The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights condemn the spate of harassment of trade unionists and activists by alleged military personnel beginning late April this year.

“We condemn the spate of harassment being done by the military on trade unionists and activists. We find this renewed harassment, red baiting and threatening of trade unions based in Metro Manila very alarming,” said Daisy Arago, Executive Director of CTUHR.

Profile Picture of “Hands Off Our Unionists” Campaign in FB

Over 20 cases of harassment and threats were experienced by leaders, members, organizers and staff of both public sector union, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Most recent was the case of a senior member and adviser of COURAGE and former director of Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA), Antonieta Setias-Dizon, who was forced to seek refuge at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) after persistent tailing by suspected military agents.

Arago also pointed out that the harassments are possibly meant to suppress intensifying campaigns for national minimum wage of labor groups in the country.

“Last November, unions from public and private sector forged unity and launched a strong campaign calling for a national minimum wage of P16,000 monthly or P640 daily. Mass walk-outs and protest actions were done by government employees and workers. By attacking trade unionists, the state and military is also trying to undermine this growing campaign and suppress legitimate demands of the working people,” Arago added.

CTUHR documented at least 82 cases of harassments, surveillance and threats to 884 trade unionists and labor activists alongside scores of other civil political rights violations including extrajudicial killings and malicious filing of trumped up charges against unionists in the last five years of President Aquino. Aquino’s counter insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan aimed to quell critics and resistance to anti-people policies is behind these continuing and intensifying human rights violations against the people, according to the group.

Arago also finds the harassment of unionists coming from public government agencies linked to “controversial issues” rather suspicious. “Is it only by coincidence that some of the public sector union leaders harassed by the military come from national government agencies like as the NHA, DSWD, NFA, and the DOLE which are linked to controversial issues like allegations of corruption of the Yolanda rehabilitation projects, food and rice smuggling and negligence for the Kentex fire incident? Or are there other motives behind it?” Arago pointed out.

Arago also pressed the government to comply with international human rights obligations, “These actions taken by the military against the people clearly violate human rights conventions to which the Aquino government should be held accountable.”

“We support and unite with the unions and labor activists in fighting against union and political repression. On its final year in office, the Aquino administration has laid bare its anti-union and anti-worker character, we must ever be resolved and united in fighting for our just demands and political freedom,” Arago said.###