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Political detainee dies in Batangas, 4th under Duterte

A political prisoner died at the Batangas Provincial Jail last Friday, April 19, the fourth to die under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Franco “Pangkoy” Romeroso, 38, suffered a stroke and died while he was confined in a hospital in Batangas City, human rights group Karapatan said.

Romeroso was being treated for his tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus when he died, the group added.

Romeroso, a father of a baby girl, was first arrested in 2010 as among the healthworkers known as the Morong 43.

Arrested, tortured and detained for 10 months, the health workers were released due to the strong international and national campaign on their case.

Romeroso was again arrested in Ternate, Cavite on March 27, 2015 on murder, multiple murder, attempted murder, and robbery with violence and intimidation charges Karapatan said were all trumped up.

Lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) condoled with the family of Romeroso they described as a victim of “vicious state repression.”

“He (Romeroso) faced several ridiculous cases in Nasugbu, some of which had been already dismissed. He had been awaiting his next hearing in June 2019 for possible dismissal of the rest, for failure to prosecute,” the PILC said.

The law center described Romeroso as “diminutive and soft-spoken.”

“[He] had beaten other false charges before (in 2010 as part of the Morong 43) but could not escape the military’s hounding and perennial red-tagging. He left us on Good Friday after being stricken with tuberculosis while managing his diabetes; his hospital confinement upon court order being the last we could do for him,” PILC said.

“May by his passion and death remind us of continuing injustice, and strengthen our spirits in the struggle,” the group added.

Karapatan lists 548 political prisoners in the country as of March 30, at least 225 of whom were arrested under Duterte.

In 2016, Duterte promised to release all political prisoners through a general amnesty as part of confidence-building measures for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Duterte subsequently ordered to prioritize the release of sickly and old political prisoners but failed to deliver beyond the 19 NDFP peace consultants who participated in the negotiations in Europe.

Duterte terminated the peace process with the NDFP in November 2017.

Six NDFP consultants have since been arrested, including, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Frank Fernandez who were not among those allowed to post bail to join the talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.

Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.

In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.

PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.

“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.

Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.

Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were  denied.

Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.

Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.

Fernandez also asked for a hospital check up and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.

Casambre now in Bicutan

Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.

Casambre was clandestinely trasferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.

Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.

All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.

Baylosis, however, was ordered released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in January after pieces of evidence presented against him were found insufficient. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers: Duterte a disgrace to the legal profession

Rodrigo Duterte is a disgrace to the legal profession, a lawyers’ group said after the president reportedly authorized the release of a matrix to the public yesterday alleging a destabilization plot by journalists and lawyers.

In the press conference in Quezon City this morning, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), named as among those involved in the destabilization plot to oust the president, said Duterte may have violated several laws in allowing a “foreign intelligence body” to launch surveillance operations against Filipino citizens.

“He is a big disappointment to the legal profession as he has abandoned all legal tenets,” NUPL chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Duterte, a lawyer, may have violated several laws in authorizing the release of the matrix naming the NUPL as well as Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as among those seeking to destabilize the government.

Among the laws that may have been violated are the Anti-Wiretapping Law, the Data Protection Act, the Eletronic Engineering Act as well as Constitutional provisions on privacy, he added.

“Duterte is intolerant of dissent. Diyos niya ang intelligence reports. Lawyers like us should be ruled by evidence, which he and Panelo, also a lawyer, failed to present,” Colmenares explained.

NUPL recalled that Duterte announced last week he will get back at media organizations that came out with reports about the rise in his family’s wealth.

“In the coming weeks, I will return the favor. So [PCIJ], you better stop,” Duterte said.

NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez also said that the president may have also violated the Rules of Court allowing lawyers to represent anyone.

“[The matrix is] disturbing and without let up…designed to stifle dissent and is an attack against the legal profession,” Cortez said.

“It is doubly dangerous because it is peddled by Duterte himself, which means he is telling his foot soldiers it is open season for lawyers and journalists,” Cortez added.

The NUPL said they will raise Malacañan’s latest attack against them to the Supreme Court as a supplement to its Writ of Amparo petition filed last April 15 seeking protection for government state forces linking the human rights lawyers to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The NUPL yesterday immediately denied it is involved in any plot to oust Duterte, saying its lawyers does not have time beyond defending their many clients. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Death threat vs activists sent to Bayan-Negros leader after Patigas murder

By Visayas Today

The secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros received a death threat directed against him and other activist leaders just hours after Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered.

Mike dela Concepcion said a series of text messages was sent to his phone from the number +639999019988 just before 8 p.m.

Patigas, a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre who went into human rights work and sustained his advocacy even after entering politics, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen as he returned from campaigning around 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.

The message to Dela Concepcion began with “Condolences,” then went on to say, “Nagsugod kmi sang priority, ikaw, si Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly kg alyas Tatay Ogie nga ara makaita sa Silay kag Liberted. Ini tanan amo prioridad nga tapuson sa sini nga tuig.”

(We have begun our priority, you, Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly and alias Tatay Ogie who can be found in Silay and Libertad. All these are priorities we have to finish this year.)

Clarissa refers to Clarissa Singson, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros; Roque to Rolando Rillo, chairman of the National Federation of Sugar Workers; Nolie to Noli Rosales, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros; Aldren to NFSW regional vice chairman Aldrin Aloquina; Cristian is apparently NFSW regional secretary general Christian Tuayon; Rey Alburo of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, of which Patigas was formerly secretary general; Dolly Celedonio of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros; and Hernani “Tay Ogie” Barros of the NFSW.

All the names mentioned in the text messages have been openly accused of being supporters or members of the communist rebel movement. Some of them have had charges filed against them for their supposed involvement with the rebels.

In a related development, Cristina Palabay, national secretary general of Karapatan, said she also received the same text message from the same number roughly around the time Dela Concepcion did. #

State forces disrupt psycho-social activity for Canlaon church workers

By Visayas Today

SAN CARLOS CITY – State forces disrupted a psycho-social activity organized for church workers in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental in the wake of the March 30 killing of eight persons there by police during what was initially dubbed an “anti-crime operation” that authorities later admitted targeted alleged communist rebels.

The eight were among 14 persons in all – including two barangay captains in Manjuyod town – who died during “Oplan Sauron 2.0,” which police said was the continuation of the original Oplan Sauron of December 27, that saw six persons slain, mostly in Guihulngan City, also in Negros Oriental.

Police claimed the fatalities were all communist rebels who supposedly fought back when officers served search warrants on them. But the account of the families of the dead, many of whom did not know and lived far from each other, indicated they were executed in cold blood.

Among those killed in Canlaon were the chairman of a local farmers’ organization that authorities have openly tagged as a “legal front” of communist rebels, a law minister of the parish and two volunteer church workers.

Fr. Edwin Laude. (Visayas Today)

Fr. Edwin Laude, pastoral director of the San Carlos diocese, said the activity was held at Canlaon’s St. Joseph parish church on Holy Wednesday to address the possible trauma of 12 church workers who had responded and reached out to the families of the slain.

While the activity was going on, he said, state security forces “in full combat gear” arrived at the church, saying they were there to “observe” what was going on but later “asking for the names of the participants and wanting to take their photos.”

The security personnel then said that “the next time any similar activity was held, we would need to ask the permission of the provincial government because psycho-social activities were part of medical missions, which are among the activities that need the permission of (Negros Oriental) Governor (Roel) Degamo to be held.”

Laude said they saw the disruption of the psycho-social activity by the security forces as a “threat,” stressing that “we are not hiding anything.”

Nevertheless, he added, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza “has already asked the governor’s permission to assist the families” of those killed in Canlaon.

Laude also said that the communities where the March 30 victims lived and died still “live in fear” because of the continued presence of military and police personnel in combat gear, raising concerns the violence might be repeated.

He added that security forces, mainly in civilian clothes, also continue to be monitored around the Canlaon parish church.

“It is like martial law, only worse, because this is undeclared, subliminal, scarier,” Laude said, as he called the state security forces “praning” (paranoid).

At the same time, he said the church and the families of the victims are skeptical that police pledges of an “independent investigation” of the killings would amount to anything.

“People don’t see this” materializing, adding that the church’s request to “include the accounts of the victims’ families and of other witnesses” has so far been disregarded.

The only investigation whose findings the families are inclined to honor, said the priest, is that of the Commission on Human Rights.

Escalante City councilor murdered

By Visayas Today

Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered Monday afternoon, April 22, by still unidentified gunmen.

A worker of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, with which Patigas had long been associated with, confirmed the murder, saying the councilor died of a gunshot to the forehead.

Reports said Patigas, 72, had been campaigning with other candidates in the May 13 elections but decided to return to the city center ahead of his companions, driving his motorcycle.

Bernardino “Toto” Patigas. (Photo from Visayas Today)

As he passed by the Escalante National High School at around 4:30 p.m., two men waved at him.

When Patigas slowed down, they opened fire, hitting him in the leg and, as he fell, finished him off with the headshot.

Patigas was a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre, when government forces opened fire on protesters staging a protest against the Marcos dictatorship. Twenty protesters were killed.

For years, he was an active human rights advocate and continued to support the advocacy even after he joined politics.

Human rights group Karapatan, of which NNAHRA is an affiliate, called Patigas “the 48th Karapatan worker killed in the course of his human rights advocacy.”

Bayan Muna said he had also been its coordinator in Escalante City since 2010.

Despite the constant vilification as well as a number of trumped up cases filed against him, Patigas remained a respected and popular figure in Escalante.

In April 2018, Patigas’ name and picture was included among some 60 individuals in a poster of alleged rebels that was hung in a central Negros town. Also on that poster was human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who would be murdered in Kabankalan City on November 6. #

NUPL: Ouster plot allegation ‘absurd’

A progressive lawyers’ group slammed a news report linking it to an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling the story “an imagination gone berserk.”

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said The Manila Times story “Oust-Duterte plot bared” published today and bylined by its chairman emeritus Dante Ang “fantastic” and “libelous.”

“This has certainly gone over the walls of credulity. It is absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous,” the NUPL said in a statement.

Ang’s story alleged the group, along with independent media groups and journalists including Vera Files, Rappler and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) are involved in a plot to oust Duterte.

The first matrix presented in The Manila Times report.

“There is a plot to discredit the President and destabilize his government,” Ang’s story said, quoting a anonymous source in the Office of the President said.

“There’s an obvious pattern of close coordination among some media organizations for the timely publication of anti-Duterte stories,” the source supposedly told Ang.

The story added the plot is utilizing the media, planting fake news, distributing them to the friendly media outlets, whetting the people’s appetite, arousing their anger, manipulating public emotion, touching base with the Leftist organization, enlisting the support of the police and the military, then going for the “kill.”

It added that journalist Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files is serving as main distributor of the videos of a certain “Bikoy” accusing Duterte, son and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, senatorial aspirant Christopher “Bong” Go, among others as illegal drugs distributors.

The second matrix alleging Tordesillas acting as nexus of the distribution of videos accusing the Dutertes of having links with the illegal drug trade in the country.

“’Bikoy,’ obviously a pseudonym, was the source of the black propaganda, the matrix shows. From Bikoy, the stories go to Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files, who acts as the nexus and distributor of the materials to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler and the NUPL. These organizations, in turn, distribute the false narratives to their respective members,” Ang’s story said.

In a press briefing at the Malacañan Palace, presidential spokesperson and chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said revealed Ang’s source was President Duterte himself.

“I was supposed to release this today. Naunahan lang ako ng Manila Times,” he said. (Manila Times was just ahead of me.)

Panelo said the matrix was the result of intelligence information gathered by foreign countries and shared to Malacañan.

‘Laying the ground for more attacks’

The NUPL however said their inclusion in the matrix is a mere bait to engage them in absurd and endless tit for tat to distract them from their human rights lawyering.

“[The allegations] would have been amusing were it not perilous to the safety, security, and liberty, if not the lives, of each of the 500 or so lawyers, law students, law professors, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers, and paralegals who are members of the NUPL in more than 20 chapters nationwide,” the NUPL said.

The NUPL said Ang’s story lacked evidence and credibility given his close association with Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source. And more so if it is cloaked under a fictituous anonymity that does not give the object of such calumny a fair chance to contest,” NUPL said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also scored Ang’s report, calling it “a marvel of unethical and amateurish writing.”

“Based on a single anonymous source and a matrix showing a web of threads so tenuous it would not hold up in the slightest breeze, Ang’s piece of claptrap wouldn’t even pass muster at any self-respecting high school publication,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“In fact, proof that the matrix, the source and the story are hogwash is the fact that former NUJP chair – AND former [Manila] Times editor – Inday Espina Varona is listed in the matrix as among NUPL members. She is neither a lawyer nor connected to the NUPL,” the group added.

The NUJP also said what Ang has done is similar to the narco-lists Duterte is fond of trotting which often amount to hit lists, death sentences without the benefit of trial.

“What we do fear is that this “revelation” could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the group said, adding that Ang should be held accountable should any harm come to those named in his article. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No more talks with ‘deranged Duterte’–Sison

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said there may no longer be peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under Rodrigo Duterte, accusing both the president and the military of making the process impossible.

Responding to yet another Duterte declaration that he is still open to resuming the negotiations, Sison said the revolutionary forces may spend their time better by concentrating on intensifying their “people’s war.”

In a campaign sortie in Tuguegarao City Tuesday, Duterte again appeared to have changed his mind and said he is still open to peace negotiations with the NDFP.

“Kayong mga NPA (New People’s Army), kung gusto talaga ninyo ng usapang matino, [you declare] immediate ceasefire. Walang magdala ng armas sa kampo ninyo o sa labas, walang taxation, walang pangsunog,” Duterte said. (You, NPA, if you really want to seriously talk, declare an immediate ceasefire. Do not bring arms within and outside your camps, do not impose taxation and do not go around burning.)

He also again invited Sison to come home from The Netherlands to resume peace negotiations.

“Umuwi ka dito, Sison. Ako ang bahala sa iyo. Hindi ako traydor na tao. I give you my honor, word of honor. Mag-usap tayo,” Duterte said, adding however that he could not talk about a coalition government with the Left. (You come home. I will take care of you. I am not a traitor. We will talk.)

“Pero nothing about coalition government. You can never have even an iota of a sovereign powers of the Republic of the Philippines. I am not allowed to do that. Kaya itong mga sundalo mag-coup d’etat ito. Ako pa ang mamatay,” Duterte said. (These soldiers might stage a coup d’etat and kill me.)

But Sison said a resumption of the talks may be impossible at present, saying Duterte military have rendered negotiations impossible by doing the following:

  1. Duterte has formally terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP with Proclamation 360.
  2. He has designated the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and the NPA as terrorist.
  3. He has rejected the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations stipulated by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.
  4. He has wantonly violated the safety and immunity guarantees under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by ordering the arrest of NDFP consultants and their murder if there are no witnesses, as in the case of Randy Malayao.
  5. He has unilaterally scrapped the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and has dismantled the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
  6. He has unleashed his military and police dogs to red-tag, frame up and kill at will social activists and suspected revolutionaries in his all-out war and pursuit of fascist dictatorship.

Sison added the military also actively interfered to stop the peace negotiations for the following reasons:

  1. The GRP negotiating panel cannot obtain the surrender of the armed revolutionary movement of the people through a protracted and indefinite ceasefire and
  2. the NDFP negotiating panel is gaining credit for pushing social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Sison recalled that since The Hague Joint Declaration of September 1, 1992, the most “reactionary diehards in the military” have always acted to shorten the peace negotiations under every GRP administration.

“Under the pressure of the military, Duterte has terminated and practically killed the peace negotiations since he issued Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017,” Sison said, adding the president has proceeded to drive more nails into the coffin of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Sison also dismissed GRP’s localized peace negotiations scheme as patently false, saying no revolutionary would ever fall for its trap.

He added that it is actually favorable for the revolutionary forces to fight an openly tyrannical Duterte regime as in the time of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Sison also dismissed Duterte’s invitation for him to come home, saying his time is better spent on research, writing and publishing “without being distracted by back channel talks and flip-flops by the mentally, politically and morally deranged Duterte.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPJ finds ‘shrinking space for free press in PH’

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A high-level mission of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm over the “shrinking space for free press in the Philippines” in a press conference, April 16.

The CPJ mission said it believes that the attacks and threats against critical media organizations are politically motivated.

The New York-based group cited the 11 legal cases filed against Rappler and the cyber attacks against small media outfits.

Leading the group is CPJ’s Board chair Kathleen Carroll, joined by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler and Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom director Peter Greste.

The group met with various media groups as well as government officials, such as the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), the secretary of the Department of Justice, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines since April 14.

“Government forces are finding new and increasingly sophisticated ways to shut down press freedom. So the attacks on Rappler and others have a chilling effect across all journalists. That is profoundly damaging the country’s democracy,” Greste said.

“Our concern [is], not just about Rappler, but on the broader impact on the freedom of the press on the Philippines,” Butler for his part said.

Carroll explained that what concerns them most were the media killings and the dismissive stance of the PTFoMS on the cyber-attacks against news organizations.

“Not taking the (cyberattacks) as an issue is a mistake, and we hope that they reconsider, ” she said.

Carroll added the “red-tagging” of journalists and media people to be “very frightening.”

“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack,” said Carroll.

The group is set to publish its official mission report on its website after finalizing all the details.

The Philippines ranks fifth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures the extent to which the killers of journalists escape punishment.

The 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 of those killed were journalists, remains the worst single incident of journalist killing in CPJ records.

Not a single conviction has yet been obtained for these murders. #

ACT Rep. France Castro wins Norwegian prize for work on trade union rights

By Macel Ingles

NORWAY–The Arthur Svensson Prize for 2019 goes to Filipina teacher leader and ACT Teacher’s Party Representative France Castro for her many years of labor organizing and struggle for academic rights in the Philippines.

Castro won the award for her many years of struggle to organize teachers and fighting for basic workers rights in the Philippines, wrote the Svensson Foundation in a press statement.

Castro is invited to Oslo to receive the prize at Rockefeller on June 12.

The award goes with a cash prize worth half a million kroners or about three million pesos.

One of 10 worst countries

The Philippines, according to The International Trade Union Federation, is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers and union stewards.

According to the ITUC, the country does not respect basic labor rights such as the right to organize and collective bargaining, and child labor rights as well as against discrimination and forced labor.

The group also noted the prevalence of extreme state violence and oppression of civil rights.

Workers and union activists experience threats and persecution and have to fight for basic rights in order to organize and against persecution from the government and employers, the group noted.

Attack on trade unionists

In a press statement the Svensson Foundation said, “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people who fight for trade union rights. The regime has attacked trade union activists among teachers and journalists. Some have been killed and many had been imprisoned. Death threats are not unusual. Police officers had also launched an organized campaign that publicly vilified unionized teachers.”

The group added Castro works for democracy and human rights and has worked as a teacher and took initiatives to start a union in Quezon City.

After a few years, she became the secretary general for the Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) and organized the teachers under a common union, it added.

The first CBA

ACT under Castro´s leadership grew in a very short time to become one of the country´s biggest unions in the Philippines.

The alliance signed its first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2016 for teachers in Philippine public schools, an agreement that recognizes the right to strike.

She has also been elected to the Philippine Congress where she has, among others, worked for the expansion of maternity leave to 105 days.

“As a representative of teachers, she has fought against neo-liberal reforms in the education sector and better work environment for teachers. She has also engaged in the fight against lowering age of criminal responsibility for children, and the abolition of obligatory military training in schools and against the killing of thousands of youths under Duterte´s anti-drug
war,” the foundation noted.

In Congress

It noted that Castro, in connection with her and her union´s advocacy for indigenous peoples rights to education, has been arrested by the paramilitary and arrested in November 2018 during a solidarity visit of the indigenous groups under attack in Mindanao.

“Both in and out of Congress, she has all the time fought for the poor, workers and human rights against powerful opponents,” the Foundation wrote.

Awarding on 12 June

The Svensson prize is given to a person or organization that worked to promote trade union rights and or strengthen union organizing in the world.

The award is an international prize started by Industri Energi and awarded annually by the Committee for Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Rights.

The prize is at 500,000 Norwegian kroner. Half of the amount will be
given to the prize winner and a certain amount will be set aside for follow up work connected to the prize winner or similar projects.

The prize is named after the former leader of the Chemical Union Arthur Svensson who was known for his international advocacy. #