Terrorist Financing Cases, Rights Violations vs Labor Rising

May 25, 2024

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) is raising the alarm on the increase in terrorist financing cases that are being filed against labor leaders, on top of continuing rights violations including the continued disappearance of a labor organizer and imprisonment of labor activists based on trumped-up charges.

In the past months, terrorist financing cases were filed against AMA-Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Jaime Paglinawan together with 26 NGO workers in Cebu, and Unyon ng mga Panadero sa Gardenia Bakeries Philippines, Inc.-OLALIA-KMU vice-president Rhoel Alconera. Both cases are based on testimonies of supposed witnesses who appear to have been coerced by the military and the government.

The case against Paglinawan and 26 others required them to post a bail of PhP 200,000 (around USD 3,400) each on May 15-16, after the court issued warrants for their arrest on May 14. Despite posting bail, the Philippine National Police in Cebu issued a press release containing the mugshots of the 27 accused and claiming that they were arrested for terrorist financing. Some media outfits picked up the press release.

The case against Alconera, which started in February, was junked by the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 on May 8 because the prosecutor was not able to submit more evidence. Despite this, Alconera received information that the complainants will file a motion for reconsideration and submit more evidence.

The cases against Paglinawan and 26 others and Alconera are rigged with irregularities. The incident being cited against Paglinawan and 26 others happened in 2012, and three among the accused are already dead. Those accused were not properly informed of the processes in their court cases, at one point giving the police the authority to arrest them. The prosecutors are prolonging the process against Alconera, which constitutes harassment.

Meanwhile, William Lariosa, veteran Mindanao labor organizer of KMU, continues to be missing, after he was abducted by the military on April 10. Witnesses claim that Lariosa underwent surveillance by the military before the abduction. Appeals from Lariosa’s family and colleagues in KMU have so far been ignored, with the military doubling down on harassing and red-tagging labor leaders in Mindanao.

A total of 30 activists from the labor sector continue to be detained as political prisoners. All of them were arrested during the Rodrigo Duterte presidency, notorious for its labor and human rights violations, based on trumped-up charges, but continue to be in jail under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr presidency. Despite the current government’s pretensions of upholding labor and human rights, it has not taken any action to secure the freedom of the labor activists who continue to be unjustly detained.

CTUHR condemns the increase in terrorist financing cases being filed against labor leaders, the continuing disappearance of labor activist William Lariosa, and the continuing imprisonment of political detainees. We condemn the continuing gross violations of labor and human rights under the Marcos Jr presidency. We condemn the equation of labor activism with support for armed insurgency, which the government further equates with terrorism.

Attacks on labor activists are attacks on workers and their rights. Attacks on labor activists are attacks on critical viewpoints that are essential to, and should be protected by, any democracy. Attacks on labor activists belie the Marcos Jr government’s claim of working for democracy and development. Labor activism is necessary to democracy and development and should not be equated with support for armed insurgency or for terrorism.

We demand that terrorist financing cases against labor activists be junked, together with the repressive Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020. We demand that William Lariosa be surfaced and that the 30 political prisoners from the labor movement be freed immediately. We demand that the Marcos Jr government make crucial pronouncements and take major steps to stop labor and human rights violations under its watch.###