Compostela union leader, 3 others critically wounded by gunshots

Dec. 15, 2006

December 15, 2006

Compostela union leader, 3 others critically wounded by gunshots

Vicente “Boy” Barrios, president of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU) and three other workers were shot at around 5:30 early this morning. The workers were on their way to work when unidentified men held them at gunpoint and open fired at them.

The workers were rushed to Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City for immediate medical attention. As of this writing, two of the victims are in critical condition while Barrios sustained bullet wounds but is able to talk.

The three other workers were identified as Gerson Lastimoso, Aldrin Cortez and Doniglen Sundon, all members of NAMASUFA, the union of workers in Packing Plant 90 (Suyapa Farm) in Compostela. PP90 is owned by the Japanese-transnational Fresh Bananas Agricultural Company-AJMR-Sumitomo Fruits Company (SUMIFRU).

Barrios, a regional council member of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao and a member of AnakPawis Partylist, was one of the victims whose cases were recently focused during the International Labor Solidarity Mission (ILSM) in May and the Labor Solidarity Ecumenical Mission (LSEM) in August this year. Barrios has been constantly receiving death threats due to his active involvement in advancing the rights of the workers not only of Packing Plant 90 but of the entire export banana workers of Compostela.

KMU-SMR Secretary General Omar Bantayan condemned the incident saying, “This flagrant terrorism is not merely criminal in nature, but more importantly an attempt to silence the militancy of Barrios and his fellow workers. Their vigilant resistance to capitalist exploitation and state repression undoubtedly caused this.”

On their separate mission reports, both the ILSM and the LSEM documented these threats as having to do with Barrios leadership in the union and the workers heightened campaign to protect their rights and their union. The missions documented threatening text messages, surveillances, interrogations, verbal and physical assaults, widespread red-tagging following the unions success in their claims case and union building.

The reports also pointed to two possible perpetrators: the capitalist FBAC-AJMR which stood to benefit in busting the genuine union of PP90 and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Compostela Valley in its context of obliterating “threats to national security” under Oplan Bantay Laya.

Said Bantayan, “We condemn this downright attack to genuine trade unionism and the struggling workers in our region. For years now, we have sent red flags to government agenciesthe Department of Labor and Employment, the Commission on Human Rights and the local government of Compostela under Mayor Rey Castilloall of whom chose to turn the other cheek and dismissed the threats as fabrication and hearsay.”

“It is most unfortunate that what Boy Barrios has been fearing to happen for a year has finally came to pass. Do workers need to suffer the same fate as Barrios before this government listens and takes active action in protecting not only the workers democratic and political rights, but ultimately, their lives? We call on people to help in the campaign to protect the workers, the most productive sector in Philippine society,” he stressed.

Batayan revealed that tomorrow, December 16, a contingent of church people, labor and human rights advocates and members of progressive groups and partylists will conduct a fact-finding investigation in Compostela.

Reference: Omar Bantayan 0920 962 5986

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