URGENT APPEAL TO ACTION: Free HR Day 7! Free Our Unionists!
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We strongly deplore the simultaneous raids of residences and the consecutive arrests of trade union organizers, Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines, Romina Astudillo, Deputy Secretary-General of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Metro Manila, Mark Ryan Cruz, Regional Executive Committee of KMU-Metro Manila, Jaymie Gregorio Jr. of KMU-Metro Manila, Joel Demate of Solidarity of Labor Rights and Welfare (SOLAR), Rodrigo Esparago of Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC) and journalist Lady Ann Salem, Communication officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, and editor for online news site Manila Today. Astudillo and Cruz were recently elected as officers of KMU Metro Manila Chapter in its Regional Congress held last November 29.
The raids happened dawn of December 10, International Human Rights Day, which allegedly generated an armory of high-powered rifles and explosives in each of the residences searched. Velasco, Esparago, Astudillo, Cruz, Demate, Gregoria Jr and Salem may be facing obviously manufactured charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives on this account –the same criminal charges filed against trade union activists who were arrested before them. Just a few days before Human Rights Day, Jose Bernardino of Workers Alliance in Region III (WAR III-KMU), an organizer of workers in industrial zones and jeepney drivers, and former President of the Young Christian Workers, was also arrested on the same made up criminal charges. With the Anti-Terror Law in effect, it has been an open season for arrests of activists, and it will not come as a surprise that these trade union organizers will be labelled as communist-terrorists.
This is yet another blow to the trade union movement in the Philippines. Trade union activists are being criminalized, illegally arrested and detained, as the government’s way of preventing them from organizing workers into unions and associations, and depriving them their freedom of thought and expression as translated into their activities among the workers. The intensified crackdown is precisely aimed at stifling dissent and organized action among the people. Killings among activists and rights defenders, as a way of instilling fear and silencing the people, have not ceased.
We call on the Duterte government to immediately release the HRD7 workers and journalist, drop the trumped-up charges against them, and stop this detestable practice of filing manufactured criminal charges against unionists and activists.
We also call on international bodies - the UN Human Rights Council and the International Labor Organization (ILO) - to consider as an emergency the deteriorating human rights condition in the Philippines and employ all official and diplomatic venues available, including sending their missions to investigate human rights and trade union repression in the country and help reverse the situation.
We likewise call on trade unions and freedom-loving people all over the world to continue the fight for trade union and human rights in the Philippines. We shall hold to account all those responsible in these brazen human rights violations. Together we shall continue our struggle for justice, for our rights and freedoms.
PHILIPPINE AFFILIATES OF THE COUNCIL OF GLOBAL UNIONS
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