Eyewitnesses say military involved in abducting labor organizer


MANILA — The fact-finding team on the disappearance of a labor organizer said that there are eyewitness reports that the Philippine military is involved.

William Lariosa, 63, a veteran labor organizer in the sugar and pineapple plantations of Bukidnon, has been missing since April 10. He was last seen in Brgy. Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon. Eyewitnesses said that elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion forcibly arrested Lariosa.

Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU SMR), Lariosa’s affiliation since 1996, formed a fact-finding team composed of paralegals, members of progressive groups, and Lariosa’s family members. They started on April 11 and went to the headquarters of the 48th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Maramag, Bukidnon to investigate whether Lariosa was under military custody.

“The 48th IB vehemently denied that Lariosa is detained in their headquarters despite eyewitness testimonies from local people and reliable sources who said that Lariosa was forcibly taken by 48th IB soldiers on April 10, 2024,” KMU SMR said.

The team also went to the municipal police station and other locations in Quezon town, but to no avail.

“Lariosa has been missing for more than 72 hours now. KMU-SMR believes that this is a case of enforced disappearance, illegal arrest, and detention. An arrest warrant is absent,” KMU-SMR said.

A separate investigation by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)’s quick response operation (QRO) was deployed on April 12, 2024. They also released a statement condemning the arrest of Lariosa.

The CHR is tasked to investigate incidents of enforced disappearance, arbitrary or unlawful arrests, and other human rights violations.

“We remind the public and agents of law enforcement that these acts are tagged as severe human rights violations under Republic Act No. 10535, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. We also take this opportunity to once again stress the need for the Philippines to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as a means to safeguard all activists from cases of involuntary disappearances,” CHR said.

CHR added that the incident reflects the continuing vulnerability of activists, including labor organizers, to involuntary disappearances.

“The balancing act in honoring the struggles of the labor workforce in the country goes hand-in-hand with creating and promoting reforms which uplift all Filipino workers and their inherent rights. As the bedrock of the Philippine economy, it is incumbent upon all duty-bearers to ensure that we find sustainable solutions to the challenges that Filipino laborers face,” CHR stressed.

The national formation of KMU said that the government should take accountability for labor and human rights violations, as International Labor Day approaches on May 1.

As of this writing, Lariosa remains missing.

The fact-finding team and other progressive groups continue to call on concerned citizens to aid in the search for Lariosa. They said that any information on Lariosa’s location may be coordinated with the KMU SMR. (RTS, DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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