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Marcos Jr., NTF-ELCAC’s counterinsurgency program endangers workers’lives, rights

Karapatan Press Release –

24 January 2023

The counterinsurgency program that is being implemented by the Marcos
Jr. administration, which it continues from previous regimes including
the Duterte government, through the National Task Force to End Local
Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has resulted in gross violations on
the working people’s right to life and to their freedom of association
and right to organize, human rights alliance Karapatan said.

“We urge the High Level Tripartite Mission of the International Labor
Organization to take the Marcos Jr. administration and the NTF-ELCAC to
task for having gravely endangered the lives, security and liberty of
workers, including trade unionists and labor rights advocates, and
strongly recommend the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC,” said Karapatan
Secretary General Cristina Palabay, as the mission is scheduled to meet
officials of the NTF-ELCAC and other government agencies this morning.

Karapatan has documented at least 62 extrajudicial killings of both
public and private sector workers from July 2016 to December 2022, where
many of the victims were severely threatened, harassed, intimidated and
red-tagged prior to being murdered by suspected State forces. These
killings were conducted in line with the government’s counterinsurgency
campaign. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
defenders Mary Lawlor has considered red-tagging as a context-specific
death threat in the Philippines, in her report to the UN Human Rights
Council in March 2021.

The NTF-ELCAC’s vicious red-tagging spree against union activists in the
Philippines has had dangerous consequences, often serving as prelude to
killings, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, torture, abductions and
other serious violations of civil, political and economic rights, said

“Perhaps the most notorious extrajudicial killings of union leaders
under the Duterte regime are those of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion and
Dandy Miguel,” said Palabay. “Asuncion was killed in a police raid on
March 7, 2021 at the satellite office of the Workers’ Assistance Center
in Cavite, after a court in the city of Manila issued numerous search
warrants containing false allegations that Asuncion and 21 other
activists and peasants from Southern Tagalog region were communists.
Nine activists, including Asuncion, were killed allegedly after
resisting arrest, but they are widely believed to have been summarily
executed,” said Palabay. “Worse, their killers will most likely be
exonerated, especially now that government prosecutors have dismissed
the murder complaint against the 17 policemen involved in Asuncion’s
killing,” she decried.

Trade union leader Dandy Miguel, who served as a paralegal in the Bloody
Sunday cases and spoke at a press conference at the Commission on Human
Rights a week after Asuncion’s murder, was himself gunned down after he
got off work on March 28, 2021. He was shot eight times.

“Many government and teacher-unionists who had been previously
red-tagged have also been arrested and detained on trumped-up charges
based on planted evidence and perjured testimonies,” said Palabay.

“Just last week, Dyan Gumanao, coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned
Teachers in Cebu, and Armand Dayoha, coordinator of the Alliance of
Health Workers in the same province were abducted by men claiming to be
police officers and interrogated, tortured and detained illegally for
six days. They had previously been red-tagged and subjected to intense

Numerous cases of union interference, through harassment of trade
unionists to coerce them to stop union activities and sign documents
indicating they are rebel surrenderees, have been documented by workers’

“There is a very clear pattern of tagging and labelling unionists as
terrorists or enemies of the state prior to their killing or arrest for
manufactured cases,” said Palabay. “These threats are designed to create
a chilling effect on those who advocate for workers’ rights, as they
seek to stigmatize and delegitimize labor activists and their
organizations, coerce the latter’s members to disaffiliate and dissuade
others from joining unions. This policy and practice remains to this day.”

“There are no stark deviations on the framework of the government’s
counterinsurgency program since 2009, when the ILO last held its mission
in the Philippines, to this current Marcos Jr. regime, especially on the
non-distinction of civilians and combatants and other pertinent points
in relation to international humanitarian law, as well as the militarist
approach that is used in suppressing political dissent and the exercise
of workers’ freedom of association and right to organize,” Palabay added.

“We call on the ILO mission to hold the Marcos Jr. administration and
NTF-ELCAC accountable for these gross violations of working people’s
rights. Aside from the NTF-ELCAC’s abolition, we strongly demand that
the counter-insurgency program should be junked and that ILO supports or
recommends an independent international investigation by the UN Human
Rights Council,” Karapatan said. #

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146