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Cordillera People’s Alliance Cited for its Defense of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and the Environment

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cordillera People’s Alliance Cited for its Defense of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and the Environment

By LYN V. RAMO
Originally published 12 Dec. 2009 at Bulatlat.com

BAGUIO CITY – It is an environment award this time for Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the second award it garnered this year.
Last month the CPA received international acclaim when the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WSSF) recognized its founding member and elder Petra Macliing of Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province and awarded her the Laureate Prize for Rural Women.
The CPA received the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan: Parangal sa Magiting na Pakikibaka para sa Kalikasan at Karapatan from the Center for Environment Concerns (CEC) during the awarding ceremonies held December 10 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.
The CPA was recognized as a “model and source of inspiration” locally and within the international indigenous peoples’ movement for its “consistent and persistent advancement of indigenous peoples’ rights linked with the defense, nurture and management of the ancestral domain and resources for the welfare of present and future generations.”
25 years of Caring for the Environment and Fighting for National Patrimony
Recently, the CPA and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), its partner NGO, embarked on a joint advocacy program on the Cordillera Environment and Climate Change. However, this is not the only campaign that the CPA conducted for the defense of indigenous people’s rights and the environment.
Since its founding in1984, the CPA has been waging its Defense of Land, Life, and Resources campaign. This campaign is reflective of CPA’s stand for national patrimony, the rights of indigenous peoples and environmental nurture. It highlights the indigenous peoples’ inherent relationship with the environment.
Its campaigns gained national and international prominence such as the Chico River Dam and San Roque Dam struggles. The successful campaigns to oppose the construction of the Chico River Dam in Mountain Province and Kalinga and the operations of Cellophil Resources Corporation in Abra during the early 1980s were integral to the early beginnings of the CPA. To date, the Chico River flows freely, and the people in the villages around it remain vigilant over new attempts to dam the mighty river.
The anti-San Roque Dam campaign generated awareness here and abroad on the social and environmental destruction caused by mega-dams. It attained some gains for the affected communities, and to date, the issue of the San Roque Dam is not yet closed. The video documentary Agno, produced by CPA and Southern Tagalog Exposure narrates this experience and the gains and lessons of this campaign.
In the 1990’s, the CPA led the campaign against open pit mining in Itogon, Benguet Benguet Corporation’s open pit mines eventually closed in 1996, way before its life expectancy due to strong opposition in many Itogon communities. Another focused campaign against large-scale mining was the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM), which was carried out with the broad support of the academe, scientists, church, local government officials and students. The campaign exposed the destruction caused by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) to the Abra River ecosystem, and on the health and livelihood of villagers living alongside it.
To help improve marginalized peoples’ welfare and living conditions, CPA and its NGO partners run programs and projects, such as the Marketing Center from 1985 to 1992, appropriate technology projects such as the water-powered rice pounder, which was later destroyed by the terrorist Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA). There was also the mini-hydro project, a breakthrough project that showed that electricity in far-flung villages could be generated even without mega-dams.
Other projects include the West Kalinga Integrated Area Development Project in the 1990s, which envisioned a comprehensive development of agro-forestry, handicrafts, small-scale mining, basic infrastructure, education, health and other basic social services.
Joint efforts with the CDPC are continuing in programs for sustainable agriculture, for food security through raising the productivity of farmers and diversification of food production, the application of appropriate technology in support of agriculture and food processing, and disaster response and readiness.
In presenting the award to the CPA, the CEC said, “through its concrete gains and widespread campaigns from the local to international levels, the CPA contributed to the integrated struggle for the environment and genuine development, peoples’ rights, especially indigenous people’s rights, and national patrimony for people’s welfare.”
“Its organizing and campaigns empowered communities and sectors to act on their own issues and achieve results, even at much sacrifice, including the martyrdom of some of its leaders.”
“The gains give hope that situations of discrimination against indigenous peoples, and overwhelming development aggression of destructive large-scale mining and mega dams could change and be dealt with for the people’s benefit; if they are aroused and organized to act on their issues,” the CEC said.
The CEC works closely with communities and organizations nationwide, supporting their initiatives to nurture their ecosystems, defend their common access to natural resources, and eventually improve their living and working conditions in the context of a balanced and healthy environment.
It advocates for people-oriented, patriotic, sustainable, and scientific policies and programs for the protection of the Philippine environment and engages in information sharing, networking, cross-cultural exchanges, and solidarity initiatives on common environmental issues and concerns at the international level.

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

News in Pictures: International Migrants Day Marked with Protest and Calls for Repatriation of Stranded OFWs


Originally published 20 Dec. 2009 at Bulatlat.com




migrantsday1















Hundreds of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) on Friday
marched to Mendiola Bridge to demand that the Arroyo
government exhort all efforts to reunite more than 300
stranded OFWs with their families this Christmas season.

Families of stranded OFWs, together with OFWs from the
Middle East, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and
Australia held the protest action in commemoration of the
9th International Migrants Day. “Today marks the ninth year
of the United Nations Convention on Migrant Workers and
Their Families. While President Arroyo signed this convention,
in reality, the plight of Filipino migrant workers did not improve
and in fact worsened under the government’s relentless labor
export program.Nine years under the Arroyo regime saw the
unprecedented rise in human rights violations of OFWs,” said
Garry Martinez,Migrante International chairman.

He said that Arroyo’s non-adherence to the UN Convention
is proven by the fact that more than 300 OFWs, mostly
victims of abuse and exploitation, are in need of immediate
repatriation, according to the records of Migrante
International alone. These include 89 caregivers  who are
victims of gross contract violations in Saudi Arabia; 51
female runaway domestic helpers at the Doha eportation
center; 50 male detainees at the Jeddah deportation center;
and 17 OFWs languishing in jail for crimes that they did not
commit.

“It breaks our heart to think that these OFWs would spend
another Christmas away from their families, when all it takes is
the President’s political will to send them home. The Overseas
Workers Welfare Administration have all the power and
hard-earned OFW funds at their disposal. And yet the
government refuses to fulfill its duty to citizens whom it
pushes to virtual slavery overseas because of its failure to
provide jobs at home and keep the economy afloat without
the need for remittances,” said Martinez.

migrantsday2

Migrante International’s records show that in almost all of the
cases of stranded OFWs, Philippine consulate and overseas
labor officials neglected the plight of OFWs, and were even the
ones defending abusive employers and companies.The Filipino
migrant protesters, in a symbolic display of anger at the Arroyo
regime, threw paint bombs at a picture of the President, as
well as OWWA and Department of Foreign Affairs officials.

migrantsday3

“Instead of celebrating what is supposed to be the day for us
so-called ‘modern-day heroes,’ here we are, still being
reduced to begging for Arroyo to hear our cries of despair. If
she will not heed us our cry to bring home stranded OFWs for
Christmas, then let the world know: this government has done
nothing to protect migrants. It is migrants that must be
protected from this government who systematically milk
OFWs of their hard-earned money and have nothing to show
for in return,” Martinez concluded.

(Photos courtesy of Migrante International)







(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

‘Mrs. B’ Brings Jonas Burgos’s Case to Attention of Europeans

‘Mrs. B’ Brings Jonas Burgos’s Case to Attention of Europeans

Originally published 14 Dec. 2009 at Bulatlat.com


In this audio clip, Edita Burgos, the mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, talks about her recent trip to Europe where she brought her campaign to force the Philippine government to surface her son. She also talks about the human-rights situation in the Philippines and why President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a “bad mother” to the Filipino people.

Listen now:


                    
(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

Maguindanao Massacre Reflective of Arroyo Government’s Eight-Year Rule of Plunder, Terror, Deception – Indigenous and Moro Peoples

Maguindanao Massacre Reflective of Arroyo Government’s Eight-Year Rule of Plunder, Terror, Deception – Indigenous and Moro Peoples

By LYN V. RAMO
Bulatlat.com
(Originally published 12 Dec. 2009)

QUEZON CITY – Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Martial Law in Maguindanao to conceal the pieces of evidence that she cheated her way to the presidency in the May 2004 polls, according to indigenous peoples and the Bangsa Moro peoples of Mindanao.
“She could not admit the fact that it was GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] who created the berdugo (henchman) that is Ampatuan,” Amirah Ali Lidasan, secretary-general of the Suara Bangsa Moro party list said during a December 9 forum at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John, which was organized by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP) and attended by indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates from among students, seminarians and professionals; and Bangsamoro people from Taguig and Culiat communities.
The forum titled “GMA Presidency: a rule of plunder, state terror and deception” is an assessment by indigenous and Moro peoples of the eight-year reign of the Arroyo government.
Lidasan also recalled that it was in 2001 when the Ampatuans rose to power as local warlords. It coincided with the installation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as president after then Pres. Joseph Estrada was forced to step down by a people power uprising. Maguindanao delivered a landslide victory for Arroyo when she ran for president in 2004. It also delivered the votes for administration senators in 2007.
Earlier, Lidasan speaking at a rally in Mendiola said Arroyo always pre-tests her policies of terror in Mindanao. She asked the group of protesting journalists that the Malacañang resident should not be allowed to hold any position in government.
“Where are the ballot boxes and arms confiscated from the Ampatuan mansion after the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao? Arroyo needs these because Ampatuan may use these against her the moment she allows the Ampatuans to suffer for their crimes,” Lidasan surmised.
Lidasan said it is an insult to the struggling masses in the countryside to equate the Ampatuan massacre to a “rebellion in the offing” that warranted the issuance of Proclamation No.1959.
KAMP National Coordinator Joan Jaime enumerated the various human rights violations committed by the Arroyo government against the Lumads and Moro peoples of Mindanao, the Igorots of the Cordillera, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the Aetas of Central Luzon, among others, which included 57 incidents of “bakwit” (evacuation) due to intense militarization in Mindanao alone; several cases of indiscriminate bombings that resulted in the destruction of forests and rice fields; and the summary execution of hundreds of peasants and indigenous peoples, including known IP peasant leaders.
“Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) and the National Internal Security Plan for Indigenous Peoples provide the direction for all these military atrocities against the indigenous peoples and the Bangsa Moro,” said Jaime. She added that Arroyo only has a few months left in her self-imposed deadline to “crush the insurgency”, and people could expect an intensification of the reign of terror in the countryside.
Both Lidasan and Jaime pointed out that underlying this counter-insurgency program is the government’s thrust of exploiting the rich mineral and agricultural resources within the ancestral land of indigenous peoples.
“They sow terror to drive away residents from mineral-rich mountains to freely open these sites for foreign investors,” Lidasan said.
Katribu Partylist Secretary-general Nelson Mallari said all these fit within the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan of the Arroyo government, which pushed the country towards the globalization policies of deregulation, liberalization of trade, and privatization of government assets and services.
Mallari cited that besides mining, the government’s energy projects like the building of large hydroelectric dams encroached into the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain.
“Naturally, indigenous peoples would rise up against these encroachments and the government response is intensified military deployment and operations,” Mallari said.
Mallari said the indigenous and Moro peoples need to forge tighter unity with the rest of the suffering Filipino masses to reach a decisive solution to all these woes. He called for a concerted action by the people to frustrate Arroyo’s bid to maintain herself in power by grabbing a congressional seat.
Katribu is seeking to represent indigenous and Moro peoples in Congress through the partylist elections. Its nominees are Beverly Longid of Bontok, who has Kankanaey ancestry from Mountain Province, as first nominee, Genasque Enriquez, a Manobo from Lianga Surigao del Sur, second nominee, Kaerlan Fanagel, a B’laan from Sarangani Province, fourth nominee; and Vergil Aniceto, another Igorot from Benguet, fifth nominee. Mallari, an aeta from Pampanga, is the third nominee.

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

As 2010 Polls Draw Near, Unprecedented Fraud, Violence, ‘No-El’ Loom

As 2010 Polls Draw Near, Unprecedented Fraud, Violence, ‘No-El’ Loom

Underneath the never-ending and intensifying political conflict is the permanent and worsening crisis of the economy. The raging economic crisis feeds the growing dispute among the various factions of the political elite contending for control of political power and monopoly of economic spoils – a conflict that has become more pronounced and increasingly vicious under the nine-year old Arroyo administration.

By ARNOLD PADILLA
Analysis
Bulatlat.com
(Originally published 11 Dec. 2009)

MANILA — With the 2010 national elections just less than six months away, recent political developments paint not only a scenario of massive fraud and violence unprecedented in the country’s electoral history but more and more even a scenario of no elections (No-El).
In the middle of all these is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who, despite being in the last remaining months of her troubled and despised presidency, will continue to be a key political player. Last week, she made two unprecedented moves – first declaring her candidacy for congresswoman in Pampanga and then imposing martial law in Maguindanao – that changed the complexion of the upcoming national polls.
Underneath the never-ending and intensifying political conflict is the permanent and worsening crisis of the economy. The raging economic crisis feeds the growing dispute among the various factions of the political elite contending for control of political power and monopoly of economic spoils – a conflict that has become more pronounced and increasingly vicious under the nine-year old Arroyo administration.
Economic Decay and Power Struggle
The upcoming elections will be held amid the worst crisis faced by the global capitalist system since the Great Depression of the 1930s. While the impact of this crisis on the Philippine economy has been many times downplayed by the Arroyo administration, the global crunch has without a doubt pushed the country into greater backwardness and unparalleled poverty and job scarcity.
Third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a dismal 0.8 percent which was much lower than what the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) hoped for. With factory production severely undermined by global recession, export-oriented manufacturing contracted for three consecutive quarters with the latest report showing a decline of 7.6 percent. Per capita GDP or the total value of domestic production as divided by the national population fell by 1.2 percent that indicates less available wealth for an increasing number of Filipinos. This year, the number of poor Filipinos is expected to grow to 32.3 million or almost 12 million higher than the estimated number of poor in 2000. Meanwhile, the macroeconomic impact of tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng is expected to further reduce GDP growth in the fourth quarter by 0.6 percentage points.
Modest GDP growth prior to the global recession and major natural disasters did not translate to poverty reduction. On the contrary, growth in the Philippine context has meant greater poverty with every one percent of growth accompanied by about 0.3 percent increase in the number of poor Filipinos. This means that whatever economic growth achieved has been at the expense of decent wages, sufficient social services, and reliable social security for the poor and ordinary income earners.
With the accelerating economic decay that the country faces, brought about by the permanent crisis of the pre-industrial economy and made worse by the still raging global crunch, continued implementation of neoliberal globalization policies, and impact of the climate crisis, factional conflicts among the various blocs of the local political elite to control state power and protect their wealth and further enrich themselves could only but intensify.
And amid dwindling wealth available in the domestic economy as the global crisis worsens, the Arroyo clique and its cronies have expectedly become more aggressive in consolidating and expanding their control of whatever wealth is left in and produced by the domestic economy. An indispensable component of such control is prolonged and tighter control over government that they hope to accomplish at all costs. At the same time, continued control of political power assures Mrs. Arroyo and her allies of protection from prosecution for the many abuses committed by their regime against the people such as wholesale electoral fraud; human rights atrocities including extrajudicial killings; massive corruption and plunder; total sellout of the national patrimony and sovereignty, etc.
Raising the Stakes
By joining the 2010 elections as a congressional candidate in Pampanga, Mrs. Arroyo single-handedly raised the stakes in the upcoming polls. As a consequence, she further stoked fears that the elections will be fraudulent despite the automation and certainly would be violent and bloody. The Nov. 23 Ampatuan Massacre which was triggered by the local electoral conflict in Maguindanao is just the first in the many cases of expected election-related violence in the coming months.It remains to be seen if Mrs. Arroyo will face a serious challenge in her congressional bid. University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Randy David vowed to run against Mrs. Arroyo and provided a potential rallying point for all anti-Arroyo forces but backed out at the last minute while the Liberal Party (LP) scrambled to field a candidate. For all intents and purposes, the congressional battle in the second district of Pampanga was over the minute Mrs. Arroyo filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Dec 1.
But for Mrs. Arroyo and her allies, the arena is much, much bigger than the second district of Pampanga. What is at stake is control of government itself and her filing of candidacy is just the first step in the ruling party Lakas-Kampi’s grand plan to preserve and consolidate its control of political power. The scheme, which Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has already practically confirmed, is to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary through Charter change (Cha-cha) with Mrs. Arroyo as Prime Minister.
Key to this sinister plot is clinching an overwhelming Lakas-Kampi victory in next year’s polls – from the president to the members of the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as officials of local government units (LGUs). With government resources at their disposal, Lakas-Kampi enjoys a huge election war chest, the patronage of local government officials including warlords, and a formidable fraud machinery. All these will certainly be utilized to the hilt by Mrs. Arroyo and her party in the 2010 elections.
At the minimum, Mrs. Arroyo’s congressional bid at least assures her of a government position that she can use as leverage against lawsuits as well as security for her family’s many economic interests, including their ill-gotten wealth. Even if an oppositionist takes the presidency, a House seat, and especially if her party can maintain a considerable number of representatives at the lower chamber, gives Mrs. Arroyo the influence to seek political concessions from the new administration.

Martial Law, Failure of (Automated) Elections

With such high-stake, extremely contentious national polls, the scenario of a failure of elections and transition government also remain a strong possibility in the Arroyo game plan to stay in power. It does not help that the Comelec has not made any significant effort in assuaging public apprehension about the reliability of its Automated Election System (AES) which many critics and experts fear is designed to fail. Fundamental issues raised by some of the country’s information technology (IT) experts, for instance, such as insider threats, software engineering limitations, and network vulnerabilities have to a large extent remained unaddressed.
Worse, with less than 160 days left before the first ever nationwide automated poll takes place, a huge 6 out of every 10 Filipinos still either do not know or know little about the AES, according to the latest Pulse Asia survey. Also, six out of every 10 Filipinos are either unsure or do not believe that automation can make elections in the country credible.
Finally, the most drastic option that the Arroyo administration is very much prepared to resort to in order to stay in power is martial law. Indeed, Proclamation 1959 which placed the province of Maguindanao under martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus is seen by many as a trial balloon to gauge public reaction and the political and legal implications of a martial law declaration. The regime is using the public outrage created by the gruesome killings of 57 people, including 30 journalists, to lay the ground for a possible declaration of military rule in other parts of the country using warlordism, terrorism, or even legitimate insurgency as an excuse and thus scuttle the holding of the scheduled elections next year.
Under Section 15 of the Omnibus Election Code, elections can be postponed if the holding of free, orderly, and honest elections becomes impossible due to “violence, terrorism, or other analogous causes”. The late strongman Ferdinand Marcos made a similar move in 1972, and was able to stay in power for 14 more years until he was ousted by People Power. Depending on how political developments will unfold in the coming days including how Congress and the Supreme Court will vote on Proclamation 1959, how it will sharpen the Arroyo clique’s conflict with other factions of the political elite, how strong public opposition is to martial law, and reaction or pressure from the international community, the Arroyo administration will continue to orchestrate and push to the limit its martial law and No-El ploy.
Thwarting the Gloria Forever Scheme
With Lakas-Kampi still holding a considerable clout in the House of Representatives despite recent defections to other parties of its members, and all Supreme Court justices except Chief Justice Reynato Puno being Arroyo appointees, prospects of these institutions upholding the constitutional safeguards against martial law are gloomy. Thus, the only guarantee that the people can rely on to thwart the ceaseless attempts of the Arroyo administration to perpetuate itself in power is to directly challenge these maneuverings by the regime through political actions including mounting public pressure and snowballing people’s protests.
The threat of “Gloria Forever” has never been as real as it is today. The political opposition and all anti-Arroyo forces must ensure that Proclamation 1959 will not last a minute longer and invigorate efforts to demand that Mrs. Arroyo step down now or push for her immediate ouster. The people could not allow Mrs. Arroyo and her clique to continue using state power and resources to hi-jack the 2010 elections and prevent a new and legitimate government from taking over.
To be sure, there is still a very long road ahead in the people’s struggle against the illegitimate, corrupt, fascist, and anti-people Arroyo regime. The 2010 elections – if the people are able to ensure that it pushes through as scheduled – will be a complex battle with Mrs. Arroyo herself playing a major role and using all the machinery and resources of government, including the Comelec itself. Then there is the Cha-cha agenda that Mrs. Arroyo and Lakas-Kampi will relentlessly push for in the next Congress. And lastly, the need to ensure that the new administration will take an active role in making Mrs. Arroyo and her allies account for their crimes and abuses, and that no political compromises will be made. The key is for the Filipino people to remain vigilant and actively and strongly challenge Mrs. Arroyo and her clique every step of the way.

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

Attacks on Workers Persist as ILO Keeps Mum on Arroyo’s Accountability in Abuses

Attacks on Workers Persist as ILO Keeps Mum on Arroyo’s Accountability in Abuses

Two months after the International Labor Organization conducted a fact-finding mission in the Philippines, labor-rights violations escalate in the Philippines, as highlighted by the death of Danilo Belano, a long-time labor organizer, who died while being tailed and harassed by military agents.

By MARYA SALAMAT

Bulatlat.com
(Originally published 6 Dec. 2009)


MANILA — In just a year from now Danilo Belano, 59, could have availed of a senior-citizen card. It would have helped him purchase his needs at a discounted price, a relief he apparently needed because his life’s work did not come with a high “salary.” He derived much satisfaction from his work, and respect from his peers and relatives, but his children said they were used to him having little money in his wallet.
“On my birthday,” his frail mother Rosita said, “he would give me a card to show he remembered, and I would kid him about the card having nothing in it.”

Danilo Belano, labor leader and organizer (Photo by courtesy of KMU)
Belano was a veteran labor organizer with four decades of experience in the progressive trade union movement in the Philippines. On November 25, while the country was still in shock over the brazen display of impunity in Maguindanao, Belano was accosted by men who identified themselves as agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP)). Belano just came out of a church in Manila that morning.
The whole day, these men from ISAFP tailed and tried to question Belano wherever he went. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement) said in a statement that when the ISAFP agents managed to corner Belano, they “showed him his dossier, told him they have been conducting surveillance operations on him for more than a year already, and that they will abduct and harm his children if he refuses to ‘cooperate’ with them by identifying the leaders and organizers of activist groups.”
The men reportedly stopped badgering Belano only after he agreed to meet up with them that evening. A friend advised Belano not to show up at the meeting with ISAFP agents, but Belano, worried about his family, ignored him.
“If I manage to get back safely,” Belano reportedly said, he planned to take a vacation for a while in his province.
In the four decades that Belano had worked with the progressive movement, he had endured beatings in rallies and challenges from numerous workers’ struggles. He contributed in helping build the strength of the trade union movement and in the founding of KMU, in assisting its core labor federations, in updating the constitution and by-laws of Piston (United Associations of Drivers and Operators nationwide), and in Migrante’s efforts to organize seafarers by founding the International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC).
But he was already pushing 60 when he was accosted by military intelligence agents. During his meeting with ISAFP that night, he suffered from a massive stroke. The Ospital ng Maynila said four men took him to the emergency room.
These men — who refused to identify themselves to the family or to the hospital when asked about their identities — continuously checked on Belano’s condition while he was in the intensive care unit. They only left on board a van, which they used in tailing Belano all day, when the doctors declared him dead.
Continuing Trade Union Repression
Two months after the International Labor Organization (ILO) went on a fact-finding mission in the Philippines and three months before it releases its final report, “labor rights violations escalate in the country, as highlighted by the death of Belano, a long-time labor organizer, in the hands of the military,” Roger Soluta, KMU’s general secretary, said in a statement.
It is not the first time such harassment and “recruitment” of labor organizers was recorded.
Also, the KMU noted that “even after the conduct of the ILO High-Level Mission, violations of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and on Collective Bargaining persist.” Factories remain militarized, as what is happening in the banana plantations in Southern Mindanao and in Robina and Console Farms in Rizal.
A military detachment was set up at the entrance to the Robina Farms in Rizal. Every day, soldiers patrol the farm premises, said the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR). In a visit to the farm last week to give a seminar on labor rights, the staff of CTUHR told Bulatlat that unionists and residents there appeared wary. They were not able to participate much in the discussion on their union rights. The military presence appears more concentrated in farms with bigger union members, the union leaders told CTUHR.

“The remaining 1.9 million Filipino workers organized in unions continue to decrease as more workers who plan to join unions are automatically being dismissed,” Roger Soluta lamented as he represented the KMU in a three-day national conference of labor groups, employers and government, sponsored by the ILO, in Manila last week.
Arroyo Government’s Liability Over Rights Violations
At the tripartite national conference called by ILO and DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), the KMU warned that “if the Arroyo regime continues with its anti-labor and anti-people policies, the ILO body might become a dumping ground of reports of labor rights repression cases.”
ILO representatives including Karen Curtis, deputy director of ILO’s International Labor Standards Department and one of the three members of the ILO High-Level Mission who went to the Philippines last September to investigate cases of trade union rights violations, was in the Philippines again last week for a national tripartite conference.
The ILO is drafting a three to five-year proposed technical cooperation program with the Philippine government using inputs such as those that arose from last week’s tripartite conference. A direct offshoot of the high-level mission, the proposed technical cooperation program, is mainly about awareness-raising, training and capacity building for government, workers and employers.
KMU urged the ILO to categorically hold the Arroyo administration and the institutions under it “liable for the continuing attacks against the trade union movement.” Soluta said “workshops, technical cooperation programs and conferences” such as the one held last week “will eventually come to naught if criminals liable for the labor rights violations remain scot-free.”  

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

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