Conference on the Peace Process
After the congress, the KMU held a “National Workers Conference on the Peace Process.” Invited as speakers were Rafael Baylosis, member of the Reciprocal Working Committee for Socio-economic Reforms of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-NDFP peace negotiations, Benjie Oliveros of Bulatlat.com, and Beverly Longid, Katribu national president.
Baylosis provided updates on the recently-concluded round of peace talks between the GPH and NDFP. He likewise stressed the importance of the involvement of workers in the peace negotiations, especially now that the agenda is socio-economic reforms, which would greatly affect the Filipino people and determine the direction of the whole country.
Oliveros talked about how the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which was signed on August 1, 1998, has been violated many times over, especially with the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Karapatan’s records show that there were 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings, 205 victims of enforced disappearance, hundreds illegally arrested and detained and more than a thousand victims of torture during the nine-year administration of Arroyo. Under the Aquino government there have been 40 cases of extrajudicial killings, five cases of enforced disappearances, and 27 victims of illegal arrests and detention from July 2010 to February 2011.
However, Oliveros said, the signing of the agreement itself is already a step forward and the Filipino people, most especially the workers and Filipino masses, should push for the implementation of the rights stipulated in the agreement. He stressed the fact that these rights have been the product of struggles of oppressed peoples and are being fought for continuously especially in times of crisis when forces of oppression try to deny the people of their rights.
Longid challenged KMU and its members to document violations not only of their civil and political rights but also of their right to a collective bargaining agreement, to decent wages, to a safe work environment and humane living conditions. She stressed the importance of documentation in the protection and promotion of workers’ civil, political, social and economic rights. Longid also underscored the need for the participation of workers and the Filipino people in working for a just and lasting peace.
KMU chairperson Elmer Labog explained the contents of position paper titled Implement Pro-worker Social and Economic reforms in the Philippines, which they submitted to the Royal Norwegian Government as their contribution to the peace talks. The demands contained in the paper are as follows:
1. Legislate an across-the-board substantial wage increase nationwide.
2. Halt and eliminate contractual and other forms of flexible work in the country. Stop outsourcing and other schemes which promote contractualization.
3. Stop privatization of social services that should be delivered by the government to the people.
i. In the immediate, reverse the price hikes caused by this privatization framework, such as in the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway and junk the proposed Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit fare hike.
4. Junk the power of the Labor secretary to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes.
5. Reject dependence on foreign investments as main policy on the economy and on employment generation, which only promotes cheap and repressed labor.
6. Implement national industrialization and genuine land reform.
The conference ended with the reading of the Unity Declaration and Pledge for Just Peace and the closing remarks of Joselito Ustarez, KMU vice chairperson, who announced that the conference serves as a launching activity of the series of forums, discussions, and activities relating to the peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP.