Comval Union Leader Fears for His Life

Jun. 12, 2006

Labor leader Vicente Barrious ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)DAVAO CITY ( The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno disclosed today, June 12, that the life of one of its leaders in Compostela Valley province is in grave danger after an armed man broke into his home over the weekend.

The group said an armed man wearing a bonnet and a corduroy jacket forcibly entered the house of Vicente Barrios in Purok 2, Valencia, barangay New Alegria, Compostela town, Compostela Valley Province at around 9:30 p.m. on June 10.

Barrios is the president of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farms (Namasufa) in Compostela, which is affiliated with the KMU.

KMU said witnesses saw the man carrying a long firearm while a companion waited and watched outside of Barrioss house.

Barrios and his wife were in their room at the time of the incident, the group said. His two in-laws, also present, panicked and ran into a room to hide with Barrios and his wife. The armed man said nothing and left.

This incident is one in a series of harassments, grave threats, and intimidation of our union leaders, particularly in the banana plantations of Compostela managed by the Soriano-owned Fresh Banana Agricultural Corporation, said Omar Bantayan, secretary-general of the KMU in Southern Mindanao. Wherever new unions are formed and workers are asserting their rights, this pattern of harassment emerges in a futile attempt to discourage the workers from organizing, he said, adding that the Armed Forces themselves have engaged in union busting activities.

Bantayan was referring to the recent findings of the International Labor Solidarity Mission (ILSM), which investigated the involvement of the 36th and 28th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army in union busting in Compostela during their 2004 and 2005 operations.

According to KMU, Barrios was called for questioning by the 28th IB in September and accused him of organizing for the communist New Peoples Army. During the same month, KMU said, the military called a meeting of the workers inside the packing plant and told them not to join the union, that the company would close, and that their union was leftist.

Before Saturdays incident, a union member reported that he had heard about a plot to kill Barrios.

This incident, the KMU said, was the latest in a series of threats to Barrioss life, which began in December 2005 after the union filed a money claim with the Department of Labor and Employment for non-payment of COLA, holiday pay, service incentive, and non-wage benefits.

This incident is part of their efforts to destroy our union, Barrios said in a statement. They are trying their best to intimidate us so we cannot continue with our organizing work. But our union is strong, he said.

Several union leaders and members have been murdered since 2001, the year Arroyo took power. Since then, more than 600 civilian members of KMU, Bayan Muna and other progressive groups have been murdered, allegedly by the military.

In 2005 alone, 31 leaders and members of labor groups were murdered nationwide. The suspects in many of these instances wore bonnets. (

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