MANILA, Philippines — Labor activists picketed the headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City Thursday to protest what they called the worsening vilification and harassment they were suffering at the hands of the military.
The protest came after the vice president of Bigkis ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Apex Mines, which is affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno, said he had been driven to file a complaint with police in a bid to end harassment by troops of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion in Maco town, Compostela Valley.
The KMU-Southern Mindanao, which spearheaded the protest, said despite international pressure following an investigation in 2009 by the International Labor Organization into sate-sponsored violence against organized labor, union leaders and members have come under worsening harassment, with soldiers visiting their homes or work places to “interrogate” them, and even “interfering” in union activities.
“There are even cases where military elements directly campaign against the election of KMU-affiliated unions,” the KMU-Southern Mindanao said.
The labor federation is frequently accused openly by the military of being a “legal front” of the communist revolutionary movement and several of its officers and members have fallen victim to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture or been arrested and charged for various crimes associated with rebellion.
In a phone interview, BINA-ADLO vice chairman Rogelio Cañabano said troops of the 71st IB have visited his home at least four times since early last month, the last time on September 9, squeezing him for information about his activities and the identities of his members and fellow officers, and taking photos of him and his home.
He also said the soldiers asked him if he had attended rallies staged by survivors of typhoon Pablo, which he denied.
He said the visits continued even after he filed a blotter report with the Maco police.
Cañabano, who said the Army unit appeared to have been deployed to provide security to Apex Mines, said he could not understand the persistent visits since “we do not have a problem with management. In fact, we have scored several successes, with management agreeing to provide decent housing for the workers and scholarships for our children.”
He did acknowledge that the visits could have something to do with New People’s Army raids on Apex facilities in April, in which the rebels blasted several tunnels and destroyed heavy equipment.
KMU-Southern Mindanao said union leaders in other mining and agricultural firms have come under similar harassment.
It cited the case of officers of the Musahamat Workers Labor Union in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, who were “invited” to a meeting by management on August 23 but were instead greeted by troops of the 72nd IB who interrogated them about the NPA raid on the Arab-owned firm.
The soldiers also allegedly took pictures of the unionists “using planted tarpaulins and reading materials associated with the underground communist movement.
The labor federation said Artemio Robilla, president of the Dole Stanfilco Maragusan Workers Union, and a board member, Danilo Delegencia, were “slapped with trumped-up” charges for the murder of a supervisor of the firm.
However, the KMU-Souther Mindanao said the charges were “apparent retaliation” for the union’s success in a labor dispute and the two labor leaders’ “incessant union organizing work in the banana plantations.”
In Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte, unions “have also complained that soldiers are holding meetings with barangay officials where KMU is publicly maligned and the military itself is campaigning against joining unions particularly those affiliated with KMU,” it added
September 12, 2014 2:22 PM
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