December 10, 2014
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the Partido Manggagawa asked UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst to inquire on the killings of labor activists in Negros Occidental. “The culture of impunity and extra-judicial killings of labor activists persists under the administration of Benigno Aquino III. In the last two years, two farm worker leaders have been killed while another survived an assassination attempt, all in Negros where agrarian and labor disputes simmer,” stated Renato Magtubo, PM national chair.
Forst is in the
Philippines and has expressed
interest in requesting the government for an official visit and investigation after
meeting with human rights groups over the past several days. Two predecessors of
Forst were unable to obtain invitations from the government to inquire into reports
of attacks against human rights defenders in the country.
The spate of killings against worker and land rights defenders in
Negros happened amidst agrarian
and labor disputes between farm workers and sugar planters. Last November 29,
Rolando Pango, a PM member, labor leader in Binalbagan town and an organizer in
neighboring Isabela town died after being shot in the head by two men. Pango had
previously received death threats while he was assisting workers of Hacienda Salud
in Isabela town in processing for coverage under land reform and in filing illegal
dismissal charges against landlord Manuel “Manolet” Lamata. Lamata heads the
powerful Negros sugar planters association.
PM also called on the Department of Labor and Employment, the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council and the Department of Justice to take cognizance of Pango’s case as they have a mandate to act on labor-related extra-judicial killings.
Since 2011, the labor coalition Nagkaisa!, of which PM is an affiliate, has been engaged in dialogue with the Aquino administration on key labor issues, including some 62 unsolved cases of labor-related extra-judicial killings.
Magtubo added that in December 29, 2012, Victoriano Embang, president of the Maria Cecilia Farm Workers Association (MACFAWA) in Moises Padilla town, was killed amidst another agrarian and labor dispute with the influential Montillano clan. His brother, Anterio, also a leader of MACFAWA, later survived an ambush in February 28, 2013.
Still PM insisted that the most widespread infringement of human rights in the labor front is the violation of workers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“The onslaught of state-sanctioned contractualization schemes have effectively disarmed workers of their ability to defend themselves, through their unions, against many forms of abuse and exploitation” concluded Magtubo.