Aside from KMU-SMR, other regional chapters of the KMU have a standing complaint against the Republic of the Philippines with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in relation to military-instigated attacks on unions, unionists and workers.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Roderick Mamuyac, 43, long-standing labor organizer of Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao Region, gained freedom from detention yesterday, February 8, after the court dismissed the military’s accusations against him. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) claimed that he is a liaison officer of the NPA (New People’s Army) in the region. They charged him with multiple murder but Judge Virginia Ang of Regional Trial Court-Branch I in Tagum City threw out the case saying it has an insufficient basis.
Two days before, Mamuyac and two of his companions were waylaid and held for hours by government soldiers at a military checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City. The soldiers did not say why they were keeping the three against their will or what their supposed crime was. Only after Mamuyac and his companions were brought to Camp Leonor, San Pedro St. in Davao City hours later did the military respond to human rights lawyers’ urgent demands for a valid reason.
With Mamuyac was Ariel Arbitrario, NDFP consultant in Mindanao. He was released on bail late last year so he could participate in the peace talks. Paralegals of human rights group Karapatan-SMR reported that the CIDG personnel claimed they did not know that Arbitrario is an NDFP consultant. The same CIDG personnel also expressed ignorance of what the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) means.
Subsequent demands for an explanation as to why the three were being held were finally answered by the commander of Task Force Haribon, a composite unit of government soldiers. In a text message, Brig. General Gilbert Gapay, commander of the said task force, reportedly said Arbitrario happened to be traveling with a person with a standing warrant for order.
Gapay said they had meant to apprehend Mamuyac, a labor organizer of Kilusang Mayo Uno – Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR). To the military, he is a liaison officer of the NPA in the region.
Karapatan human rights lawyer countered, though, that the “standing warrant” Gapay mentioned did not name Mamuyac. It also has no definitive description of the person with the “standing warrant.”
Carlo Olalo, secretary general of KMU-Southern Mindanao, asserted that Mamuyac is a long-standing trade union organizer of KMU and is not in any way connected with the NPA.
That Mamuyac and another person, 55-year-old driver Rosario Sinday, were accompanying Arbitrario at the time has been the KMU’s expression of its commitment to the success of the GRP-NFDP peace talks, Olalo explained.
The KMU is a member of the network called Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) which helped Arbitrario after his release. The group has been pushing for the resumption of talks and the freedom of all political prisoners.
Like Mamuyac, Sinday has also been released on February 8.
Government soldiers’ persecution of unionists continuing
Despite the dismissal of the military case against Mamuyac, the KMU-SMR is still wary. In a statement, they expressed alarm on the current political situation following the declaration of President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines of an all-out war against the so-called “reds” in the Philippines.
Olalo recounted workers’ experiences showing how the counter-insurgency programs of the AFP had targeted for attacks not only the armed revolutionary groups but also the legal (unarmed) and democratic mass organizations.
Aside from KMU-SMR, other regional chapters of the KMU have a standing complaint against the Republic of the Philippines with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in relation to military-instigated attacks on unions, unionists and workers. These attacks were preceded by AFP accusations that the workers’ unions or leaders were “Reds,” “Communists” or leftists.
Over the years, the labor center and other progressive labor groups have recorded cases of unionists and labor organizers being harassed, arrested, jailed, interrogated, surveilled upon, isolated, even abducted and murdered, after they were tagged as “reds” by the military.
The weekend before Mamuyac’s arrest, two men who refused to identify themselves reportedly barged into the KMU-SMR’s office. The labor group’s members also observed that several men continued to prowl the vicinity of their office monitoring the premises and staff.
Last December in Metro Manila, another KMU member, a leader of one of its allied federations, reported that he was repeatedly visited by soldiers in his house. He said in a press conference in Quezon City last month that the soldiers had questioned him every time they visited, told him they knew everything about him, and that they wanted him to help them as their informer.
Instead of waging war against the people and the activists critical of the government’s anti-poor programs, President Duterte can address the root cause of armed conflict, Olalo said. He added that if Duterte truly wants to achieve peace in the country, he should address the problems of landlessness, poverty and social injustices.