said he was forced into a military vehicle with a license plate belonging to them.

However, the military continue to deny their involvement. Two days ago, it surfaced three alleged ‘communist-witnesses’ who claimed Burgos was a member of the New People’s Army (armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines) with accusations that his former comrades seized Burgos as part of the purge in the communist movement.

KMU is continuously being vilified and demonised. A black propaganda film against KMU contained in a CD is being distributed by unidentified elements in rally areas, factories and communities. 

In the film, KMU is claimed to be responsible for the retrenchment of 75,000 workers and closure of more than 400 factories since 1985.

KMU is being linked to the communist movement which makes its leaders and members more vulnerable to attacks.

Alarmed by the escalating human rights violations, last July the Supreme Court organised a National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances which ended in a call to the Gloria Arroyo government to order a stop to political killings and for new laws that would allow investigators to search state and private premises for victims of forced disappearances.

The Arroyo government implemented the Human Security Act (HSA) or the Philippine anti-terrorism law, the country’s version of the USA Patriot Act on July 15, 2007, which virtually erases all provisions on civil liberties, human rights, due process, the judiciary system and defies the Philippine Constitution and International Conventions.

Under the HSA, any organisation or individual proscribed as a ‘terrorist’ can be arrested and jailed for three days without charges and beyond three days during ‘actual or perceived terrorist attacks.’

The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, Martin Scheinin said: ‘Many provisions of the Human Security Act are not in accordance with international human rights standards.’

Leaders and members of local organisations and foreign-based support groups are subjected to interrogation and hold-departure orders from the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) or the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

Those subjected to interrogation were asked to secure clearance from the recently-created Anti-Terrorism Council that includes Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Cesar Garcia of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The bulk of those included in the watchlists were those in international fact-findings in the Philippines, or signed petition letters to demand an end to extrajudicial killings or wrote about the government’s corrupt practices and lobbied their governments to end support to the Arroyo regime.

On August 28, Professor Jose Maria Sison was arrested and detained in a Gestapo-like manner in the Hague, Netherlands on trumped-up charges. 

Professor Sison is the Chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS). He also serves as a political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in its peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. 

The Arroyo government lobbied the European Union to put Professor Sison on its terrorist list and admitted it helped put a case against him in the Netherlands.

Simultaneous with the arrest of Professor Sison and in the guise of anti-terrorism, there were raids on the houses of several Filipino patriots. Computers, CDs, documents and files were seized.

Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, visited the country in February 2007 and conducted interviews with the military, government officials and victims alike. 

In his report to the UN Human Rights Council last March 27, Alston reiterated that ‘based on my fact-finding, there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of the killings’ further saying that the military ‘remains in a state of almost total denial’. No one so far has been prosecuted, no military or police personnel has been investigated, or brought to trial up to now.

The Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) in its Second Session on the Philippines ‘has found unequivocal evidences that the militaries have a central role in the greatest majority of the scenarios of human rights violations in the Philippines.’ It has found that the US-Arroyo regime grossly and systematically violated the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino workers and the Filipino people.

Recently, 49 US Congressmen signed a joint letter to the Arroyo government expressing its alarm on the human rights violations in the Philippines.

The International Day of Action calls on trade unionists and supporters to:-

a. Protest in front of Philippine Embassies and Consulates which are being called for on 21st September.

b. Hold dialogues with the Philippine Ambassador and Consulate on the issue of political repression and of the Human Security Act.

c. Send protest letters to H.E. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Republic of the Philippines, Malacanang Palace, JP Laurel Street, San Miguel Manila, Philippines.