“Unionists are not terrorists. Terrorists do not fight for wages, decent conditions, and workers’ rights. Terrorists are those who intimidate, arrest, and kill people who stand up for justice and the common good.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna – Elements of the Philippine National Police conducted a search operation at the office of labor alliance Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Engklabo (AMEN) in barangay Market Area, Santa Rosa, Laguna, March 30, and claimed to have found firearms and explosives.
According to police reports, joint elements from CIDG National Capital Region, CID Region 4A, PNP Regional Mobile Force Battalion 4A, RACU4A, and PNP Santa Rosa issued a search warrant for Marites Santos David. The report identified David as a member of AMEN, as well as labor federation Organized Labor Associations in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU) and labor center Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU).
The report labeled David as a member of the revolutionary organization Revolutionay Council of Trade Unions (RCTU), one of the organizations comprising the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
According to AMEN, there was no one in the office at the time of the raid. “The office has not been used for over a year, since the first declaration of a lockdown in Luzon,” the group said in a statement sent to Bulatlat.
Progressive labor groups quickly condemned the operation, citing it as the latest in a “series of attacks against labor leaders and organizations.”
In a statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno stressed that workers need “aid, vaccines, an emergency allowance, paid pandemic leave, and a comprehensive medical solution,” not “fake arrests and planted firearms.”
OLALIA-KMU also stressed that Marites David is not a terrorist. “Teacher Laly is a member of OLALIA-KMU’s education and research staff,” said the group. “That she is in possession of any firearm, much less an entire armory’s worth of it, is simply impossible.”
The PNP claimed to have retrieved at least five rifles, three pistols, nine explosives, 14 landmines, and other accessories. They asserted that the office was used as a “firearms depot” for “members who will join the armed group in red areas and those who will stage violent actions against government troops.”
PAMANTIK-KMU debunked such claims. “PAMANTIK-KMU and AMEN have stood side-by-side to defend the rights and welfare of workers in Southern Tagalog,” the group said.
They stated that based on the surrounding facts, “it becomes clear that the PNP and NTF-ELCAC are simply looking for targets to raid.”
The AMEN office raid was prefaced by another series of raids in Central Luzon. Bayan-Central Luzon Chairman Pol Viuya was arrested in Bamban, Tarlac while longtime Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon Chairperson Joseph Canlas was arrested in Brgy. Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga.
Both were red-tagged prior to their arrests.
In Southern Tagalog, the AMEN office raid is the latest in the series of attacks against progressives which started on March 4 with the arrest of AMEN Secretary General Arnedo Lagunias and Water System Employees Response (WATER) member Ramir Corcolon.
The biggest series of arrests came on March 7, Bloody Sunday, when six activists were arrested in Laguna and Rizal provinces. Three of them were unionists or former labor leaders: Mags Camoral of BAYAN Laguna and former President of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa sa F. Tech (NLMF-OLALIA-KMU); Steve Mendoza, Vice Chairperson of OLALIA-KMU; and Eugene Eugenio of COURAGE Rizal.
On March 28, labor leader and PAMANTIK-KMU Vice Chairperson Dandy Miguel was assassinated on his way home from work. Miguel is the second labor leader killed in Laguna under Duterte, following Reynaldo Malaborbor’s assassination on November 2019.
AMEN is calling for all attacks against unionists and activists to cease. “Unionists are not terrorists,” said the group. “Terrorists do not fight for wages, decent conditions, and workers’ rights. Terrorists are those who intimidate, arrest, and kill people who stand up for justice and the common good.”