IBP condemns ‘harassment’ of gov’t union workers
MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has joined unionized government workers in decrying the threats and intimidation allegedly brought by members of the police and military on officers of these government unions in recent months.
IBP President Rose Setias-Reyes has called on Congress to investigate the threats received by members and officers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) in recent months, which include round-the-clock surveillance of their actions as well as sending threatening letters to their targets.
“The IBP strongly condemns the harassment and intimidation perpetrated by elements of the military and the police against members of the progressive sectors of our society, particularly political activists and advocates. The high-handed exercise of authority is a throwback to Martial Law and has no place in our democracy,” Reyes said in a press conference on Thursday.
According to Courage National President Ferdinand Gaite, a number of officers and members of government unions in Metro Manila-based offices have complained of such threatening incidents happening to them over the past two months.
One of them is Rosalinda Narates, 62, a division manager at the National Housing Authority, who is also a member of the local employees’ union there. She claimed that her trouble started April 27, when she received a letter from a certain “Captain Evangelista” claiming to know her life and other personal details.
She added that several men were looking for her at her house in Malate, Manila. And just last month, men claiming to be from the Sta. Mesa Police station went to their office asking to conduct a security briefing. The men then took photos of their office in Sta. Mesa, as well as the staff there.
“They didn’t give a clear answer when we asked them why they were taking pictures. They said they didn’t know how to delete photos when we asked them to delete it, so we got their phones and deleted the photos ourselves,” Narates said.
The men returned days after, and asked whether or not Narates had any enemies in the office. “In my 34 years serving the NHA, and being a member of the union, I have never experienced something like this,” she said.
Meanwhile, Antonieta Dizon, also a member of Courage, who has now retired from government service, had a more harrowing experience after she signed a petition filed at the Supreme Court on Tuesday asking the court to compel the release of two other union members who were slapped with trumped-up charges of killing soldiers, and who were detained in Camarines Norte.
“A silver Toyota Innova was parked outside the court. It then followed us all the way, until we reached the IBP National Office in Ortigas. They parked near the building and never left until early morning. Some of the men even loitered around with sling bags,” Dizon said.
She added that she had seen the same car many times before Tuesday, and had been approached by men on two occasions, claiming that they knew she was a member of the union and was also a communist, the latter which she denied vehemently.
“We aren’t communists. We are just working for the improvement of working conditions for government employees,” Dizon said.
For his part, Gaite said that the car, with plate number AAN 3129, had been seen tailing a number of Courage members, as well as officials of militant activist groups.
“We traced the registration to Camp Crame, but the exact address and person to which the car was register was fictitious. The car is heavily tinted so we can’t easily see what’s inside,” Gaite said.
He said that the number of such surveillance reports and threats and intimidation has risen sharply since the Aquino administration, as Courage has been vocal about government irregularities.
“We believe it has all to do with our crusades against discretionary funds such as the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration Program. We have also been demanding greater accountability from the government and pressing them for higher wages for government workers, among others,” Gaite said.
He said that the affected Courage members have filed petitions at the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights, in a bid to stop what they say has been a government mission to intimidate, threaten and harass government union members.
For its part, Reyes of the IBP said they will continue lending assistance to the affected union members, as they urged the government to stop the “high-handed” practice.
“The intensity of this operation alarms us enough to take grave concern for the security and safety of cause-oriented activists and advocates, and the IBP hereby denounces in the strongest term this paranoidal actuation of some elements of thes security and enforcement agencies of the government,” she said. SFM