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2ND UPDATE: Massacre and mass arrest as SEMPO rampages in Southern Tagalog

By Joseph Cuevas

(This is a developing story. Refresh for more updates.)

Five activists were killed while four others were arrested in a joint Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations in Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Batangas provinces Sunday morning, eve of International Women’s Day, March 7.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted joint Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) in the four provinces that resulted in the massacre and arrests.

In Rodriguez, Rizal, Michael Dasigao, officer of a Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-affiliate organization and a Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno were shot dead by the police, an alert from human rights organization Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

Manny Asuncion

In Cavite, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion was brutally killed after police and military raided the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas.

Photos released by Kilusang Mayo Uno’s Southern Tagalog chapter Pamantik show that Asuncion’s body appear to have been dragged from the center’s upper floor, leaving streaks of blood on the floor and stairs.

In Nasugbu, Batangas, activist couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista were found dead in a funeral home hours after police raided their house in Nasugbu.

Their 10-year old child was able to escape.

In Barangay Mamatid, Cabuyao, Laguna, Steve Mendoza, executive vice-president of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno, was arrested at his house at around 3:15 this morning.

Nimfa Lanzanas

Nimfa Lanzanas of Kapatid-Southern Tagalog, and aide for political prisoners in the region, was arrested in front of her grandchildren at her house in Calamba City.

Elizabeth Camoral, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in Laguna, was also arrested after the police raided the office of farmers’s group Defend Yulo at around 4:30 in the morning in Cabuyao.

In Antipolo City, Rizal, Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)-Rizal member Eugene Eugenio was also arrested.

Eugenio is president of the Advancement of Rights and Responsibilities of Organized Workers LGU (ARROWS) – Antipolo City Hall.

Meanwhile, Lino Baez of BAYAN-Batangas missed being arrested as he was absent when his house was raided where the police said they found illegal guns.

Elizabeth Camoral

Karapatan Southern Tagalog is investigating reports of other arrests, including of Dumagat tribes people in Tanay, Rizal.

Manila Regional Trial Court First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo De La Rosa issued the search warrants used in the SEMPO.

The massacre and mass arrest today followed the simultaneous arrests of unionists Ramir Corcolon in San Pablo City and former Lakas ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda union leader Arnedo Laguinas in Sta. Rosa, both in Laguna province, last March 4.

SEMPO, previously implemented in Negros and Panay islands, has consistently resulted in massacres and mass arrests of activists.

Its latest implementation before this morning’s incident resulted in the massacre of nine and the mass arrest of Tumandok tribes people in Iloilo and Capiz provinces last December.

The Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan said it condemns the “tokhang-style” attacks against progressive groups in the region and demanded justice for those killed today. # (With Raymund B. Villanueva. Photos provided by Karapatan ST)

‘Nagpapatuloy ang pakikibaka para sa kalayaan at hustisya’

“Talumpu’t limang taon ang nakalipas, kasama sa martsa ng mamamayang Pilipino ang uring manggagawa para ibagsak ang isang diktador. Subalit ang inisyal na tagumpay na magtutulak sana ng mga ekonomiko at pampulitikang reporma ay tuloy-tuloy na nilustay ng mga sumunod na rehimen. Pero isa ang tiyak: Nananatiling buhay ang militansya ng pagkakaisa ng mamamayang Pilipino. Nagpapatuloy ang pakikibaka para sa kalayaan at hustisya ng ating bayan.”Jerome Adonis, Pangkalahatang Kalihim, Kilusang Mayo Uno

‘Isiwalat ang modus operandi ng pekeng pagpapasuko ng PNP’

“Ipinapanawagan ng KMU na ilantad at labanan ng mga manggagawa ang ganitong aktibidad ng rehimeng Duterte at mga ahenteng militar at intelligence nito laban sa kilusang-paggawa. Nananawagan kami sa lahat ng biktima ng ganitong atake na ilahad ang kanilang mga kwento at isiwalat ang modus operandi ng pekeng pagpapasuko ng PNP.” Elmer Labog, Tagapangulo, Kilusang Mayo Uno

Another farmer killed in Bohol as 9 Tumandok are massacred in Panay

Another peasant activist in Bohol Province was killed just as nine Tumandok  civilians in Panay Island were being massacred last Wednesday in one of the bloodiest day for farmers under the four-year old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña of Barangay Bantolinao, Antequera town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle riding men around 9:00 AM last December 30 at Barangay Dorol, Balilihan town in Bohol, peasant organization Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP) said.

Paña was on his way to bring lunch for his son working at a nearby construction site when fired upon by unidentified perpetrators.

Paña was a former officer of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasadpan (HUMANDA KA), a formation of Humabol chapters in the first district of Bohol.

In 2018, the victim, along with his wife and children, worked as volunteers for the construction of a coconut processing plant managed by farmers organizations in Barangay Tinibgan, Maribojoc which now produces virgin coconut oil.

In June 26, 2018, the victim’s house was subjected to a warrantless search by around 30 members of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the said province.

His family complained of maltreatment during the said incident, HUMABOL-KMP said.

In previous years, the Paña family also reported of being harassed by state forces.

Paña’s killing happened while the 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the PNP in Western Visayas killed nine Tumandok indigenous peoples in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, also in the Visayas.

Bohol peasant activist Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña, killed in Balilihan, Bohol last December 30. (Humabol-KMP photo)

Immediate condemnation of the Tumandok massacre

The massacre in Panay Island earned swift condemnation from church leaders and organizations.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose Diocese suffered similar police and military Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) that also resulted in massacres, cried out, “Do we have to kill our perceived ‘enemies’ – especially if they are unarmed?”

“Is this the way we celebrate Christmas as a Christian country about to welcome the New Year and 500 Years of Christianity [in the Philippines?” the prelate asked.

“How long will this spiral of violence continue? Have we run out of peaceful means? Are we that desperate? Do we really, seriously believe this is the effective and lasting way to solve our social ills? I RAISE MY VOICE TO CRY OUT: “NO MORE KILLING!” We want PEACE – JUST and LASTING PEACE!” he added.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PNP) in Panay and Guimaras islands directly blamed PNP chief Debold Sinas for the death of nine Tumandok leaders and activists yesterday.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok, an indigenous people of Panay, on the early hours of yesterday in the mountainous villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang’, his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR’s Fr. Marco Sulayao said in a statement.

The faith-based group also blamed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) agent Jeffrey Celis it said petitioned for the search warrants in Metro Manila Regional Trial Courts used for the operations.

“Blood is on the hands of NTF-ELCAC red-taggers, especially Jeffrey Celis, who according to [a] reliable source, petitioned for the said warrants,” PCPR said.

National labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) included President Rodrigo Duterte in the blame for the massacre.

“The blood of the Tumandok is in the hands of Duterte, Sinas, PNP and NTF-ELCAC. They wantonly kill the indigenous peoples to give way to projects of big capitalists,” KMU said in a statement.

“We condemn this heinous killing perpetrated by the mercenary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) -PNP. It is most likely that the police and military will present the killed and arrested Tumandok as members of the New People’s Army when in fact, they are just farmers and indigenous people defending their ancestral land and farms against land grabbing,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

Indigenous people’s group Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) also denounced “the government’s wanton disregard for human rights and laments the death of our people’s heroes.”

“Our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment,” Katribu said in a statement.

“The indigenous peoples have nowhere to run to anymore. We will certainly hold the line,” it added.

An IP rights advocate calls for the dissolution of the government agency they blame for red-tagging the victims that led to their massacre. (Katribu photo)

Red-tagged victims

Killed in the synchronized and simultaneous operations in the neighboring towns were former Barangay Captain and  current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) chairperson Roy Giganto, his Barangay Lahug co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre; Eliseo Gayas Jr. of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz; Mario Diaz of Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz; Artilito Katipunan of Barangay Acuna, Tapaz; and Barangay Nawayan chairperson Dalson Catamen of Tapaz.

Former TUMANDUK chairperson and Tapaz local government employee Marevic Aquirre is missing, believed to have been abducted by the police.

Two youth residents of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz town are also reported missing.

The PNP reported it arrested 17 other Tumandok from its SEMPO.

“These Tumandok leaders were very active in reclaiming their ancestral land now occupied by the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army military reservation. They were also active in resisting the construction of the Jalaur mega-dam,” PCPR said.

The community of Lahug also resisted the coercion of military troopers to sign a resolution declaring the CPP/NPA as “persona non grata” in their barangay, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

TIMELINE of the struggle for ABS CBN

The Senate conducted a hearing on the ABS-CBN issue last Monday, February 24, obviously in reaction to the series of mass actions calling for the network’s franchise renewal. The Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, again showed the Upper House’s more independent character than the House of Representatives that still refuses to schedule hearing on the 11 bills pending before its Committee on Legislative Franchises. And while Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called the Senate hearing “a meaningless and brown-nosing spectacle,” even his fellow administration allies were compelled to attend and expressed support for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal at the end of the hearing. Resource persons from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Justice also clarified that ABS-CBN did not violate laws that warrant its closure.

The giant media network may now heave a sigh of relief, its position and future clearer than when the issue blew up middle of January.

Here is a timeline of how organizations have been helping the network weather its worst storm since it was sequestered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law:

December 3, 2019

– President Rodrigo Duterte threatend he will “see to it that you’re (ABS CBN) out.”

December 30, 2019

– Duterte tells ABS-CBN management in a speech to just sell the company.

January 16, 2020

-The Manila Times reports that Solicitor General Jose Calida plans to file a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court questioning ABS CBN’s franchise.

January 17, 2020

-The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) holds a Black Friday protest at the Boy Scout Monument in Quezon City to denounce the threat. They People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), Defend Jobs Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), members of the ABS CBN Rank and File Employees Union (RFEU), the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PEP), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, Rappler, and progressive organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan join the action. The entire Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives attend. Several ABS CBN reporters participate.

January 18, 2020

-The NUJP launches its one million signature campaign on the online petition platform change.org. Within 24 hours, 100 thousand signatures were gathered as several ABS CBN artists ask their fans for support.

January 24, 2020

-The NUJP and the ABS CBN-RFEU hold a “silent protest” at the network’s Sgt. Esguerra gate. Several network reporters join. Participants light candles and distribute petition forms. Defend Jobs Philippines, Altermidya and CEGP attend.

January 31, 2020

-The NUJP, PCP members, Altermidya and several ABS CBN fans gather at the Boy Scout Monument and later proceed to one of the network’s Mother Ignacia Avenue gates to conduct its third Black Friday protest. CEGP, CAP and Defend Jobs Philippines join.

February 7, 2020

-The NUJP holds its fourth Black Friday protest at the employee’s Mother Ignacia gate and gather hundreds of signatures from employees. Meanwhile, the NUJP and other employees gather petitions inside the network since January 18. Altermidya and the ABS CBN-RFEU attend the rainy fourth Black Friday.

February 10, 2020

-Calida files quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. NUJP and Altermidya denounce the solicitor general’s action, as well as his harassment of ABS CBN reporter Mark Navallo. NUJP calls for a quick reaction protest action at the Boy Scout Monument. Altermidya, ABS CBN RFEU, CEGP, PCP, Rappler, Kadamay, Defend Jobs Philippines and other progressive organizations under Bayan attend.

February 11-14, 2020

-Media groups, schools and other organizations issue statements issue statements supporting ABS CBN and denouncing threats against the network. Several newspapers publish editorials supportive of the embattled company. ABS CBN report interviews of fans loyal to the network. ABS CBN management issues statement. Several NUJP chapters hold their own protest actions but complain of surveillance by unidentified men who take their pictures even after their activities.

February 12, 2020

-Committee on Legislative Franchises vice chairperson Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio Albano admits pressure from both the Duterte administration and ABS CBN supporters.

February 14, 2020

-NUJP and ABS CBN employees jointly organize the fifth protest action named “Red Friday Protest” as the day fell on Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of network officials and workers participate. Reporters prepare food for the increasing number of supporters. PCP conduct interactive activities during protest. CAP, LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Makabayan, and other labor federations attend.

February 19, 2020

-NUJP officers submit to the House of Representatives copies of 200 thousand signatures to the authors of the 11 bills for ABS CBN franchise renewal as well as to the Committee of Legislative Franchises secretariat and chairperson Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez. Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate receives the copies in behalf of his fellow authors.

Photograb of Altermidya video of the February 21 “White Friday” protest.

February 21, 2020

-Thousands of ABS CBN employees light candles and form a human chain around the network compound in an unprecedented mass action in defense of a media organization. Thousands more supporters from other organizations join earlier supporters in a two-hour program in front of the network’s broadcasting center. NUJP, CAP and ABS CBN employees jointly conduct program. Film and television stars attend this sixth protest action. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: The author is NUJP deputy secretary general.]

Groups launch network to defend activists from trumped-up charges

By Joseph Cuevas

Quezon City—Human rights group Karapatan and other progressive organizations formed a network to defend activists and and rights defenders in Mindanao against trumped-up charges and harassments by state forces under the Rodrigo Duterte government Wednesday, February 12.

Defend Mindanao, a campaign network in defense of Mindanao human rights defenders and development workers, also called on the Commission on Human Rights  to investigate and facilitate remedies for the embattled activists.

According to Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, co-convenor of Defend Mindanao and herself a Manobo tribal leader, Mindanao has been a factory mill of trumped-up criminal charges against activists.

Last March 2019, the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Bayugan City filed charges of kidnapping, arson, robbery and serious illegal detention against 468 individuals, including 78 known activists in Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

Cullamat added that although martial law in Mindanao has been lifted last December 2019, the arrest of Nestor Amora, a businessman and former barangay captain in Surigao City, and Karapatan national council member Engr. Jennifer Aguhob in Oroquietta City, prove that martial law still exists in the island through Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.

She added that EO 70 allows the implementation of a de facto martial law in Mindanao and all over the country.

Other forms of human rights violations

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) denounced the inclusion of teacher Ophelia Tabacon, ACT Region 10 chairperson, among the 467 persons charged with kidnapping, serious illegal detention and destructive allegedly commited against police personnel from December 2018 to February 2019.

ACT said Tabacon also recieved death threats through her social media accounts and subjected to various form of surveillance and harassments by suspected State security forces.

Aside from the teachers’ group, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) also reported villifications and red-tagging by State forces.

KMU said leaftlets linking its allied National Federations of Labor Union have been distributed in Caraga region they said are the handiwork of the military.

Sr. Emma Cupin, current regional coordinator of RMP in Northern Mindanao, is also included in a warrant of arrest.

(Photo by Joseph Cuevas)

Hitlist

Defend Mindanao said the arrest warrants for the 468 respondents is a hitlist of the Duterte government that often leads to extra-judicial killings of activists.

The group said the red-baiting tactics of the government lump together civilian activists with the armed combatants of the New People’s Army in a bid to make them targets of military combat operations and legal offensives.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that such tactics is an illegal practice and weaponization of law against critics and disenters.

The lawyers’ group cited issued warrants from courts they said are without complete examination of complainants and witnesses as well as submission of evidences. 

The NUPL challenged the Department of Justice to investigate public prosecutors who handle what they say are trumped-up cases against the activists. #

KMU: Police in industrial zones violate labor rights

Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the creation of police offices in Central Luzon industrial zones, saying the move violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to form and join organizations.

The KMU blasted Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region III and the Rodrigo Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as the agencies announced the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) to prevent militant labor groups from organizing unions in the region.

“The creation of the JIPCO is a direct attack on workers’ basic right to form unions –our legitimate means to collectively fight for our basic interests and welfare as workers. The JIPCO is meant to stifle not the so-called ‘radical labor infiltration’ but the workers’ very right to exercise self-organization and union work,” KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

PNP Central Luzon director Police General Rhodel Sermonia last Wednesday, January 22, led JIPCO’s launch at the Clark Freeport Zone in Zambales Province “to act as the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”

With Sermonia as guests of honor and speakers were presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Direcor General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza. 

The KMU however said there can be no peace anywhere in the Philippines if the PNP, known for criminal and deadly practices such as “ninja cops” and “Oplan Tokhang”, are tasked to prevent unionism in factories and workplaces.

The group also noted that both the PNP and Philippine Army have repeatedly accused militant labor unions of being supporters of the underground communist movement in the Philippines. The creation of a JIPCO is precisely aimed to prevent organizing of unions which will affect the entire labor sector, it added.

“The [NTF-ELCAC] has been weaponized to the extent of violating fundamental rights of workers to form unions, which are clearly provided in the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, as well as International Conventions. The JIPCO in effect bans the existence of any union and all unions in Central Luzon,” said KMU’s Labog.

The militant labor group charged that the JIPCO is a project of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was created through Executive Order No. 70.

“That the JIPCO is a mechanism to defend industrial zones from radical labor in support of the ELCAC is all rhetoric for crushing legitimate people’s organizations carrying legitimate demands, such as unions calling for higher wages, regular work and implementation of labor standards, especially in Economic Zones which are not regulated by the Labor Department,” Labog said.

The labor leader also added that “only the few big capitalists stand to benefit from the eradication of unions in the economic zones.”

The KMU Chairman asked workers and the people to launch actions and engage all institutions to stop JIPCO even as it looks for possible legal actions against the PNP and PEZA. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

JoMag: ‘I was surprised, shocked’

Department of Labor and Employment undersecretary Joel Maglunsod said he did not receive notice of his dismissal before President Rodrigo Duterte made the announcement in a speech Tuesday in Catarman, Northern Samar.

“I was surprised, shocked even,” Maglunsod told Kodao, adding he only learned of the President’s statement when he opened his mobile phone after conducting two meetings Wednesday morning.

“Many journalists have sent me messages about PRRDs statement and that was how I learned about it,” Maglunsod said.

Duterte said he fired Maglunsod because of his association with the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) the President alleged was responsible for the upsurge in labor strikes throughout the country.

[Si] Joel Maglunsod, pinaalis ko. Pinagbigyan ko sila noong bago ako  kasi gusto ko nandoon sila sa opisina, Joel Maglunsod, sila lahat,” Duterte said.

(What went before: Labor movement hails, welcomes back ‘JoMag‘)

Maglunsod said he immediately went back to the DOLE offices in Intramuros Wednesday afternoon to consult with labor and employment secretary Silvestre Bello III and other department officials.

“They too were surprised,” Maglunsod revealed.

Maglunsod said Bello asked him to “stay put” until Monday. “He told me he (Bello) will be able to know more in Monday when he meets the President during their Cabinet meeting,” Maglunsod said.

The beleaguered official also told Kodao that he called up special presidential assistant Christopher “Bong” Go to request for a meeting with Duterte.

“He said he will ask the President (about my request),” Maglunsod said.

Maglunsod, who also hails from Davao City, said he considered Duterte his friend but felt it would have been better for him if the President told him directly about his decision before the public announcement.

“But it is his prerogative as the President and appointing power,” Maglunsod said.

He added he is ready to leave his post.

“But I hold my head high. I can categorically say I did my best in performing DOLE’s mandate. I have been fair, even to the employers. I always told them that we only need to follow the law,” he said.

The country’s major labor federations, including the KMU, the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition unanimously defended Maglunsod as the official who consistently “bridged the ‘gap of trust’ between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros.”

“I am grateful to the labor federations who expressed support. I have not had the chance to send them messages yet, but I thank them for validating my work as DOLE undersecretary,” Maglunsod said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Labor movement hails, welcomes back ‘JoMag’

Never has a Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) official been unanimously hailed and defended by the labor movement as Joel Maglunsod.

As when they issued a joint manifesto against labor-only contracting last year and jointly commemorated International Labor Day in May 1 this year, the country’s major labor groups were again united, this time in defending the official they fondly call “JoMag”.

They said President Rodrigo Duterte made a mistake when he fired Maglunsod.

The last prominent Leftist in the Rodrigo Duterte regime was unceremoniously fired by President Rodrigo Duterte in a speech before soldiers in Camp Sumuroy in Catarman, Northern Samar Tuesday, October 2.

[Si] Joel Maglunsod, pinaalis ko. Pinagbigyan ko sila noong bago ako  kasi gusto ko nandoon sila sa opisina, Joel Maglunsod, sila lahat,” Duterte said, adding the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) that Maglunsod served as vice president for Mindanao and national secretary general is “paralyzing the economy” with labor strikes.

The labor movement, however, defended Maglunsod once again.

“Maglunsod has worked for the mass inspection of violations on labor only contracting and other labor standards and occupational health and safety violations that resulted in favorable orders and decisions. Workers are eager to welcome back Ka Jomag in the picket-lines and marches and take part in the growing workers’ movement against Duterte’s anti-worker and tyrannical rule,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said in a statement.

Nagkakaisa Labor Coalition’s Rene Magtubo for his part said “President Duterte has made a major mistake in dismissing the services of Usec Jomag at the DOLE only to heed the advice of the military and anti-worker elements of his administration.”

“In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridged the “gap of trust” between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros,” Magtubo added.

The Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) for its part said it was wrong for Duterte to fire Maglunsod over the escalating labor unrest in the country, adding the official was labor’s closest ally in the DOLE.

“Ironically, the labor unrest now spooking employers and even the military was largely caused by Mr. Duterte’s failure to live up to his promise of ending contractualization,” Sentro leader Josua Mata said.

“Obviously, Usec JoeMag is being sacrificed to prop up the sagging image of Mr. Duterte,” Mata added.

Even the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) hailed Maglunsod’s achievements sa labor undersecretary.

“Jomag was always ready to listen and work out solutions to workers in trouble with their employers,” ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.

“Jomag was the key DOLE official in helping move the very important security of tenure bill. He was also a key DOLE official in regularizing thousands of ‘endo’ (contractual) workers become regular workers,” Tanjusay explained.

Maglunsod, along with former social work and development secretary Judy Taguiwalo, agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano, anti-poverty commission lead convenor Liza Maza, and urban poor commission chairperson Terry Ridon were known progressives appointed to high positions in the Duterte Cabinet when he won the presidency in 2016.

He was a KMU member in Davao City who rose to become its chapter president eventually becoming its national secretary general for many years. Prior to being appointed to the DOLE, he was KMU vice president for political and external affairs.

He also served as Anakpawis Representative to Congress where he once grabbed news headlines when refused entry through the members’ gate because the guards saw him alight from a jeepney.

KMU’s Labog said that workers are eager to welcome back Ka Jomag in the picket-lines and marches and take part in the growing workers’ movement against Duterte’s anti-worker and tyrannical rule.

Both Maglunsod and the DOLE have yet to reply to Kodao’s request for statements. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMU blames Duterte for intensified attacks in Compostela

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao (KMU-SMR) blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for “intensifying attacks on union workers” after two Sumifru Packing Plant union leaders survived separate assaults within a week.

KMU-SMR said in a statement Victor Ageas, Board of Director of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen Tuesday, September 4, at about 6:30 am while he was bound for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Purok Uno, Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town.

The unidentified assailants fired at the labor leader six times but Aegas was able to escape, the group said.

The attack came a day after Sumifru workers staged a protest action against the company for refusing to recognize them as regular employees.

KMU said that, in July 26, two masked men also went to Aegas’ house and asked for his whereabouts but left when told their target was not around.

Another union leader, Melodina Gumanoy, Secretary of NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU, was also tailed by motorcycle-riding men last Thursday, August 30, KMU said.

Gumanoy was on on her way to work in Packing Plant 250 of Sumifru at Purok 8, Brgy. Osmeña, Compostela when she realized she was being tailed by her attackers.

She hid in a nearby house to evade her attackers.

The attacks on workers-unionists intensified in Compostela Valley after President Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) a “terrorist” organization and subsequently tagged KMU and other progressive organizations as legal fronts of the underground group, KMU said.

Farmers are also being attacked in Compostela, the labor center said.

Peasant couple Gilbert and Jean Labial, members of Compostela Farmers Association, were gunned down last August 19, 2018 in Bango, Compostela, after attending the wake of Rolly Panebio, a fellow CFA member and security personnel of the Salugpongan Learning Center in Bango.

“KMU holds the Armed Forces of the Philippines President Duterte accountable for these blatant violation of the workers’ economic and political rights. KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area,” KMU said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)