Arrest of Seven Union Activists on International Human Rights Day

Dear friends,

The global union organisation the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) marked this year’s December10 International Human Rights Day with a call for the Philippines Government to stop it’s wave of attacks on trade unions.

The Philippines Government marked the same day with the dawn arrests of seven union leaders and labour rights defenders.

According to the ITUC-affiliated KMU union centre, simultaneous raids were conducted by the Philippine National Police on the homes of trade union organizers in Metro Manila. In each case, according to KMU, the police planted firearms, ammunition and explosive devices and arrested six trade union activists and a journalist.

Last March Human Rights Watch issued a report that concluded that it was common practice for the Philippines police to plant guns in the homes of suspects. In June this year the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued its own report which reached the same conclusion.

Many trade unionists have been murdered by Duterte’s military. Others are tagged publicly as communists or terrorists, which places them as targets for private death squads.

On 21 November the UK Minister for Asia Nigel Evans met with officials in Manila and announced that next year the UK Government would launch an “Enhanced partnership” with the Philippines. Examples of what this might mean included to “strengthen our links on defence, security and counter-terrorism.”

Those arrested on 10 December were:

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines
Romina Astudillo, Deputy Secretary-General of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Metro Manila
Mark Ryan Cruz, Regional Executive Committee of KMU-Metro Manila
Jaymie Gregorio Jr. of KMU-Metro Manila
Joel Demate of Solidarity of Labor Rights and Welfare (SOLAR)
Rodrigo Esparago of Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC)
Lady Ann Salem, Communication officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), and editor for online news site Manila Today

Last September Ramon Rescovilla, national vice-president of transport federation Piston and Jose Bernardino, organizer of zone workers and drivers of Workers’ Alliance in Region III (WAR 3 KMU) were also arrested.

The KMU has for trade unionists and rights defenders across the globe to:

1) Issue statements of support for the HRD7, calling for their immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them; Sign the petition here.
2) Write the Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Department of Justice to appeal the release of the HRDay7 and all detained unionists in the Philippines
3) Lobby the UK government to take action to urge the Duterte Administration to respect human rights in the Philippines.

For more information on labour and human rights violations in the Philippines please contact