Bello urged to help stop attacks on unionists
LABOR Secretary Silvestre Bello III was urged on Monday to convene the high-level Tripartite Industry Peace Council (TIPC) to draw up measures to deal with recent killings and abductions of leaders of workers’ unions.
In a statement, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) expressed its support to Nagkaisa Labor Coalition in calling for measures that would address attacks on unions, particularly on the right of workers to organize and bargain with management.
The TIPC is composed of representatives of labor, employers and government.
The ALU made this call after labor leader Patricio Tago Jr., 33, vice president of the 3,000-member union at De Luxe Bags Philippines, was abducted at gunpoint and imprisoned on Sunday, apparently on trumped-up illegal drug charges by police and armed goons of Mayor Rey Catacutan of Capas, Tarlac province, to prevent him from organizing a union.
Catacutan said Tago sold “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) to fellow workers and was the subject of a “legitimate police operation.”
Supt. Ariel Red, Capas police chief, said Tago supplied the illegal drugs at Barangay Talaga. “Our informants and users and pushers have identified him as a pusher,” Red said.
But Evelyn Tago, sister of the victim, said there was no buy-bust incident as alleged by the police when her brother was arrested. She said her brother had never been into drugs.
Earlier on Sunday, Tago had refused to see his abductors who came to his residence in Capas. Hours later, he was seen on the basketball court, forced into a private car with Plate No. XHL 123, and put in jail for alleged possession of illegal drugs.
Witnesses said the abductors were scolding Tago for organizing the De Luxe employees union before he was taken to the vehicle.
Nagkaisa, a coalition of 47 labor federations and workers organizations, also condemned the recent spate of murders of labor union and community organizers earlier this month.
Edilberto Miralles, 64, former union president of R&E Taxi transport service, was gunned down by unknown assailants in front of the National Labor Relations Commission office in Quezon City. He was scheduled to attend a labor hearing that day.
On Sept. 17, Orlando Abangan, 35, was shot by unidentified gunmen on the way to his home in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City, Cebu province.
Abangan was a full-time organizer of Partido Manggagawa in the province since 2001.
Earlier this month, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men at a farm in Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija province.
The armed men involved in the brutal slays were reportedly dropped from a helicopter seen hovering over the military reservation camp.
The victims were identified as Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay.
Nagkaisa said all were members of Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.
On Sept. 7, according to Nagkaisa, labor leader Ariel Diaz was shot dead by three men in his Villa Pereda farm in Delfin Albano town, Isabela province.
Nagkaisa expressed sympathy with the relatives of those killed, and also demanded swift justice for the victims.
Partido Manggagawa chair Renato Magtubo expressed alarm at the violence on the labor front.
“The spate of extrajudicial killings are now drifting toward members of people’s organization who are vocal in their critique of violations of human rights in the conduct of police operations against illegal drugs, and have legitimate issues and concerns with the government such as labor rights, wages, land reform, etc.,” Magtubo said.
“We urge Mayor Catacutan to stand down. We advise the police to disallow themselves to be used by the mayor. We do not condone this attack on union leaders whose primary job is to ensure employees’ interests. We do not understand why Mayor Catacutan is antiunion,” Gerard Seno, ALU-TUCP national executive vice president, said in a statement. With reports from Vince F. Nonato and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon