Workers led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) trooped to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros, Manila on June 7 to register their protest against the military’s meddling over a labor dispute in a Korean-owned banana plantation in Compostela Valley. Workers from Southern Mindanao Region also joined the protest.
On June 2, KMU reported that 12 workers of Korean-owned Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Compostela Valley and supporters were injured and arrested when over 100 combined elements of the 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police (PNP) violently dispersed the picket line.
Some of the workers were mauled by the state forces and personal belongings at the picket line were forcibly taken. The workers led by the Shin Sun Workers Union (SSWU) have been on strike since April 2017 over the illegal dismissal of 53 workers and demand the regularization of 287 agency-hired workers.
“Talagang tinutuntungan ng mga kasundaluhan at kapulisan ang Batas Militar. Hindi na nakikinig ang kasundaluhan at kapulisan kung ano ang guidelines ng labor dispute na kung hanggang saan lang sila dapat (The military and police use Martial Law as reason for dispersing us. They do not listen to the guidelines of labor dispute as to their limits),” said Carlo Olalo, Secretary General of KMU Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) in an interview with Manila Today.
Olalo added that now that Martial Law in Mindanao is declared, it is the military who should be followed, otherwise, they will arrest and detain anyone who will go against them.
“Kami na mga taga-Mindanao ay pumunta rito sa Luzon para ipaabot na nakakasama talaga itong dineklarang Martial Law ni Duterte. Hindi makabenepisyo ang mga manggagawa at mamamayan habang ito ay idinedeklara (We from Mindanao came here to Luzon to tell the people here that the Duterte’s Martial Law is not good for the people. The workers and the people in general do not benefit from this),” said Olalo.
“The striking workers were sprayed with formalin and were arrested. Reports from the workers relay that the soldiers invoked martial law, saying that they will not honor the labor code because of it. Indeed, when fascists are given more power, they know nothing else than to abuse it. Threats from the 66th IBPA betray the mentality of soldiers emboldened by martial rule – that they are free to undermine people’s rights and disregard civilian processes,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in a separate statement.
Three labor leaders of Compostela Valley-based unions who was supporting the strike remain in detention and charged with direct assault. Among the union leaders arrested are Vicente Barrios, President of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm; Pio Salar, President of Freshmax Workers Union and SSWU’s Vice President Eric Noble.
According to Karapatan human rights violations have been continuing in several parts of Mindanao, also in line with the government’s counter-insurgency program.
On June 4, 2017, Suara Bangsamoro reported that thousands of residents in Brgy. Pusao, Shariff Saydonna Mustapha and Brgy. Linantangan, Mamasapano in Maguindanao were forced to flee because of the AFP’s mortar bombardment.
“Martial law does not mean security and safety. Rather, it makes people’s rights even more susceptible to violations,” said Palabay.
Olala called on President Duterte to lift the Martial Law in Mindanao.
“Huwag nating hayaan na ideklara ang Martial Law sa buong bansa dahil ang dulo nito ay sibilyan ang maaapektuhan (Let us not permit that Martial Law will be declared in the whole country because in the end, it will be the civilians who will be affected),” concluded Olala.