Labor rights group, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) strongly denounces the violent dispersal of the workers’ strike at Sumifru Philippines Corporation in Compostela Valley.

On October 11, 2018, 11th day of the strike, combined elements of 66th IB of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and private goons, violently dispersed the legitimate strike of around 900 workers in 5 out of 7 strike camps at different Packing Plants (PPs) of Japanese multi-national company, Sumifru in Compostela Valley.

The dispersal came several hours after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56 of Compostela Valley dismissed the issuance of preliminary injunction filed by Sumifru management on October 6. The RTC did not only deny the TRO but also dismissed the case due to the non-exhaustion of administrative remedies by the company.

The bloody dispersal of the workers’ strike in Sumifru is a clear manifestation of how this government uses its machineries including the state forces and executive department to serve the interest of big businesses to the detriment of workers,” Daisy Arago, Executive Director of CTUHR said.

She averred that they find it appalling that in Secretary Bello’s Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) order, the government’s primary concern is only the so-called losses of Sumifru and attributed losses to the government coffers and the national economy. “It totally disregarded the impoverished workers. Bello cited a loss in income of US$686,00 per day of Sumifru Corp. in his order and yet they used violence against workers who are only paid an average of P365/day ($6.8). This is a naked injustice,” Arago added. Sumifru’s gross revenue in 2016 was $227.14M and even increased to US$ 285.17M in 2017.

(photo from Kilab Multimedia)

According to John Paul Dizon, President of Nagkahiusang mga Mag-uuma sa Suyapa Farms (NAMASUFA), at around 9:00 in the morning, masked goons, accompanied by AFP and PNP, attacked their camp at PP220. They destroyed the camp, mauled unionists and even went after them, as they sought refuge in his house which is just 50 meters away. They fired shots and pointed gun on some of the workers, threatening to shoot them.

The dispersal team then proceeded to the other PPs and did the same. They arrested some workers like Jimboy Cagas, Ramil Monte, Elizar Diayon (NAMASUFA Vice President) and Errol Tan (union Board member) but released after beating them.

It was a very exhausting day. Most of us incurred injuries and are still recovering from the trauma of the bloody dispersal. Until now, we have yet to account all NAMASUFA workers, as some went into hiding due to threats and harassment,” Dizon added.

The dispersal team justified its attack with the Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) order issued by DOLE Secretary Bello on October 6. The AJ orders all workers to immediately return to work and sending the dispute to compulsory arbitration.

However, according to Dizon, “The dispersal was illegal. The Court just dismissed Sumifru’s appeal for TRO and DOLE did not deputize the dispersal. It was clearly meant to sow fear upon the unionists and break the strike, as Sumifru is already desperate to continue operations because it alleges that it alleges been losing millions while it corrigibly to refuse to heed our legitimate demands. They have destroyed our strike camps but they can never destroy our unity. What they did, made our resolve even stronger. We will fight until the end.”

NAMASUFA is planning to file charges against AFP, PNP and Sumifru for the gross human rights violations committed against them. Prior to the dispersal, in the morning of October 8, workers noted that Compostela Mayor Lema Bolo, accompanied by police, goons and military served the workers the copy of TRO filed by SUMIFRU. They ordered the workers to leave their camps and in fear seven workers left. Four (4) of the workers, Fancis Barrios, Renato Raniola, Bobby Libre and Rey Palomar were slapped and beaten by the police.

Sumifru Philippines Corporation is a Japanese-owned multi-national company that operates in more than 14,000 hectares in Mindanao. It is one of the biggest exporters of bananas in New Zealand, Singapore, Middle East and Japan. The most famous brands of bananas that Sumifru produces is Gracio and Banage.

Sumifru has been long engaged in the illegal practice of labor-only contracting (i.e using manpower cooperatives to employ workers and pit them against union members).

The striking workers are still on high alert now. They fear more attacks upon their ranks. They are now seeking refuge in Sr. Santiago Apostle Parish in Compostela Valley. “We are appealing for any kind of support for our cause. We are in strike because Sumifru refuses to negotiate with our union. We are simply demanding what is due to us – regularization, benefits and decent wages. Sumifru earns millions everyday through our sweat and blood, but it tramples on our basic labor and human rights,” Dizon ended.

CTUHR calls for the immediate action of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and other responsible agencies to stop the attacks on trade unionists and hold accountable the Sumifru management, AFP, PNP, DOLE and all those involved in this inhumane act.

CTUHR also calls on the international community and consumers in the client countries of Sumifru to support the workers’ struggle and compel the company to respect their trade union and human rights.###