NAGKAISA (SOLIDARITY), the coalition of 47 labor federations and workers organizations, which is the largest labor formation in the Philippines, strongly condemned the recent spate of murders of labor union and community organizers with seven incidents happening only this month. NAGKAISA expressed grave concern that this may just presage the start of more violence directed towards grassroots labor organizing.
Yesterday, 64-year old Edilberto Miralles, former union president of R&E Taxi transport service, was gunned down by unknown assailants right in front of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Quezon City. He was scheduled to attend a labor hearing that day.
On September 17, union organizer Orlando Abangan, 35 years old, was shot by unidentified gunmen on the way to his home in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City, Cebu.
Abangan was a full-time organizer for Partido Manggagawa (PM) in the province since 2001. During the last elections, he built an organization in Talisay that campaigned for social protection and social services for persons with disabilities. He was also engaged by the labor center Sentro as organizer for the informal sector workers.
Earlier this month, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. The armed men involved in the brutal slay were reportedly dropped from a helicopter seen hovering over the military reservation camp. The victims were Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay.
They were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.
On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to death by three men in his Villa Pereda farm in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Isabela.
Union and community organizers are the quintessential vital cogs of our still nascent and highly vulnerable grassroots democracy. Their collective struggle is key in helping realize inclusive growth and preventing "the race-to-the-bottom" particularly for the majority poor and their families in a Philippines where the gap between the poor and the rich are growing wider and deeper every day.
The wide ranging implications of their deaths further underscores the need for the government to ensure protection to ordinary citizens let alone labor leaders and community organizers. The killings, again, put into question the bragging rights of employers and government that we have stable industrial peace.
NAGKAISA expressed sympathy with the relatives of those killed, and also demanded swift justice for the victims.
NAGKAISA called upon Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to immediately convene the high-level labor-government-employer Tripartite Industry Peace Council (TIPC) that would not only draw up long-lasting measures to contain and prevent anything of this sort from happening again but place a spotlight into any attempt to short-circuit the Constitutional right of workers to organize, bargain collectively or engage in legitimate concerted action. NAGKAISA also, called on Secretary Emmanuel Sueno of the Department of Interior and Local Government and PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa to reconvene, with labor, business and civic organization membership, the National Peace and Order Council, and its regional, provincial, and municipal chapter counterparts to send a clear signal of the primacy of the law .