As workers commemorated Bonifacio Day in a nationally coordinated action, Partido Manggagawa (Labor Party) demanded the release of unionists Dennis Derige, Myra Opada, Joksan Branzuela, Jonel Labrador, and Cristito Pangan.
Opada is the union president at Philippine Light Leather, Pangan is the union president at First Glory Apparel while Derige, Branzuela and Labrador are union organizers.
The Mactan Economic Zone has been a site of struggle between local labor and foreign capital. Last Friday, Nov. 27th, some 300 workers of the First Glory Apparel were fired -- the latest in the surge of mass layoffs at garment firms in the zone in the past three months. The Sports City group of companies laid off 4,000 workers, Yuenthai fired 200 workers, FCO laid off 100 workers and Kor Landa retrenched 67 workers.
To mark Bonifacio Day, members of the Mactan Ecozone Workers Alliance, Partido Manggagawa, and Sentro assembled at Gate 3 and marched to Gate 2 where they held a program highlighting the Zone capitalists' attack on the right of workers to unionize, bargain collectively, seek redress of grievance and assemble peacefully. However, police broke up the rally and arrested the five unionists.
Rene Magtubo of PM called for an end to the repression of labor rights and the harassment of human rights defenders. "Activism is not terrorism," said Magtubo. "This is precisely the theme of today's national and global commemoration of Bonifacio Day."
The arrest of the PM Cebu labor organizers underscores the escalating attacks on workers' rights in the country, said Magtubo. "It adds to the unsolved killings of unionists, busting of unions, and red-tagging of union activists."
Last year, PM-Cavite labor organizer Dennis Sequena was brutally murdered while facilitating a labor seminar. No one has been arrested, much less charged with his murder.
The impunity with which workers are fired in economic zones like Mactan, in the middle of a pandemic, graphically illustrates the inability of the government to ensure job security for native labor, and its puppetry toward foreign capital. As employment shrinks steadily and dramatically in the country, the brunt of the double blow of a recession and a pandemic is felt most grievously by the Philippine working class.