Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Group condemns killing of labor leader in Negros

Press Release
December 3, 2014

A week to go before the observance of international human rights day, the Partido Manggagawa (PM) condemned the assassination of a labor leader and organizer in Negros Occidental last November 29.

“The culture of impunity thrives in our country and the extra-judicial killings of labor activists continue unabated. We ask the state—the provincial government of Negros Occidental and the national agencies Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights—to act with dispatch on the case and make a thorough investigation,” asserted Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

Rolando Pango, a farm worker leader in his hometown of Binalbagan and an organizer in the neighboring town of Isabela, was shot dead in the head by two men late in the evening of November 29. Pango on his way home after meeting farm workers who were to attend the Bonifacio Day rally when the motorcycle he was riding was blocked by a black sedan and another motorcycle in the crossing of Hacienda Garrason in Binalbagan.

“For the commemoration of human rights day, we want action not words, reform not speeches from the Aquino administration. The mastermind and perpetrators of the murder of Pango and other labor activists must be brought to justice,” insisted Renato Magtubo, PM chair and a Negrense from Bacolod. A 300-strong workers assembly in Bacolod resolved a day after Pango’s death to seek justice and campaign for a resolution to the killing.

PM believes that Pango’s killing arose from a labor and agrarian dispute that he was engaged in. Pango had received a death threat from an ex-NPA rebel with an alias “Mike” who now serves an armed bodyguard of Manuel “Manolet” Lamata, a landlord who had leased and manages Hacienda Salud, a 135-hectare sugar plantation in Barangay Rumirang, Isabela.

Magtubo called on the Department of Labor and Employment and the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council to table the case of Pango.

Pango was assisting farm workers in seeking coverage of Hacienda Salud under land reform and also in illegal dismissal cases against Lamata. Since last year, the farm workers had endured successive violent harassment and bribery attempts at the hands of Lamata, who heads the powerful Negros sugar planters group, as the agrarian and labor disputes festered.

Pango’s murder follows the assassination of another farm worker leader in Isabela in December 2012. Victoriano Embang, head of the sugar workers association of Hacienda Maria Cecilia, was ambushed by two men riding in tandem in a motorcycle. Embang’s workers association was also embroiled in agrarian and labor disputes with their capitalist landlord, the Montillanos.

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