Suppression of APEC protests hit

Photo from philstar.com AP/Bullit Marquez
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the suppression of protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, claiming the government defended those responsible for the country’s poverty and underdevelopment against the condemnation of workers and the poor.

The labor group said that from November 16 to 19, the Philippine National Police used an increasing amount of force against protestors and that the agency is “makapal ang mukha (shameless)” for threatening protest leaders with lawsuits.

“Instead of respecting the Filipino workers’ and people’s right to assert that their demands be heard, the Aquino government responded with an overkill amount of force. It clearly sided with big capitalists and powerful governments against Filipinos,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said eight activists from the labor sector were wounded or seriously hurt or both in the protest last Thursday along Buendia Avenue in Pasay City, against which the police used truncheons.

Among these are: Steve Ranjo and Genero Paredog of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON and Bironico Pardillo, Nilo Juayang, Sonny Aguinaldo, and Allan Bacara, strikers of Golden Fortune Techno Built, Inc.

Also wounded and seriously hurt were Bonifacio Cuello of the NXPSCI Workers’ Union and Rea Alegre, spokesperson of broad campaign network All Workers’ Unity. Ranjo and Alegre suffered head wounds after being hit by stones thrown from the ranks of the police.

“We condemn the Aquino government and the PNP for their use of violence against protestors. We are studying the possibility of filing administrative charges against government and police officials involved before the Ombudsman,” Adonis added.

KMU also condemned the PNP’s use of a loud speaker which played dance music to try to counter the sound coming from last Thursday’s protest and to try to disrupt the protestors’ program.

“The Aquino government continues to use new ways of suppressing dissent because it fails to come up with answers to the demands of workers and the people. Stifling the voices of workers and the people has never been, and will never be, music to our ears,” Adonis stated.

APEC declaration: intensifying war vs. workers, peoples of the world

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The “23rd Declaration of APEC Leaders” is no less than a declaration of intensifying war against the workers and peoples of the world.

It professes loyalty to neoliberal “globalization” policies that favor big foreign capitalists, especially financial capitalists, to the detriment of workers and ordinary peoples. It reaffirms APEC’s commitment to the widely-discredited World Trade Organization and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which subjects member-countries to neoliberal economic policies more forcefully.

It professes loyalty to the US’ “war on terror” and “Pivot to Asia,” which means greater US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and support for the US’ wars of aggression against governments and political forces that stand in the way of the US’ economic and geo-political interests. For the Philippines, it will mean more human-rights violations by the US-backed Philippine military.

APEC 2015 will worsen the effects of APEC 1996 on the economy of the Philippines. It will further weaken the country’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors, which are key to generating employment, in favor of the services sector. It will therefore result in greater joblessness and lower quality of jobs for Filipinos. Wages will continue to be depressed, contractual jobs will continue to be promoted, and trade-union rights will continue to be attacked and violated.

APEC 2015’s stated commitment to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises is worrisome for workers. In the past, MSMEs have been used by big capitalists as excuse to further press down wages, spread contractual employment, and stop unions from being formed. At the same time, the problems which MSMEs really confronted were ignored: high power and water rates, huge taxes and government kickbacks, wanton trade liberalization and smuggling, and poor infrastructure.

APEC 2015’s statements on disaster preparedness look good on paper, but are too little and too late when compared with the demands from people’s organizations and non-government organizations. No amount of declarations on disaster preparedness will save lives and rebuild communities if governments, like that of Aquino, are corrupt to the core and indifferent to the suffering of the people. This government has only used “disaster preparedness” to pocket international donations.

Needless to say, the sacrifices which the Filipino workers and people were asked to endure are not “temporary disruptions” but a foretaste of the bigger suffering that APEC will bring in the coming years and decades.

The future of the Filipino workers and people under APEC is bleak. We therefore call on workers and all Filipinos to intensify our struggle against neoliberal policies, all of which are anti-worker and anti-poor. Let us intensify our struggle for land, higher wages, job security and free exercise of trade-union rights. Let us intensify our struggle for national and social liberation. There can be no genuine development for a country that continues to be shackled to neocolonial rule.

Economy cannot be inclusive under APEC

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APEC 2015 has the theme “Building inclusive economies, Building a better world.” Under APEC, under the world capitalist economy, “inclusive economies” is only an illusion. It is a pipe dream being used by the powers-that-be to make people hope for a better future that will never arrive.

The truth is that the economy under APEC cannot be truly inclusive. Because it perpetuates the economic and geo-political divisions of the world capitalist economy, APEC cannot include all people even in the growth that it brings.

APEC is about preserving a global socio-economic system where there are a handful of capitalists on the one hand and a mass of workers on the other. It is about preserving a global geo-political system where there are a handful of powerful countries on the one hand and many neocolonial countries on the other. In these pairs, the wealth and power of the first stem precisely from their domination over the second.

Worse, APEC is about advancing the interests of the few to the detriment of the many. It is about giving big capitalists in the world greater opportunities for amassing profits. It is about giving powerful countries in the world greater opportunities to defend and expand their hegemony.

What we demand, therefore, is not inclusion into APEC economies or into the world capitalist system. We demand nothing less than a way out of APEC and of the world capitalist system. We desire the eventual abolition of APEC and the world capitalist system.

What we want is for the majority of peoples and countries in the world to take the economic and political power, their destinies, into their hands. What we want is for the interests of the poor peoples and countries to prevail over the interests of a handful of wealthy people and powerful countries.

In the Philippines, the struggle for a better world is the struggle for national freedom and democracy from big foreign capitalists and their wealthy and powerful allies in the government and in the country. It is a struggle for a society where the majority, not the minority, rules. It is only by struggling for socialism can the workers and peoples of the world pave the way for a better world.

More photos here.

APEC deserves Filipinos’ protests, condemnation – KMU

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, together with other progressive organizations, held a lightning rally in the corner of Taft and Buendia avenues in Pasay City this morning to condemn the APEC Summit which started today at the Philippine International Convention Center.

The labor group said APEC deserves Filipinos’ condemnation and protests because of its thrust of increasing the profits of big foreign capitalists and advancing the interests of powerful countries at the expense of the workers, peasants and other poor people of the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries.

KMU also said that the immediate difficulties caused by the government’s hosting of the summit to ordinary Filipinos reflect APEC’s bias in favor of big capitalists and governments of powerful countries.

“APEC is making the lives of Filipinos more difficult, and that’s just a preview of the greater difficulties that it will bring in the coming years. Filipinos’s current status as second-class citizens to APEC delegates is a concrete warning that we are increasingly being transformed into cheap and repressed laborers,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader cited the “no work, no pay” scheme imposed on workers, the eviction of vendors and beggars from areas near the PICC, the huge traffic jams caused by the full and partial closure of major roads, the imposition of rules violating workers’ and Filipinos’ right to freedom of expression, among others as evidence of Filipinos’ second-class status in relation to APEC delegates.

“There’s no ‘inclusive growth’ or ‘better future’ with APEC. Its thrust, its composition, and the manner by which it is being hosted in the Philippines show just how it excludes workers and ordinary Filipinos. We are being given a foretaste of the mess it will plunge the country into,” Soluta added.

KMU also said that contrary to the claims of APEC organizers, it’s not the protests that’s causing embarrassment to the country, but the patently anti-poor measures implemented by the Aquino government in hosting the summit and its suppression of legitimate protests.

“What a shame that the Aquino government is causing great inconvenience and suffering to Filipinos and suppressing legitimate protests in order to appear presentable before an international audience. These measures emphasize what they want to hide: that things aren’t doing well and looking up for most Filipinos,” Soluta stated.

Luisita massacre’s 11th year: Unite! Fight APEC’s attacks on workers’ rights!

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Today, we mark the 11th year of the massacre at Hacienda Luisita which killed seven people and wounded hundreds. No one has been jailed over this gruesome crime, eleven years hence. Luisita’s lands, which the farm workers have demanded for, remain firmly in the hands of the Cojuangco-Aquino family. This, despite the justness of distributing the lands to farm workers and a Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution.

The Hacienda Luisita massacre was carried out in order to attack and end the farm workers’ strike, which was caused by extremely low wages in the hacienda’s sugar mill. As of late, it is the most brutal incident of trade-union repression in the Philippines and among the most savage cases of violence against farm workers in the world.

We mark the 11th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre just a few days before the country hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. Trade-union repression and other forms of attacks on workers’ rights are central to the APEC, whose thrust is to further increase the profits of the biggest capitalists in the world and the Philippines to the detriment of workers, the poor and the environment. The best way to pay tribute to the martyrs of Luisita is to continue their struggle for a better world for workers against big foreign and local capitalists and their instruments like the APEC.

APEC 2015’s rhetoric of “investing in human capital” is all about producing cheap, semi-skilled and repressed labor from underdeveloped countries like the Philippines. It will intensify APEC’s long-standing policy of pressing down wages, promoting contractual employment, violating workers’ rights to form unions and hold strikes, and removing all regulations that protect workers, including those on workplace safety.

We are calling on all workers and all Filipinos to join protests in time for the APEC Summit. Let us show our condemnation of APEC’s existing anti-worker, anti-people and anti-environment policies. Let us show our opposition of the policies which APEC 2015 seeks to approve and impose on the workers and peoples of the world.

Solidarity with the workers and peoples of France

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We express our solidarity with the workers and peoples of France in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris which have claimed the lives of more than 128 people. We unite with the workers and peoples of the world in condemning these attacks on civilians and the ISIS for perpetrating these.

The dust has not yet settled but French Pres. Francois Hollande has already called the attacks “an act of war.” The imperialist powers will surely use these terrorist attacks as a pretext to intensify wars of aggression outside of their countries and impose fascist measures on the workers and peoples of their countries. They will surely use these attacks to further whip up terrorism scare, racism, xenophobia, anti-migrant prejudices and religious bigotry.

We are calling on the workers and peoples of the world to translate our grief and solidarity into knowledge of the historical causes of the attacks. The ISIS, for example, was created by the US to further its terrorist agenda. Let us be critical and not be swayed by the propaganda of imperialists, who have used similar attacks in the past to try to justify terrorism on a greater scale. Let us be very clear: Our grief is not a call for imperialist wars of aggression.

We are calling on all progressive organizations to intensify efforts to educate the workers and peoples of the world about the historical causes of the attacks, how these have been used by imperialists to advance their interests, and the need to end imperialism and its attendant plunder and wars of aggression around the world.

Sixth month of Kentex fire marked with protest

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno gathered at Plaza Sta. Cruz in Manila this morning to hold a protest and mark the sixth month of the Kentex factory fire, which claimed the lives of more than 74 workers.

They asserted that justice is being delayed and is being denied to the victims and survivors of the fire tragedy, as the Valenzuela Prosecutor’s Office refuses to act on criminal cases filed by the workers and the government, and the Ombudsman refuses to act on administrative charges filed by the workers.

They also said that the Social Security System still has not filed cases against Beato Ang and Ongkin Guan, the capitalists of Kentex, as well as Cynthia Dimayuga, owner of CJC Manpower Services, for failing to remit workers’ contributions to the fund.

Anim na buwan, wala pa ring katarungan. It’s been six months and there’s still no justice. This is most revolting, given the fact that more than 74 workers lost their lives in the fire,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said it appears that for the government, all that has to be done is to give financial compensation and assistance to the victim’s families and the survivors.

“The death of many workers show that there were grave violations of safety standards. The capitalists of Kentex and top government officials should be held accountable for the deaths,” Adonis added.

In the protest, KMU also condemned Labor Department Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, which was signed by Pres. Noynoy Aquino on November 13, 2011 and sets the guidelines governing contractualization in the country.

“The workers of Kentex were also victims of contractualization, which was legalized by this DO. When the DO was signed, the government promised the regularization of contractuals. After four years, contractualization has only spread further,” Adonis stated.

The workers also condemned the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, saying this would worsen joblessness and the poor quality of jobs in the country.

“Almost 20 years after the country first hosted the APEC, unemployment and underemployment has spread. Wages are lower than before, contractualization is more widespread, the number of workers in unions and covered by CBA’s has decreased, and workplaces have become more dangerous,” Adonis stated.

6 months after Kentex fire, justice delayed, denied

12219519_1637114389896152_3996761265342844916_nTomorrow, November 13, marks the sixth month since the Kentex factory fire which claimed the lives of more than 74 workers. Despite the clear violations of occupational safety and health standards that resulted in the gruesome death of many workers, justice remains elusive for the victims’ families and the survivors.

> The two criminal cases filed against the capitalists of Kentex, one by Kentex workers and the other by the government, are gathering dust in the Valenzuela Prosecutors’ Office.

Instead of pushing for a hearing on the cases, the government filed a case of copyright infringement against Kentex this November pertaining to the latter’s imitation of Brazilian brand Havaianas. This move is aimed at pleasing the government’s guests in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings by showing that the country upholds intellectual property rights, but it does little to advance the cause of justice for the Kentex workers.

> The administrative case filed by the Kentex workers against government officials including Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and former Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas is not being acted upon by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is supposedly independent, swift, and strong-willed.

> The labor cases filed by the workers before the National Labor Relations Commission are still awaiting decision. This, despite the Kentex management’s efforts to take advantage of the economic hardships faced by the victims’ families and survivors after the tragedy by offering them a paltry settlement package in exchange of withdrawing their cases.

> While the Social Security System was able to release the benefits of workers who died, it refuses to release the benefits of workers who survived. At the same time, it has not yet filed a case against the capitalists of Kentex for failing to remit workers’ contributions to the fund.

In sum, it appears that for the government, justice for the workers of Kentex consists of merely of meager compensation. We reject this view. We demand justice and accountability for the workers who suffered from unchecked exploitation and criminal negligence at Kentex, many of whom lost their lives in the worst factory fire in Philippine history.

We vow to continue with our protests until justice is attained. We call on all supporters of workers’ rights to continue speaking out and holding protests to demand justice for the Kentex workers. We call on workers to unite, form unions that are genuine, militant and anti-imperialist, and fight for their basic rights, including the upholding of occupational safety and health standards.

APEC ‘no permit, no rally’ is unjust, revolting

12208801_1637111876563070_3813630025220439785_nWe condemn the Department of Interior and Local Government for asserting that the “no permit, no rally” and “maximum tolerance” policies will be implemented during the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. We reject the Aquino government’s plan of imposing Martial Law to please its foreign masters who will attend and benefit from the APEC Summit.

“No permit, no rally” has become a code word for “no rally.” It violates the 1987 Constitution which states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The government has often invoked “maximum tolerance” whenever it wants to legitimize its violent dispersal of rallyists. It makes it appear that protestors have become so unruly that a violent dispersal is needed despite its policy of “maximum tolerance.” In truth, the government has often violently dispersed workers’ and people’s protests that are peaceful and orderly.

We reject the attempt of Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, to shame protestors into silence by saying that protests will “embarrass” the country.

It’s not the protests that will embarrass the country, but the government’s repression of protestors. The world knows that the Philippines is a poor country, and economic summits like APEC are bound to attract protests. The workers and peoples of the world will be watching the Philippines and a violent repression of rallyists would anger them.
The Filipino workers and people have every reason to hold protests: massive landlessness, joblessness, poor quality of jobs, among other.

We vow to assert our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We vow to make the voices of the Filipino workers and people heard during the APEC Summit. We vow to continue with our protests against this anti-worker, anti-Filipino, anti-environment and pro-big capitalist economic formation.

Miriam, Senate hailed for stand on EDCA

12241263_1637111776563080_8382418471781286895_nNational labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed today Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and the entire Senate for taking the stand last Tuesday that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is a treaty and is therefore invalid without the Senate’s approval.

The labor group said that in taking the position, the Senate stood for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as Filipinos’ lives and properties and the country’s environment.

KMU said the 1987 Constitution is clear on the issue of military bases, citing Section 25 of Article XVIII, which states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.

“We are glad that Sen. Santiago and the Senate stood for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have done something that will always be remembered and cherished by nationalist workers and Filipinos,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said the position is a slap in the face of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, who is hell-bent on allowing increased US military presence in the country and asserts that the EDCA is an “executive agreement” in order to implement it immediately.

“In his extreme puppetry to the US, Aquino wants to sidestep the Senate, arrogate the power to approve the EDCA to himself and implement it immediately. We are so glad that the Senate stood up to him on this issue,” Labog added.

The labor group also said that the Senate decision is most welcome given reports that the Supreme Court is set to rule that the EDCA is constitutional so the ruling can serve as Aquino’s gift to US Pres. Barack Obama when the latter comes to the country for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

“We certainly hope that the SC follows the Senate’s example of standing up for the Filipino workers and people. The SC would expose itself as a lackey of the US and Aquino if it rules that the EDCA is constitutional,” Labog stated.

Labog called on everyone to intensify speaking up and holding protests against the EDCA, saying it’s the Filipino workers and people who prodded the Senate to take a stand and who will guarantee that the one-sided militaristic agreement will ultimately be junked.

KMU, together with public sector union center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government employees, filed a petition against the EDCA before the Supreme Court in June last year.