High Hopes for ILO’s 1st High-Level Mission to the Philippines

Recently in Rizal province, Labog said members of the 16th IB, noted for its bloody trail of human rights violations in Mindoro and Nueva Ecija under the notorious Gen. Jovito Palparan, openly insinuated in a forum that some farm-workers are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Arroyo government’s former secretary of labor and later appointed as associate Supreme Court justice, Arturo Brion, “went as far as asking the ILO to not pay attention to our group because, according to him, we are “a political front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army,” said Labog. He stressed that only upon the insistence of the trade union movement and the ILO did the Arroyo regime give way and “welcome the mission.”

Victimizing the Rights Defenders, Too

Unionists are not the only targets in this “systematic and vicious attack” on the trade unions and peoples movement. Rights defenders themselves, such as the KMU’s Chief Legal Counsel, Attorney Remigio Saladero, also the author of a labor casebook “Husgahan Natin” (Let Us Judge On It), told of how he himself was imprisoned last year on trumped-up charges. And how until today, he is getting reports of similar trumped-up charges being filed against him, along with unionists and other advocates.

After Atty. Saladero got out of jail last year when the courts realized that he couldn’t have been involved in exploding cellsites because he was attending hearings or other public gatherings at the time of his supposed crime, Saladero said he discovered that other trumped-up charges are being lodged against him in different municipalities.

“A lawyer in Batangas (in Southern Luzon) found out we have a pending case there. We countered that and the case was dismissed,” said Saladero. But another case against him in Rizal was discovered by a relative who happens to be working there. “Because we were able to answer that in time, the case was also dismissed,” said Saladero.

Still, even with the impending arrival of the ILO’s high-level mission, Saladero and other trade unionists and advocates are facing another similarly trumped-up case this time in Taytay, Rizal.

Other labor lawyers, such as Atty. Felidito Dacut, had not been as “lucky” as Atty. Saladero. He was shot in the back in March 2005 when Palparan was head of the 8th Infantry Division detailed at Eastern Visayas.

The ILO Mission

Scant details about the programme of the ILO high-level mission is being divulged, Ustarez told Bulatlat. But this much they were sure of: the formal fact-finding mission will begin September 22 with a morning courtesy call at Malaca?ang and in the afternoon, consultations with Philippine government and workers’ organizations.

“Investigators from ILO will look into the killing of 92 labor union leaders. They will meet with families of victims and survivors of unexplained killings, enforced disappearances and labor-related harassments, and they will inspect two major manufacturing plants in Central and Southern Luzon,” Ustarez said.

“We hope it (the high-level mission) will shed light on government policies and structures that are responsible for the wave of attacks that we have witnessed during the Arroyo regime,” Labog said.

In a report, ILO director Linda Wirth said the killing of labor leaders is the most serious form of harassment. “But the mission is coming here not to say all things are wrong but to find a solution to the problem.” (Bulatlat.com)

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