DAVAO CITY , Philippines — A progressive labor group here blamed President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement tagging their group as a communist front for the intensified attacks against workers and their unions in Compostella Valley province.
“The attacks on workers-unionists have intensified in Compostela Valley after President Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines a ‘terrorist’ organization and then maliciously tagged KMU and other progressive organizations as legal fronts of the Communist Party,” KMU said in a statement.
KMU said that Duterte’s red tagging has endangered the lives of labor union leaders such as the recent case of Victor Ageas, labor union leader of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMAFUSA-NAFLU-KMU), who stood against the Japanese giant Sumitomo Fruit Corp. (Sumifru) in Compostela Valley province.
Ageas had survived a slay try after motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him on Tuesday morning (September 4) while he was heading for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town.
According to KMU, Ageas led the protest action along with Namafusa workers against Sumifru in Compostela town last September 3. He had also received a death threat back in July when two suspected intelligence operatives went to his house looking for him.
Apart from Ageas, KMU said, another labor union leader, Melodina Gumanoy, secretary of Namafusa-Naflu-KMU, was also targeted when motorcycle-riding gunmen on August 30 attempted to kill her while she was on her way for work in Packing Plant 250 owned by Sumifru at Osmeña village, Compostela town.
KMU has attributed the string of harassments against labor union leaders and workers in Compostela to the Army’s 66th and 25th Infantry Battalion for “their vilification and harassments against unionists in the said area and intimidation of workers and residents in forced surrender schemes.”
“The attacks in Compostela are not only against the workers but also on the peasants as scores are being killed. KMU holds the AFP and President Duterte accountable for these blatant violations of the workers’ economic and political rights,” the group said.
Ageas’ and Gumanoy’s union, the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMAFUSA-NAFLU-KMU, has engaged in a labor row with Sumifru after the banana firm refused to grant their demand for regularization and a new bargaining agreement.
KMU in Southern Mindanao condemnedSumifru’s offensive acts against Namafusa, and the attempted killing of its labor union officials.
Namafusa had allied with Bigwas, a cluster of banana packing plant unions, which was formed back in March 2015 when the Japanese giant banana firm implemented the piece-rate payment scheme of which Bigwas branded the scheme as “exploitative”.
Bigwas, the umbrella of an organization of banana packing plant unions, was instrumental in replacing the piece-rate system as workers are now paid per hour contained in the agreement signed by Sumifru and Kilusang Mayo Uno on April 22, 2015.
“KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area,” the labor group said.(davaotoday.com)