Union leader escapes from assassination attempt

Sep. 05, 2018

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A union leader in Compostela Valley who survived an attempted slay try by men wearing ski masks and riding in tandem last September 4 lambasted the attack as part of the harassment against union members, who are being tagged as members of the communist group, because they have been fighting for workers’ rights.

Victor Ageas, a member of the Board of Directors of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU) was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen on September 4, 6:30 am while he was bound for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Purok Uno, Barangay Osmeña. Ageas evaded his assailants who opened fire at him six times.

In an interview, Ageas said members of NAMASUFA ‘experienced several acts of harassments’ as the union is pushing for worker’s rights. Before the ambush, he experienced being tailed by unidentified men while on his way home.

On July 26 this year, Ageas said two bonnet-wearing men went to his house to look for him and left since he was not around.

Ageas added that the attack came a day after workers of Sumifru in Compostela staged a protest action against the company for refusing to recognize them as their regular employees and to negotiate for a collective bargaining agreement.

“I believe that this is all part of the company’s harassment against us because they could not shut us down,” said Ageas.

After the incident, he said, he was not able to talk to his family due to security reasons and he was not able to return to work.

Ageas has two sons who are both studying in elementary.

“I am really worried about my family. I am the father and the one working. Because of this incident, I am forced to hide for my security. I worry a lot about how to provide the needs of my family” added Ageas.

On August 20 this year another union leader Melodina Gumanoy, secretary of NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU, was a target of motorcycle-riding men on her way to work in Packing Plant 250 of Sumifru at Purok 8, Brgy. Osmeña, Compostela. She was able to hide in a nearby house to evade her attackers.

In a statement released by Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao said “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.”

Data from KMU revealed that since February this year, the 66th and 25th IBPA in Compostela and Monkayo intensified their vilification and harassments against unionists in the said area and intimidated workers and residents in forced surrender schemes’.

“KMU holds the AFP and President Duterte accountable for these blatant violations of the workers’ economic and political rights. KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area.”

Meanwhile, rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao also condemned the recent attack on the union leader.

Jay Apiag, secretary general of the group said the recent assassination attempt is a ‘unique leisure pursuit of a prettified military operation’ against known leaders and members of progressive organizations.

Apiag mentioned that their group has documented several accounts of harassment of members of progressive organizations and attempts to “convince them to surrender.”

“Majority of these cases reveal that even if they were forced to surrender, they were still subjected to liquidation such as the case of Rolly Panebio and couple Gilbert and Jean Labial of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) who were killed subsequently in August and Victor Ageas who was shot multiple times but able to evade his assailants” said Apiag. (davaotoday.com)

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