Labor leaders: an easy target?
MANILA, Philippines – Labor leaders inspire and guide others in their community and workplace. They have earned their diploma in understanding complex situations in their respective areas. They are both the common tao, and professional and skilled workers.
Labor leaders usually emerge in situations where there is inequality, injustice, and exploitation of people’s rights and welfare. They stand up to provide direction, ideas, and eventually to lead their community, workplace and/or constituency to a goal—to have better living conditions not only for themselves but their families as well.
But this dream of a simple living and a better life for their family is at best being hampered, and in the worst case scenario denied by the very people whom we elected into positions of power. For the labor leaders that stand for the rights of others are the usual targets of harassment, threat, torture, disappearance and extermination.
These leaders have one thing in common: they believe if they are fighting for their rights, that they can have a promising future for their families. But records will show that these people, who espouse the very essence of democracy and freedom, are being hunted down.
These leaders have no means to protect their lives except their instinct to survive—and yet some are being branded not as organizers, but as delinquents.
There are powerful figures and business owners who order the disappearances and killings of labor leaders. They think that if the leaders are eliminated, automatically their followers and supporters will also fall silent.
They believe that in terminating the upsurge of progressive ideas in the community and/or workplace they will also terminate the struggle for a better life. For those in power, if labor leaders succeed in organizing the people, they will eventually lose their fortune.
In records released by the human rights advocates at the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) from 2004 to 2008, at least 70 killings and two cases of enforced disappearance occurred in the labor sector. The number is part of the more than 800 victims of disappearances and extrajudicial killings listed by the human group KARAPATAN from the time of Ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001.
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And the killings never stopped.
In September of this year, at least seven labor leaders were reportedly murdered by still at large or unidentified assailants.
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But as now, the victims who are already laid to rest may not receive the justice they deserve.
Authorities are still picking up all the pieces from the crime scene to come up with a substantial evidence that would lead them to the so called assailant or suspects. But if no one will bother to look at their output, all findings and investigation will just go to the garbage of files in the police evidence room and be locked up for good.
And yet, because of this war on drugs by the current administration, solving the crimes against labor leaders is last on the list of the president and other elected politicians seated in the House of Representative and the Philippine Senate.
In the comparative record released by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) this year, this administration marks a new high for extrajudicial killings.
According to the CMFR, whose data differs slightly from that of KARAPATAN, Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during Corazon Aquino’s term as President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1986 to June of 1992 numbered 21.
During the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos from July 1992 to June 1998 these killings numbered 11.
During the Joseph Estrada presidency from July 1998 to January of 2001 extrajudicial killings totaled 6.
During Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term from January 2001 to June 2010 83 of these killings were recorded, including the Maguindanao massacre.
During the term of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III from July 2010 to May 2016 EJKs totaled 31.
As for the present administration, during the first 100 days in office 1,381 extrajudicial killings have allegedly occurred and the deaths will no doubt continue, as the President asked for an extension in eradicating the so-called narcopolitics in the country. CPM
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