Hit Aquino’s HR record, poll bets dared

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Joining today’s protests in time for the International Human Rights Day, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno challenged presidential candidates in the 2016 elections to condemn the terrible human rights record of Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s government.

The labor group said workers and all Filipinos deserve to know the presidentiables’ stand on the 304 victims of extra-judicial killings, the killing of Lumads, the 561 political detainees, 304 among whom were arrested under Aquino, and the brutal militarization in the countryside as reported by human-rights group Karapatan.

KMU also recalled that in the run-up to the 2010 elections, Aquino refused to address the widespread human rights violations committed under the government of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Human rights is a legitimate election issue. We challenge all presidentiables and all candidates to bare their stand on this issue and condemn Aquino’s ugly human rights record,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said that if presidentiables and all candidates are really serious in addressing poverty, hunger, and unemployment, as they claim, then they should pledge to at least stop the worst forms of human rights violations.

“Candidates’ seriousness in delivering their promises on the economy can be measured through their seriousness in committing to ending human-rights violations. Governments resort to committing rights violations only because the poor are fighting for better economic conditions,” Labog added.

He said that politicians’ stand on human rights should include stands on the basic rights of workers that are being violated wantonly under Aquino – the right to a living wage, to job security, to the free exercise of trade-union rights, and to a safer workplace.

“Workers’ rights have been violated with impunity under Aquino. Working conditions are far worse now than when he started in office. There are lower wages, more contractuals, and less unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements,” Labog stated.

Last HR Day under Aquino: 10 labor rights defenders in jail – KMU

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno led a picket in front of the Manila Regional Trial Court this morning in time for a hearing on the trumped-up charges filed against labor rights defender Adelberto Silva.

The labor group called for  the junking of trumped-up cases against Silva, for his immediate release, for the immediate release of nine other labor rights defenders who are in jail, for the immediate release all political prisoners.

KMU said that on the last International Human Rights Day under Pres. Noynoy Aquino, 10 labor rights defenders are in jail because of trumped-up charges filed by the military and the government.

“On the last IHRD under Pres. Arroyo, we were calling for the release of only one labor rights defender. Now, on Aquino’s last IHRD, we are calling for the release of 10 labor rights defenders,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

Five among the labor rights defenders are consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace talks with the Aquino government and are long-time organizers in the labor movement: Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Silva, Renante Gamara, and Ernesto Lorenzo.

Silva was president of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino or PAKMAP before Martial Law while Gamara was a labor leader at General Motors Philippines in the late 1970’s. Sharon Cabusao, who was arrested with her husband Silva, was a former member of the KMU’s Public Information Department.

“These are all unarmed activists who were arrested on the basis of trumped-up charges. All of them are being imprisoned to prevent them from helping organize and actually organizing workers,” said Soluta.

Four among the ten were arrested on the basis of a case filed in relation to an ambush carried out by rebel group New People’s Army in April 2012 in Ifugao province.

These are: Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano of public unionism center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Employment of Government Employees or COURAGE, Gil Corpuz of transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON in Cagayan Valley, and Rene Boy Abiva of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Cagayan Valley.

“His father may have been a political detainee himself, but Aquino has been using the Marcosian tactic of imprisoning activists using trumped-up charges. Widespread violation of and human rights is one of his most prominent hallmarks of his rule,” Soluta stated.

SSS pension hike before Christmas, workers demand

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a protest in Mendiola this morning to demand that Pres. Noynoy Aquino sign a bill that seeks a P2,000 across-the-board hike in retirees’ pensions from the Social Security System before Christmas.

The labor group said the ball is now in the chief executive’s court after Congress approved House Bill 5842 filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares in June and the Senate approved the bill in November.

The workers, who carried Christmas lanterns bearing the words “Sigaw ng obrero: SSS pension hike ngayong Pasko!” said the bill’s approval would be a most welcome Yuletide gift to pensioners as it would enable them to buy more food and comply more with their medication.

“We demand that Aquino sign the SSS pension hike bill now as a Christmas gift to the country’s pensioners. That’s the least he could do at this point, because the pension hike is long overdue,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader said Aquino’s approval of the bill before the year ends, as guaranteed by Senate Pres. Franklin Drilon early this month, and the bill’s implementation in the first quarter of 2016, as projected by Sen. Cynthia Villar last November, should be made earlier.

“What better time to approve the SSS pension hike than  now? Our retirees and their families badly need more food, more medicines, and a little recognition for their many years of work and faithful contribution to the SSS,” Soluta added.

Responding to Drilon’s statement that the SSS is trying to find sources of funds to finance the pension hike, Soluta said that KMU has been forwarding various proposals towards attaining the said objective.

“The SSS has the funds for the pension hike. It will have more than enough funds if it improves its collection efficiency, goes after employers who refuse to remit workers’ contributions, reduces huge bonuses to board members, and reduces administrative costs,” he said.

KMU is calling on all SSS pensioners, all workers and the public to continue speaking up for the pension hike until pensioners actually receive the increased pension.

KMU hails Poe for hitting Aquino, contractualization

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed today presidential aspirant Sen. Grace Poe for criticizing the administration of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, the situation of the country’s workers, and long-term contractualization among the country’s workers.

The labor group said Poe’s statements last Monday that many Filipinos remain poor and hungry after six years of “daang matuwid (straight path),” that contractualization is unfair and unjust, that workers are overworked and underpaid, and that workers need lower income taxes are all correct.

“We are glad that Sen. Poe has spoken up on the terrible economic legacy of Aquino and the situation of the country’s workers. We are glad that the front-runner in the 2016 elections has condemned contractualization,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said Poe’s criticism is “like a breath of fresh air” amidst many politicians’ refusal to criticize the Aquino government and much needed given the need for an honest assessment of the condition of the Filipino workers and people.

“We certainly welcome Sen. Poe’s fair assessment of the condition of the Filipino workers and people after six years of daang matuwid. It goes against the lies of the Aquino government and is important if we are to move forward as a nation,” Labog added.

KMU said that contractualization has meant the wholesale violation of workers’ rights – to a living wage, to job security, and to the free exercise of trade-union rights – is a crime against workers and should be junked immediately.

It said that more workers and employees, both in the private and public sectors, have become contractuals under Aquino, and that contractuals now comprise the majority of the country’s workforce.

“We are calling on all presidentiables to bare their assessment of the impact of Aquino’s presidency on workers and the poor. We are calling on all of them to bare their platform with regard to wages demands for higher wages, the junking of contractualization, a stop to union busting, and safer workplaces,” Labog stated.

ACTO’s ‘transport strike’ is part of sellout of drivers – KMU

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The threat made by the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) that it will hold a transport strike today is part of yellow transport leader Efren de Luna’s sellout of jeepney drivers and operators and the public on the issue of jeepney phaseout.

First of all, his threat of a transport strike was anchored on a demand for a mere dialogue with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on the Aquino government’s plan to phase out jeepneys from the roads of Metro Manila and the country starting in January 2016. The LTFRB granted his grand request for a dialogue and so he stopped his “transport strike” concentrated in the FTI-Taguig area.

De Luna is explicit in saying that all he wants is that jeepney drivers and operators be given time to prepare and loans to buy electronic jeepneys. He is after all among yellow transport leaders who held “dialogues” with the Department of Transportation and Communications in which they presented their proposals for a “jeepney modernization program” and gave their thumbs up to the jeepney phaseout scheme.

This afternoon’s “dialogue” will not halt the scheme nor will it improve the condition of jeepney drivers and operators.

Through his threat of a transport strike, De Luna wants to make it appear that he is against the jeepney phaseout scheme in the eyes of ACTO’s disgruntled members and leaders and the public. He also wants to increase the funds that he will get from the government for his approval of the scheme and as one of the suppliers of the electronic jeepneys. He is out to sabotage the campaign of jeepney drivers and operators and the public to junk the jeepney phaseout scheme.

We say “No!” to the jeepney phaseout scheme. It will result in the loss of livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers and operators making a living out of the 300,000 jeepney units in the country. It will subject a portion of jeepney drivers to exploitative conditions under the so-called fleet management scheme. It will definitely result in higher fares for passengers who will shoulder the cost of new vehicles.

The jeepney phaseout scheme is not modernization, but corporatization and monopolization of an important sector of the country’s transportation system. The jeepneys’ contribution to air pollution in the country is being addressed by the drivers and operators themselves and is negligible compared to the main causes of air pollution in the country.

Jail Dinky over food donation spoilage – KMU

11221587_1644031505871107_8860377947225767379_nWe are revolted by the spoilage of hundreds of food packs and sacks of rice and their consequent dumping by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Dagami, Leyte. DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman was only forced to admit that the food packs and sacks of rice came from the department’s warehouses after photos of the dumping went viral on social media.

This crime is the latest addition to the spoilage of food packs worth P2.8 million for 7,527 families affected by super typhoon Yolanda “due to improper handling,” according to the 2013 Commission on Audit report. It is also an addition to the failure to distribute and spoilage or near-spoilage of P141 million worth of relief goods according to the 2014 COA report.

The spoilage of rice and other food items is an injustice to all victims of disasters in the country, especially those who remain hungry at present, and to all Filipinos suffering from hunger and poverty. It is also an injustice to all big-hearted Filipinos and peoples of all nationalities who gave donations to help alleviate the suffering of Filipinos who were badly hit by disasters.

We demand accountability for this crime of denying available food to hungry Filipinos. We believe that Soliman should be charged and jailed over this crime. It would be an understatement to say, in the wake of the recent revelation, that she is “not compassionate” towards disaster victims. She is a criminal worthy of a jail term. We could only surmise that the DSWD refused to release the food stuff not because it wanted to warehouse these for future disasters, but because it intended to use these for the upcoming elections.

The spoilage of rice and other food items under the DSWD’s control seriously puts into question the DSWD’s policy of requiring victims to present cedula’s before giving them relief goods. It affirms the correctness of the Davao food protest in February 2013 in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo. It explains the desperation felt by victims of typhoons and other disasters in the country, including those which the government tried to demonize as “looters.”

Poe’s DQ cases show Aquino, Mar getting more desperate – KMU

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno joined a protest in front of the Commission on Elections’ main office in Intramuros, Manila this morning to condemn the disqualification by the poll body’s Second Divison of Sen. Grace Poe from running as president in the 2016 elections.

The labor group, which joined progressive electoral alliance Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan or Makabayan in the protest, said the decision reflects the desperation of Pres. Noynoy Aquino and presidential candidate Mar Roxas to make the latter win in the upcoming elections.

“The numerous disqualification cases filed against Poe show Aquino and Roxas’ desperation to make Roxas win in 2016 by hook or by crook. The Filipino workers and people are consistent in showing their rejection of Roxas’ attempt to become president,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chair for external and political affairs.

The labor leader said it appears that for Aquino and Roxas, there’s no chance for Roxas to win except by attacking the candidacy of Poe and other presidentiables, whether legally or in the field of public opinion.

“Aquino and Roxas want to enjoy impunity for their crimes beyond 2016. Worse, they want to continue a brand of leadership that serves their ‘bosses’ – big foreign and local capitalists and big landlords to the detriment of workers and poor Filipinos,” Ustarez said.

KMU has been accusing of Aquino and Roxas of plunder of public funds through the pork barrel scheme, of criminal neglect in relation to the deaths caused by super typhoon Yolanda, criminal responsibility for the death of many Filipinos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, among others.

“We believe that the Comelec’s Second Division made the decision not on the basis of provisions of the law but of Roxas’ overweening desire to become president. Its members should be investigated for possible close ties to Aquino and Roxas,” Ustarez stated.

Ustarez cited the opinion of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban that “Senator Poe does not derive her natural-born citizenship from her adoption but from generally accepted principles of international law on the presumed citizenship of foundlings.”

DOJ told: jail Pemberton, free detained labor advocates

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the Justice Department’s main office and then marched to Mendiola in Manila this morning to condemn the special treatment being given to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton and to call for the immediate release of two labor advocates who have been imprisoned for three years today.

The labor group said it is a huge injustice that Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide for killing Filipina transvestite Jennifer Laude in October 2014, is able to evade imprisonment in the National Bilibid Prison while Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, organizers of government employees’ unions, have been languishing in jail since Dec. 3, 2012.

KMU asserted that Camposano and Vegas, organizers of public sector union center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or COURAGE, are innocent of the charges filed against them and are labor advocates being prevented by the government from organizing government unions.

“An American soldier who was convicted by the courts for killing a Filipina is able to evade imprisonment in Philippine jails while labor activists have been languishing in jail for years now. That shows you how rotten the so-called justice system in the country is,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader condemned the Department of Justice for bowing down to the US’ assertion that Pemberton remain with his American escorts and not be surrendered to the Philippine National Police and that he remain in Camp Aguinaldo and not brought to the NBP.

“A Republikang Basahan (Rag of a Republic) cannot possibly have a real justice system. It will always defend foreign troops who oppress its people and it will always oppress activists who are trying to defend its people,” Labog added.

KMU reiterated its demand that the “2012 Ifugao” trumped-up case, which accuses activists of participating in a New People’s Army ambush in the province in the said year, be junked immediately.

The case is also responsible for the imprisonment of Virgilio Corpuz of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON and Rene Boy Abiva of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT, both of Cagayan Valley since January 2013.

“These labor rights defenders do not deserve to stay in prison any minute longer. The trumped-up charges that were filed against them should be junked and they should be set free immediately,” Labog stated.

Pemberton conviction is expected by workers, Filipinos

We demand that US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton be convicted of killing Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude in Olongapo last October 2014. We demand nothing less than justice for Jennifer.

The truth is that the Filipino workers and people expect that he will be found guilty of killing Laude. News about the trial indicate that there is an overwhelming evidence against him and that his camp did not even try to mount a decent defense.

Pemberton’s acquittal could only be another injustice committed against Jennifer. It would show how deeply subservient the Aquino government is to the US. It would further dash Filipinos’ remaining hope on the justice system.

If convicted, Pemberton should be imprisoned in the Philippines. That should be the consequence of committing murder in the country. Being an American should not mean that one is above the country’s laws.

The conditions that enable American soldiers to sexually exploit, rape, harm and kill Filipinas, and that give them impunity when they commit crimes, should be removed. We are therefore calling for the junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

We say: enough of the deaths and suffering caused by one-sided agreements that serve US militarist agendas! We say: no more Nicole’s and Jennifer Laude’s! Junk VFA and EDCA! US troops out now!