One year of Martial Law led to killings, harassment, & repression of workers in Mindanao —KMU

Workers joined other sectors in marching to Mendiola on Wednesday to call for an immediate lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao, condemning the intensified militarization and trade union harassment in the region.

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) has been a staunch critic of Martial Law since it was declared on May 23 last year, and especially after President Rodrigo Duterte announced in December 2017 that it would be extended for another year.

Of 29 recorded killings of workers under the Duterte regime, many of those were from the southern Mindanao region (SMR). Fact-finding missions to Mindanao have also reported hundreds of human and labor rights violations against the workers of Shin Sun, Sumifru, Coke, and other companies.

“Workers in Mindanao have been among those hardest hit by Martial Law,” said KMU vice-president Lito Ustarez. “They are being treated as criminals, and unionism is being branded as terrorism. State elements such as soldiers and the police have been given free rein for their fascist tactics to suppress unionists and other critics of the Duterte regime.”

“But the true terrorists are the military, who have been systematically harassing unionists and other workers in Mindanao,” Ustarez said. “The true criminal is Duterte, who has curtailed democratic rights with his unjustifiable and unwarranted declaration of Martial Law, and used it as a license to crack down on workers fighting for their rights to fair wages, regularization, and organization.”

Since the declaration of Martial Law, the valid protests of workers, such as the strike at Shin Sun and the picket at Coke Davao, have been violently dispersed by the government. The communities of workers, such as those in Sumifru in Compostela, have become heavily militarized.

KMU also drew attention to the case of KMU-SMR organizer Daniel Remeticado, who was illegally detained without cause or court order on May 21 by the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The military has accused Remeticado of being a rebel and KMU of being a ‘legal front’ of communists,” said Ustarez. “This blatant red-tagging is clearly a tactic to stifle the just and valid struggles of workers and other groups fighting against the fascist and anti-people Duterte regime.”

“We demand an immediate end Martial Law and the state’s repressive counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, as well as the resumption of peace talks as the only path to genuine development and progress in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines,” Ustarez added.