By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA – The Cabuyao Municipal Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest dated August 2, 2012 against labor leader Hermenegildo “Hermie” Marasigan. Marasigan is a member of KMU’s national council and vice-chairman of the the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik), KMU’s regional chapter.
According to a report from Pamantik-KMU, Marasigan is being charged with “direct assault upon a person in authority” and “slight physical injury” during a supposed incident that took place on Oct. 20, 2011 in Barangay Pulo, Cabuyao, Laguna. An official of the Philippine Army is behind the charges; the officer earlier alleged that Marasigan was guilty of “human rights violations” against a soldier.
KMU chairman Elmer Labog immediately expressed outrage against what he deemed as political and legal harassment against the Southern Tagalog labor leader. Labog led leaders of Pamantik and Olalia in a protest in Cabuyao last October 2 to denounce the warrant of arrest against Marasigan and the continuing military operations in the region.
“Southern Tagalog has one of the highest concentration of workers in the country, and the labor movement there is very active and highly politicized. Ka Hermie is an exemplary labor leader and these made-up charges against him are a direct attack not so much against his person but against the labor movement not just in the region but in the country. This is out-and-out political harassment and a move to cripple Pamantik and Olalia’s activities in the region. These labor organizations are active in exposing the countless labor rights and also human rights violations in Southern Tagalog,” Labog said.
Labog said the Aquino administration is utilizing the same militarist tactics against political dissenters and labor leaders that were employed by his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the former dictator himself Ferdinand Marcos.
“Aquino is wielding martial law against workers and the labor movement. This is not the first attack that his government launched against Filipino workers, and it’s certain that it won’t be the last,” he said.
The warrant against Marasigan was delivered last Sept. 26, after two men in plainclothes went to his house in Brgy. Pulo, Cabuyao, Laguna and told his wife that he was being “invited” to the town’s police station. A staff of Olalia went to the Cabuyao police station twice to inquire about the incident but the police authorities denied sending a letter to Marasigan. It was only when the staff staff went to the Cabuyao MTC that the existence of the arrest warrant was confirmed.
According to Pamantik, the arrest warrant against Marasigan came at the heels of the establishment of a military camp beside a local office of Anakpawis Partylist in Brgy. Pulo. Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been noted to be asking residents about the whereabouts and homes of workers who are members of KMU-affiliated unions such as those working for Nestle Cabuyao and RFM. The soldiers have also been holding public film showings featuring documentaries against progressive partylist groups Anakpawis and Bayan Muna.
Residents, in the meantime, have also complained against the rowdiness of the soldiers who hold drinking sessions in the camp. When residents petitioned for the removal of the camp, the military merely transferred to another location in the same barangay, near the Malayan Colleges in Paseo de Cabuyao.
Labog said the AFP should immediately pull out from Cabuyao and from all workers’ communities.
“The Aquino government is using the military to intimidate workers and frustrate workers’ efforts at forming unions and fighting for their rights,” Labog said.
What went before
Based on an October 23 report from Journal.com.ph, the military was swift to file “human rights violation charges” against Marasigan when on October 22, he tried to stop soldiers from conducting community development operations in Bgy. Pulo.
The media report revealed that it was Capt. Gene Orense, civil military officer of the 202nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who said that the army will file the charges against Marasigan. It was reported that the AFP was conducting a so-called “community organizing activity for development operations” in Brgy. Pulo when Marasigan and a few others from Pamantik and Olalia arrived and allegedly disrupted the meeting.
“Marasigan and his group reportedly forced their way into the barangay hall of Pulo, Cabuyao, and went on to write graffiti on the wall with the words: “Palayasin ang militar dito sa Barangay Pulo,'” (Remove the military from Pulo village) said the report.
In the meantime, the report also included a statement, which claimed that Marasigan figured in a punching match with a Cpl. Reynante Roxas. Roxas of the SOTWA, Bravo Coy Command Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army filed the case against Marasigan on Oct. 25, 2011.
Pamantik, in a statement, explained that the October 20 activity was precisely against militarization. It said the peaceful protest was threatened when the military took out their high-powered firearms. The soldiers, at the time, were occupying a former health center which they turned into a detachment. The detachment, in the meantime, was next door to a day care center where toddlers and small children were present and playing at the time.
“The Philippine Army violated Article 4, Section 4 and Article 12 of International Humanitarian Law when they established camp at kept weapons in a civilian community,” Pamantik said.
The group said the charges against Marasigan were issued arbitrarily and the subsequent hearings held without following due process.
“Marasigan did not receive any subpoena, neither was he formally and legally informed that criminal charges were filed against him. It was revealed that in the first hearing that took place last November 23, 2011, the soldier who filed the charges did not even attend, but the court still continued to process the case and issue a resolution as well as a warrant of arrest. The court should immediately have thrown out the case,” it said.