On December 13, 2017, the supermajority in the 17th Congress and the Senate approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year. The decision is far from the promised promotion of a stable socioeconomic growth and development in Mindanao after Marawi siege, according to a labor non-government organization.
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said the extension of martial law is an orchestrated attack on trade union and human rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. Citing data from Center for Trade Union and Human Rights show an increased number in cases of threats, harassment and intimidations towards workers and the urban poor: from 88 in former President Noynoy Aquino’s six-year term to 500 in the first year of President Duterte alone. There also have been 602 documented cases of assaults in the picket lines of workers with 86 arbitrary arrests and detentions (2017 CTUHR Monitor).
“We strongly condemn the killings of 21 trade unionists under the Duterte regime. With the extension of martial law, it could only get worse. The government should address gross trade union and human rights violations and not promote them,” EILER executive director Rochelle Porras warned in a statement on Thursday.
The labor NGO also stressed that Duterte regime’s extension of martial law, easing of investment restrictions and implementation of neoliberal 10-point Socioeconomic Agenda, Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, and AmBisyon Natin 2040 are consolidation of socio-political and economic plans that remain favorable only to foreign investors that continue to exploit the cheap labor cost in the country at the expense of workers’ wages and job security, and their trade union rights.
“The extension of martial law and the neoliberal economic policies of Duterte regime will not solve the roots of armed conflict in the Philippines. Instead it will promote further attacks to workers and the urban poor, against their rights to freedom of association, to peaceably assemble, and to strike,” Porras said.
EILER also condemned the President’s stigmatization of transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON), militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and human rights network KARAPATAN as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the subsequent declaration of the latter as terrorist organization under Proclamation 374 on December 5.
“The President is hell-bent on suppressing civil and political rights. PISTON, KMU and KARAPATAN have consistently fought for the rights and welfare of marginalized Filipinos and still continue to launch massive protests against President Duterte’s tyrannical rule. The perverse statements from this regime only aim to demonize their members, including passionate citizens and activists to the public, and shut down dissenting opinions and criticisms by progressive groups and individuals,” Porras said.
“We encourage our fellow activists and human rights defenders to be more vigilant against state fascism. We reiterate our call to stop trade union and human rights violations, stop the killings of our trade unionists, and end the culture of impunity,” Porras concluded.