February 28, 2019
Reference: Rochelle Porras, Executive Director (+63917 350 2342)
Labor NGO strongly condemns red-tagging, illegal arrest of unionists in Compostela Valley
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) strongly condemns the red-tagging and illegal arrests by the 71st Infantry Battalion of AFP in Compostela Valley, Davao Region in Mindanao. Latest victims of red-tagging are three unionists nabbed around 4 p.m. on February 27.
Union President Esperedion Cabaltera and Vice President Richard Genabe are found under custody of 10th IB in Municipality of Mawab. Meanwhile, the union’s Secretary General Ronaldo Rosales is being held against his will by the 71st IB in Pantukan. The three are officers of Musahamat Farm Workers Union, affiliated with militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno. The union representing more than 200 banana plantation workers has complained to DOLE in March 2016 about unfair labor practices committed by the management of the Musahamat Farms Inc. including union busting, illegal suspension and termination of union officers and members, withholding of union dues.
“We received initial reports that the three union officers were illegally arrested based on perverse allegations that they are communist leaders. We strongly condemn the red-tagging and illegal arrests of unionists under Duterte administration. The extension of martial law in Mindanao only refuels the red-tagging by the military resulting to gross trade union and human rights violations,” EILER executive director Rochelle Porras said in a statement on Thursday.
Documentation from fact-finding missions of independent human and trade union rights organizations reveal that AFP members were also responsible for the torture and bloody attempt to burn two small-scale miners in 2017. The young workers namely Janry Mensis, then 22, and then 16-year old “Jerry” are members of Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Maco and were wrongfully accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA). They were taken to the camp of 71st IB where for several days endured torture and eventually escaped being burned alive.
EILER also condemned the stigmatization of trade unions as legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the subsequent declaration as terrorist organization under Proclamation 374 and AFP’s whole-of-nation approach. The action is a clear attempt to criminalize the legitimate work of unionists in advancing their socio-economic interests.
EILER emphasized that the right to freedom of association and peaceably assemble is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. Further, these rights are recognized under fundamental ILO Conventions ratified by the Philippines, which the military and police should respect at all times.
“We are enraged on how the government is perpetuating a culture of impunity. We urge the public to condemn the red-tagging of our unionists and call an end to Martial Law in Mindanao. The continued attacks against unionists must end, we demand justice and accountability,” Porras said.
“The red-tagging of unionists exposes the anti-worker policies of the Duterte administration. We at EILER are committed in raising the people’s awareness on working towards a just and pro-worker government that the people truly deserve this coming election. We will continue to put forward the workers’ agenda that tackles poverty, landlessness, joblessness and low wages as central issues during and beyond the elections,” ended Porras.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER)
Telefax: +63 2 433 9287
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28 February 2019
NUPL SLAMS VICIOUS
CALLS ON RIGHTS LAWYERS TO STAND THEIR GROUND
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) blasted the unrelenting attacks on the organization, its affiliates, and its members. In the past two weeks, NUPL and its members have been red-tagged and labeled as members of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New People’s Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
NUPL president Edre Olalia expressed concerns over this series of attacks. “Red-tagging may be viewed as a badge of honor for those who appreciate the value and role of being lawyers for the people. But in the real world out there, it is a stampmark that one can be fair game for vicious attacks from the intolerant, bigoted and despotic,” Olalia said.
On 22 February 2019, an anonymous list circulated around Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao tagging NUPL, its affiliate Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and three women lawyers as members of the CPP-NDFP-NPA. Lawyers Czarina Musni, Beverly Musni, and Beverly Ann Musni Yr. were among 19 individuals and four organizations tagged as communists. The Musnis are intensely involved in human rights cases and public interest advocacies.
On the same day, The Daily Tribune publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares in her column called NUPL and Olalia as leftists and “commies” for their statement criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the third extension of Martial Law rule in Mindanao. NUPL represents the Makabayan bloc in the petition. Once again, Olivares falsely and maliciouy claims NUPL “never wins its cases in court.”
Five days after, Mario Laude of the “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition” linked the NUPL to NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili. In the news report published by the Manila Bulletin under the by-line of the Philippine News Agency Laude said that NUPL is the “legal (arm)” of a “Communist Terrorist Group” referring to NDFP. Aside from this ridiculous and baseless link, the shady group is inciting reprisal.
“This series of attacks, bigoted and fantastic as they are, is not only disturbing but can be ominous of even worse things to come. It remains a challenge and clarion call though for human rights and public interest lawyers to stay the course and serve those who have less in life who have even lesser in law,” Olalia said.
Thirty-six lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on 30 June 2016. In November 2018, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos was killed by two unidentified men in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Ramos was the secretary-general of NUPL-Negros Island chapter. NUPL’s Women and Children Committee head Kathy Panguban still faces false charges of kidnapping for assisting the mother to get custody of her minor son in Sagay.
Many other members of NUPL from Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Cordillera, Nueva Ecija, Metro Manila, Albay, Sorsogon, Negros, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City and different parts of Mindanao are red-tagged, threatened, villified and under surveillance.
“It goes with the territory of siding with the underdog, the powerless and the victims of State negligence and abuses. But these will not slide without any consequences in time. We shall stand our ground,” Olalia concluded. #
Atty. Edre U. Olalia
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”
– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007
“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010