“Forty two (42) unionists, farm workers and labour rights defenders killed, strikes violently dispersed, contractualization and poverty among workers increase multifold, and there is no indication that Duterte regime is stopping. Workers must continue to organize and protest harder! This is the best reason to mark the 70thanniversary of Human Rights Declaration and honour those whose lives were lost in the course of struggle,” says the labour rights organization, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) .

The most recent victims in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, insurgency and terrorism (which essentially is a war against poor and his critics) were Linus Cubol, a former KMU Chairperson in Caraga (Nov 27); and Danny Boy Bautista (October 31) worker and unionist from Japanese-owned Sumifru banana plantation in Compostela Valley.  Months before that,  Butch Rosales,  a former CTUHR full-time organizer in Mactan Economic Zone and volunteer for the network Rise Up for Life and Rights (Rise Up), was also killed inside a passenger jeep in broad daylight last August 8 in Mactan, Cebu. 

The massacre of 9 farmworkers and members of National Federation of Sugar Workers last October 21, collectively known as the Sagay 9 in Sagay, Negros Occidental was extremely brutal. Even their human rights lawyer, Atty. Ben Ramos was murdered. To add insult to the injury, the massacre was used to justify the increased deployment of military troops in Negros, Samar and Bicol as based on Memorandum Order  32. 

Human Rights alliance, KARAPATAN, noted that 196 people, mostly workers, peasants, indigenous people, women, urban poor, youth and human rights defenders were extra-judicial killed under Duterte’s watch. This number does not include the more than 23,000 casualties of war on drugs whose deaths were simply placed by authorities as ‘homicide under investigation.’ 

CTUHR expressed alarm that EJK incidences are likely to increase with Duterte himself ordering the formation of Duterte Death Squads (DDS) in communities. “This is obsessively insane, the President calling for formation of killing machine against suspected rebels. It’s now so easy to claim that murder victims are rebels, symphatizers or supporters,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director exclaimed. 

The regime’s attacks on human rights are as comprehensive as its control on Congress, the courts have seen defenders on jail for fabricated criminal charges. Labor rights defenders Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva, both consultants to the peace process on economic reforms have been detained and are now facing trumped-up charges. So are Maoj Maga, Juan Alexander Reyes, Ireneo Atadero, Julio Lusania, Oliver and Weng Rosales whose crimes, if they can be called crimes, are to organize people to claim what is rightfully theirs. Karapatan also noted that there are 540 political prisoners in different detention facilities, 203 of them incarcerated under Duterte administration.  

Meanwhile, the government continues to let capitalists exploit the workers through its bogus anti-contractualization policies. The Executive Order (EO) 51, a stamp pad of DOLE Department Order (DO) 174, is a double prong attack on workers job security.  DOLE orders regularization of contractuals but is inutile in the actual enforcement of their orders, letting companies fire the workers ordered to get permanent status. The best example is the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), which fired 12,000 agency-hired workers after DOLE ordered them to regularize 7,300 employees. Same case with Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC), which terminated 400 workers from agencies Toplis Solution and Staff Search Agencies, few months after DOLE ordered them to regularize more than 7,000 of its workers. DOLE is doing nothing to address companies defying its orders.

As the administration continues to fail to heed the clamor of the people, resistance arises. And the Duterte administration, responds to the people with tyranny and violence. Apart from EJK and arbitrary arrests; workers organizing themselves to build unions, associations and launching collective action to increase wages and improve conditions are brutally attacked and accused of lawlessness, terrorism and communism. The workers’ strikes at Coca-Cola Davao and Cebu, Nutriasia in Marilao Bulacan, Middleby Philippines Inc. in Binan, Laguna, Pacific Plaza Condominium in BGC Taguig and Sumifru Plantation in Compostela Valley were all violently dispersed.  Scores of workers were injured and a total of 81 were arrested. 

The military, police and blind supporters of the regime continue to demonize unions openly and discretely. Anti-union seminars and vilification of progressive union and unionists are conducted while slay attempts on unionists have also been reported. Yet it cannot stop the hard working but poor and hungry working class in protesting, as they are well aware that their strength is in their unity. In fact, 155 notices of strike (NOS) were filed  at NCMB  from  January to June of 2018 alone, This is much higher than the 126 NOS in the same period last 2017.  

The Duterte regime is miserably failed to improve the quality of life of Filipinos, as it promised. To cover up its romance with China and the US, Duterte hurled invectives and curses against its formidable critics and even the Church, to divert the public attention parallel with naked attacks in an attempt to dissipate resistance. While diverting the attention, Duterte’s minions in Congress are busy passing legislations that perpetuate themselves to power, Meanwhile, the police and military, showered with benefits and privileges are in cahoots with courts are busy concocting crimes against human rights defenders while corporations are amassing wealth in exchange for silence while the country is headed to a debilitating state of human rights day in and day out.

But people are resisting, fighting back wherever they are, no matter how risky it is, and the country’s hope lies on those who resist. CTUHR is happy to join those who resist.#