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Philippine Labor News & Analysis

July  19, 2011, Vol. 1, No. 3


Charges Refiled Against “Southern Tagalog 72”

The Filipino government has for the third time now filed charges against 72 progressive activists, including over a dozen trade union activist and the legal counsel for the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). The charges allege that the 72 accused (known as the Southern Tagalog 72 or ST 72) committed multiple counts of murder and frustrated murder by participating in a 2008 attack committed by the armed wing of the Communist Party the New People’s Army in Calapan, Mindoro Oriental. The government initially claimed 15 members of the NPA carried out the attack, but later proceeded to charge 72 individuals.
All of the ST72 maintain their innocence and insist that they are the victims of political persecution. A 2007 report by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston concluded that “Senior Government officials are attempting to use prosecutions to dismantle the numerous civil society organizations and party list groups that they believe to be fronts for the CPP.” Alston specifically faulted the Inter-Action Agency Legal Group (IAALG) for bringing political prosecutions against civil society activist, which was dissolved in response to his conclusions.
However, while the IAALG is no more charges against civil society members continue. While the prosecutor maintains the revival of the charges and subpoenaing of the ST72 is due to a technicality, the KMU is viewing this as evidence of continuity of political repression between the former President Arroyo’s and the current President Aquino’s administrations. In addition to labor activists, the ST72 includes members of the human rights group Karapatan, a pastor in the United Church of Christ Philippines and a member of the human rights program of the National Council for Churches Philippines. Additionally, another the ST72 accused of being a NPA combatant has suffered from polio his entire life.

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Under Lingering Cloud of Union Rights Violation, Dole Philippines Granted Award for Social Accountability

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines recently gave Dole Philippines an award for “excellence in industrial relations” and “social accountability.” However, this comes on the heels of a five-year dispute between the management of Dole Philippines and Amado Kadena-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AK-NAFLU-KMU, which resulted in the ILRF filing complaints with the Philippines Commission on Human Rightss, US OECD NPC, and Social Accountability International, who had granted the Dole Philippines SA8000 certification.
starting in 2002 workers at Dole Philippines voted to be represented by AK-NAFLU-KMU, a decision that was reaffirmed in a landslide follow-up election in 2005. However, starting in 2006 Dole Philippines’ new management expressed opposition to the union’s choice of national affiliation, and began working with dissenting members of the union to form an alternative labor organization. The dissenting members also during this time levied allegations of corruption and filed various frivolous lawsuits against the union.
At the same Dole was working with the dissenting union members, they also began working with the Army who was then engaged in a campaign against the KMU. The army began to publicly accuse union leaders, most of which had worked at Dole Philippines for decades, as being “communist” “infiltrators” whose goal was to force the company to close down, thus contributing the further impoverishment of working-class Filipinos. Additionally, the army made unsubstantiated accusations against the union leaders that they were “terrorist” and members of the insurgent New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. They promoted these claims through the seminars for workers that were supported by management.
The struggle intensified in 2010 when the Dole management illegally replaced the AK-NAFLU-KMU leadership with members of the opposing labor group. Dole Philippines was forced to revoke their recognition of the new leadership, and continue to work with the duly elected representatives of the workers by the Philippine Department of Labor and Education. However, the opposition members were finally, after a long campaign of interference by management and the military, brought to power in a certified election and are the current union leadership. The struggle between management and AK-NAFLU-KMU has been covered in PLNA Vol. 1 Issues 1 and 2.
While the struggle may have subsided for the moment, the taint of Dole’s interference with the freedom of association of its workers lingers on, casting a cloud over any award granted to them for “social accountability.”

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Supreme Court Calls for Military to Surface Two Students

After a lengthy legal saga, the Supreme Court on June 21 ruled that their was credible evidence the military was holding two student activists, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and that were to be immediately released. Additionally, the court found credible evidence that members of the military, including the now retired Palparan, were responsible for their abduction. As a result, the families of Cadapan and Empeño have filed criminal charges against Palparan. The Department of Justice have summoned him as part of ongoing investigation into the charges of arbitrary detention, serious physical injuries, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, grave coercion and rape. Palpran maintains his innocence and that the army can not possibly release the activist as they are not holding them.
The ruling stems from an incident that occurred on June 26, 2005 when armed men came to the home of University of Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. The two students, who had been active on farmer issues, along with Manuel Merino, a farmer who reportedly tried to assist the students, were taken away in a car and have not been seen since. Their families believed the military was behind their abduction and petitioned the courts to compel Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan to release them. Their claim was further bolstered when Raymond Manalo escaped from military detention center Camp Tecson and alleges that he saw all three activist in the Camp. Further, he alleges that two students were subject to torture, including the “water cure,” electric shock, and that Merino was set on fire by soldiers.

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United Church of Christ Philippines Seeks to Hold Former President Arroyo Accountable for Extrajudicial Killings

President Arroyo may not yet be off the hook for the grave human rights abuses that were rampant during her administration. Last week, the United Church of Christ Philippines launched a civil suit1,250.
Many the victims were trade union activist, as the Filipino government frequently conflated trade unions with the armed-wing of the Communist Party, the New People’s Army, and used to military to handle labor disputes through a counterinsurgency paradigm. Both the International Labor Organizations Committee on Freedom of Association and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston have criticized this conflation of trade unionism with insurgency.

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Families of Construction Workers Killed in Accident Pursue Criminal Charges

Families of four the men killed in an accident at a construction site earlier this year are perusing criminal charges for failure to pay the minimum wage and employing a minor in a dangerous occupation. The charges are being brought under the Wage Rationalization Act which makes not paying the minimum wage a a criminal offense and sets penalties including a fine and prison time. In the event of the guilty party being a corporation, the prison sentence may be imposed on “the president, vice-president, chief executive officer, general manager, managing director or partner...” The familes have filed charges against Lucio Tan (CEO Eton Properties Philippines Inc.), Jose Ramon Alilin (President Jose Aliling Construction Management Inc.), Johnny Tan (President CE Construction), Guillermo Torres (Project manager Arlo Aluminum Co. Inc.), and Eduardo Piñon.
The charges stem from January 27, 2011 when 11 construction workers fell from the 26th floor of an under construction high-rise condominium owned by Eton Properties, resulting in ten deaths and one serious injury. Among the deceased was 17-year old Kevin Mabunga. The families also sought homicide charges against the parties, but they were dismissed by a court.

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Numbers of Billionaires Increases, Real Wages Plummet

When Forbes Magazine released its annual list of the world’s billionaires, it continued a record number of 11 Filipino billionaires . While some in the Filipino media have attributed this increase in members of the very wealthy to an upward trend in the Filipino economy, this trend does not appear to have left all Filipinos wealthier. In fact, according to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights year-end report for 2010, “ Despite the much-lauded 7.5 percent economic growth, more and more Filipinos still experience hunger and poverty.”
Per the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) the real value of wages in the Philippines, unlike the number of billionaires, have decreased not increased. This figure was calculated by the Ibon Foundation by taking into account overall inflation in the Philippines. Wages were already very low in the Philippines, with the International Labor Organization warning that Philippine workers were at the risk of “very low wages.”
The already low wages coupled with inflation and price hikes eroding their real value, has contributed to a growing movement calling on wage increases. A recent PanAsia survey found that 54% of Filipinos supportrally outside the Department of Labor and Education’s office on June 30, the one-year anniversary of President Aquino assuming office. In a move condemned by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, police violently dispersed the protesting workers.

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Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association--Philippine Airlines Update.

Relations between the Philippines Airline Employees’ Association (PALEA) and Philippines Airline (PAL) have been rocky since the company first proposed a plan to outsource groundwork, which would have resulted in the layoffs of nearly 2,600 workers.
The Philippine State intervened under the “Assumption of Jurisdiction” law which forbids the union from strikings, as well as both sides from doing to “worsen” the situation. The PALEA has indicated a willingness to defy the strike-ban in the past and the law itself has been criticized the International Labor Organization in the past. While strikes have been averted in the past, the PALEA as of early June once again threatening to strike after PAL has announced plans to “temporarily” outsource some jobs. The PALEA views that both as a backdoor implementation of the earlier controversial plan and thus a violation of the Assumption of Jurisdiction order which mandated both sides not do anything to make the situation worse. In response to union opposition PAL decided to hire the 60 customer service agents directly.

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Kent Wong


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Director, UCLA Labor Center

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