Hands-Off Nico Canave! Hands-Off Labor Rights Defenders!

October 24, 2021

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) vehemently condemns the harassment, threat and surveillance conducted against one of its staff, Giebdhart “Nico” Canave, 38 years old. Canave who is employed since April 2020 by this institution as a Documentation and Research Officer was harassed and threatened by individuals who introduced themselves as “mga taong gobyerno (people from the government).” Canave is also working as a Freelance photographer and enrolled at PUP for his Master’s in Communication.

CTUHR is highly alarmed by this threat as the human rights situation in the country continues to deteriorate and lives of human rights defenders are at put at risk. In fact, there are 56 labor rights defenders who have been extrajudicially killed and no one was brought to justice. 

Last October 9, 2021, Canave travelled with a certain Carl, who introduced himself as a seaman and rented a room in their home in Manila two months ago. Carl referred Nico to cover a supposed baptism event in Dasmarinas, Cavite.

On the way to the supposed “event,” on board a car driven by Carl’s supposed kababata (childhood friend), ‘Kiko,’ they stopped over at a Shell gas station in SLEX to go to the toilet. Coming back from the toilet, as he went inside the car, two (2) unknown men immediately followed him, sandwiched him and held his knees preventing him to move. They told him to relax and introduced themselves as people from the government. They began telling Nico details about himself and his family member’s whereabouts. They claimed that they have been monitoring him for a long time. They began asking him various questions – when did he become an activist, who recruited him, what educational discussions he has taken, what he does at work, who are his workmates, etc. They bombarded Nico with pictures and names and asked him to identify them or say if he has worked with them. 

After almost an hour, he was then brought to Shakey’s restaurant at Daang Hari, Bacoor Cavite. He was introduced to their so-called “Boss.” They continued with the barrage of questions and accusations. They also hurled threats against him, “Matagal ka na dapat patay. Maraming pagkakataon na dapat itinumba ka na namin!” (You should have been dead long time ago! There are many chances that we could have killed you) They asserted that Nico is involved with the armed group’s activities. He strongly denied these and asserted that he simply works as a researcher at CTUHR and studies his Masteral degree. Canave was given an envelope with money, told to cooperate with them and not to tell anyone about the incident.

“Matinding trauma ang idinulot sa akin ng pangyayari. Natakot ako para sa buhay ko at sa aking pamilya. Pinipilit nila akong makipagtulungan sa kanila – i-ulat ang aking mga ginagawa at mga nakakasalamuha. Sa takot ko ay pumayag na lang ako. Pero saan ko sila tutulungan? Para sa patuloy na mga atake sa mga gaya kong nagsusulong ng karapatang pantao?” Nico said. 

(The incident caused me great trauma. I feared for my life and for my family. They were forcing me to cooperate with them, to report my activities and the people I meet and work with. Due to fear, I simply agreed. But where do I help them? For the contentious attacks against people like me promoting and advocating human rights?)

Nico was a student leader during his youth. Since then and until now, he contributes his skills and talent in photography and music to various social causes. Since Nico became part of CTUHR, he is often seen hosting online webinars, trainings and talk shows about workers’ rights and welfare. 

“Hands off Nico! We call on state forces to stop these attacks against labor rights advocates and human rights defenders, like Nico. Hands off labor and human rights defenders! It is enraging that the state invests so much time and funds to these kinds of activities while workers and the people continue to suffer the impacts of the pandemic and the consequences of poor pandemic response,” said Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director. 

CTUHR staff and fellow labor rights advocates accompanied Nico last Friday, October 22, as he filed a formal complaint at the Commission on Human Rights to thoroughly investigate the case. “Human rights defenders do not deserve this kind of harassment and threats. We have enough problems to contend with and threats are totally inhumane. We appeal for CHR intervention to look into this case, so it won’t happen to any HR worker,” Arago ended. 

CTUHR is a labor rights NGO that conducts monitoring and documentation, human rights education, research and trainings, and advocacy work in support of workers and trade unionists. For 37 years, it has been committed in promoting and defending workers’ rights against the current system that perpetuates their oppression and injustice.###