KMU Condemns Murder of Another Labor Leader, Presses Aquino to Probe AFP’s Hand

News Release

Militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno slammed the murder of another labor leader in Negros Occidental by alleged members of the Philippine Army, calling it as ex-President Gloria Arroyo’s “bloody parting shot on government critics” and as added pressure for the Aquino administration to look into the role of military on countless cases of political killings.

Sugar worker Benjamin “Benjie” Bayles was with his friend waiting for public transport in Sitio Antipolo, Brgy. Buenavista at around 4:30 pm on June 14 when two motorcycle-riding men stopped in front of him and shot him with a .45 caliber pistol. Bayles, an organizer of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), actively took part in the struggle for genuine land reform.

KMU said army soldiers belonging to the 61st Infantry Batallion (61st IB) who are encamped at the barangay center in Brgy. Buenavista, had been asking the whereabouts and other related information about Bayles.

Bayles is the 11th NFSW member killed since 2001 and the second labor leader murdered after the May 10 elections. Last June 3, union president Edward Panganiban was killed in Sta. Rosa, Laguna by alleged members of the military. Since 2001, 98 labor leaders and organizers have been killed.

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“Bayles’s murder, along with the murder of thousands more, should put more pressure on President Noynoy Aquino to be tougher on his promise to prosecute Arroyo and the perpetrators of these atrocities. This should also push him to junk his predecessor’s counterinsurgency plan of the military that spawned extra-judicial killings, abductions and other forms of gross human rights violations,” KMU executive vice chairman Joselito “Lito” Ustarez said.

Full support for AFP?

KMU issued this statement as Aquino formally welcomed today new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Ricardo David Jr. The group said workers are wary of Aquino’s full support of the military in light of AFP’s record of brutally suppressing unarmed civilians.

“President Aquino’s failure to mention his plans on Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2, makes workers and people cautious of his avowed full support of the military. Will he continue Arroyo’s killing spree? Will he lay down a new security plan directed against government critics and vocal opposition to US-dictated policies? The people are waiting for Aquino’s answers to these questions,” Labog said.

KMU said AFP Chief of Staff David’s vow to keep the military a “responsible institution subservient to the civilian community” will remain a lie unless the military’s hand on extrajudicial killings will be investigated. The group also noted that David, former Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) chief, has responsibility with the persistent militarization and harassment of farmers in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“David’s stint as NolCom chief constrasts his pronouncements on civilian supremacy. For the longest time, NolCom has kept Luisita highly militarized and dangerous to those vocal against the abusive schemes by the Cojuangco-Aquino family,” Ustarez said.

KMU also cited the findings of international bodies indicting the previous regime and the military on the bloody campaign against activists, including the initial report of the International Labor Organization last year.

Reference: Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU executive vice chairman

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