On Labor Day, KMU slams red-tagging of union leaders in Davao

Apr. 30, 2024
Namasufa leader Melodina Gumanoy (left) and KMU Southern Mindanao Region former secretary general Carlo Olalo

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Heading in to International Labor Day on May 1, the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) slams the Marcos Jr. administration for failing to stop the harassment and red-tagging of labor union leaders in Davao Region.

KMU Southern Mindanao revealed on its Facebook account that two leaders, their former secretary general Carlo Olalo and Namasufa leader Melodina Gumanoy were visited by military officers in their respective homes in the past week where they were asked to “surrender” to authorities for their labor organizing activities.

Their report said Olalo was visited by two persons who introduced themselves as members of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on April 23 and 26. In those two visits, the men told Olalo that he must “surrender” to the government and “clear his name and record.”

The group said the men also intimidated family members of Olalo, including his children.

Gumanoy, Secretary of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm or NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU, a union of banana plantation workers of Sumifru in Compostela, Davao de Oro was also intimidated in the same manner by alleged elements of the armed forces in her community last April 26. 

“These incidents are a manifestation of the tactics being used by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to suppress workers and trade unionists struggling for living wages, quality public services, and democratic rights in the region. KMU-SMR ardently denounces these attacks,” the group said.

KMU Southern Mindanao chairman Romelito Pablo said that violations against labor groups, especially on KMU, continue under the Marcos Jr. administration.

Harassment of labor groups and its organizers intensified during the Duterte administration when it formed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which resorted to red-tagging activists and various groups and individuals critical of the administration.  

But Pablo said this practice continues.

“Trend ni sya karon no nga ang mga labor organizers gikan sa Kilusang Mayo Uno kasagaran gina-tag dayon sila as mga member sa NPA ug klaro kaayo na. Bisan gani hangtud karon sa mga social media, sa mga fake news nga mang-gawas ginademonize ang organisasyon, (Its still a trend that labor organizers from KMU are always tagged as [New Peoples Army] and thats been blatant.  Even until now, theres social media, theres fake news that demonize the organization.)” Pablo said.

Aside from Olalo and Gumanoy, KMU Southern Mindanaos Secretary General Paul John Dizon was also harassed in his residence by NTF-ELCAC agents in 2023.

Also last year, another officer, Leoncio Rabaca, was harassed. Sixty-year old union organizer Susano Labora suffered a heart attack and died last May 6, 2023 days after military agents intimidated him in his home and bribed him to spy on KMU.

Last April 10, KMU union organizer William Lariosa, 60 years old, was reportedly taken by soldiers in Quezon, Bukidnon, and remains missing.

Human rights group Karapatan said President Marcos Jr has a “cultivated façade” of cooperating with the international community on human rights issues, particularly on the probe on Duterte’s war on drugs, but allows the counter-insurgency measures by Duterte to continue.

KMU Southern Mindanao presses on with its calls to stop the attacks on workers’ rights.  On their nationally coordinated Labor Day rally, the group will also rally in solidarity with jeepney drivers who oppose to the phaseout of jeeps, and oppose the charter change plans by the Marcos Jr. allies that will alter economic provisions to allow foreign investments. (davaotoday.com)

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