Labor rights advocates commemorate fallen unionists, warn of worsening repression

On average, 90 trade unionists and activists per year become victims of filing of criminal charges since the Aquino administration took over. This is more than double the yearly number of cases from 2004-2009.


MANILA — The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) commemorates this month the life and struggle of two trade unionists: Rogelio Concepcion, who was abducted and who remains missing up to this day, and Gerardo “Gerry” Cristobal, who was killed. Both of these cases happened on the month of March during the Arroyo administration.

“The cases of Cristobal and Concepcion remind us that the fight for justice and trade union rights should live on even amidst unrelenting state violence, oppressive and exploitative social structures,” said Dylin Lauron, CTUHR coordinator for Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation Women WISE3.

Gerry Cristobal was President of the Samahan ng Manggagawa Independent in Japanese-contracted EMI Yazaki at a free-trade economic enclave in Cavite. He had survived three attempts on his life, including an ambush that severely wounded him. But on March 10, three years ago, he was killed by still unidentified men in Imus, Cavite.

Rogelio Concepcion, meanwhile, was officer-in-charge of the Solid Development Corporation Workers Association (SDCWA) in Bulacan when he was abducted on March 6 seven years ago at 10 p.m. by unidentified men near their factory in San Ildelfonso, Bulacan. Concepcion remains missing.

“Many years have passed since Concepcion was abducted and Cristobal was killed; there has been a change of administration but justice for these two union leaders is still a faraway dream,” Lauron said. Yet, she pointed out, “Jovito Palparan, a former commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 24th Infantry Battalion, referred to as “berdugo” (butcher) and accused of having perpetrated killings and disappearances during the Arroyo administration, remains out of prison.”

Women WISE 3 expressed sadness that killings and other forms of human rights violations have continued under the Aquino administration. They said Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program of this administration, has added even more victims of extra-judicial killings, criminalization and violation of trade union rights even as previous cases remain unresolved.”

To date, there have been 137 victims of extrajudicial killings since Aquino took office in July 2010. Eight of these are from the labor sector. CTUHR has also documented more cases of filing of criminal charges against labor activists and unionists. They warned that their documentation showed that on the average every year, 90 workers fall victim to the state’s criminalization of labor cases since 2010. The number has more than doubled, from 42 victims per year during the period 2004-2009.

CTUHR reminded the government of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) recommendations following ILO’s High-level Mission in 2009: “In compliance to international conventions signed by the government, the Aquino administration should end killings and other forms of violations being committed against unionists who are merely exercising their union rights.” The group urged the government to resolve past cases of human rights violations and scrap Oplan Bayanihan.(

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