Barangay Defense System
Members and union officers were also forced to join the Barangay (village) Defense System or BDS. As members of the BDS, they are required to help the military in the information drive against the insurgency and to report directly to Lt. Col. Noel Clement, commanding officer of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. One of the workers said, “Nagbuo ng barangay defense system mula sa mga manggagawa at residente. Miyembro ako ng BDS kahit labag sa kalooban ko.” (They organized a village defense system from the workers and residents. I am a member of the BDS even if it is against my will.)
Workers confirmed that the management of Console Farms allows the military to freely roam within the farm. “Minsan sa isang linggo pumapasok sila sa poultry at humihingi ng manok pang-ulam. Madalas din ang patawag ng miting. Kapag natatakot ang mga manggagawa, ang management ang nagpapatawag sa manggagawa para kausapin ng military. May kaso na kapag pinapatawag at di sumipot, niratrat ng militar ang bahay” (Once a week soldiers enter the poultry farm and ask for chickens for their meals. They also call for a meeting. Whenever the workers do not attend the meetings out of fear, the management calls the workers to talk with the military. There were times when soldiers fire their guns at the houses of workers who refuse to attend the meetings.), one of the workers said.
When the FFM team held a dialogue with officials of the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) regarding the reported harassments, the latter said they could not do anything about it. DoLE Region 3 representative Efren Reyes said that the cases of “military intrusion” at Console and Robina are beyond their jurisdiction. He said that they can only act on cases of disputes between workers and management.
Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson, castigated the DoLE for failing to act on the cases of harassments and the “military takeover” of Console Farms. “Expectedly, the DoLE is inutile to stop these wanton violations of human and union rights and unfair labor practices. It seems they are waiting for this issue to get nationwide attention before they act like in the case of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. The DoLE is without pretensions on its inability to protect workers from the intense militarization in Region 3,” Labog said.
LGU officials promise to act
Even before going to the farm, the FFM went to the office of the governor of Bulacan in Malolos (44 kms north of Manila). They were met by Raul Mendoza, head of the Bulacan Committee on Labor and Human Rights and Provincial Board Member Patrocinio Laderas. Representatives from the Commission on Human Rights were also there.
When asked if the local government can pass a resolution ordering the military to pull out from Barangay Sta. Ines where Console farms is located, Mendoza said that they will do what is necessary to act on complaints of military harassment and interference in Console Farm’s union activities.
KMU said they are planning to file complaints before the International Labor Organization (ILO) regarding the plight of the workers of Console Farms. (Bulatlat.com)