More rights abuses with martial law in Mindanao

"Since the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao on May 23, Karapatan has already documented four incidents of killings and thousands of civilians displaced due to aerial strikes. Our tally has yet to include incidents in Marawi. Nonetheless, all these has shown the propensity of martial rule to disregard lives and safety of civilians and communities,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, as the organization is set to join the National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights on June 12 and an interfaith humanitarian and fact finding mission in Marawi City, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato on June 13-16, 2017. 

Palabay added that ‘martial law not only curtails civil and political rights, but also the people's economic rights.” Last June 2, 2017, over 100 composite fully armed elements of the 66th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, and company guards brutally dispersed twelve (12) striking workers of the Shin Sun Tropical Fruits Inc. in Compostela Valley. Workers, led by their union Shin Sun Workers Union (SSWU), an affiliate of National Federation Labor Union - Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU), launched a strike last April 2017 over the illegal dismissal of 53 workers and to demand the regularization of 287 agency-hired workers of the manpower agency ECQ Human Resources Corp.


(Carmelita Atamosa, 67, supported the strike. Her grandson and relatives were among the striking workers. She was mercilessly pulled by Chief Senior Inspector Marvin Hugos. Photo taken from Carl Anthony Olalo)

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Davao ruled in favor of the workers, deciding that the workers should be recognized as regular employees. Some of the workers have been with the company for 17 years. However, Shin Sun Tropical Fruits Inc. questioned the DOLE decision and filed a petition for injunction at a regional trial court in Davao. This time, the court ruled in favor of the company.

“The striking workers were sprayed with formalin and were arrested. Reports from the workers relay that the soldiers invoked martial law, saying that they will not honor the labor code because of it. Indeed, when fascists are given more power, they know nothing else than to abuse it. Threats from the 66th IBPA betray the mentality of soldiers emboldened by martial rule – that they are free to undermine people’s rights and disregard civilian processes,” said Palabay.

Rights violations have been continuing in several parts of Mindanao, also in line with the government's counter-insurgency program. On June 4, 2017, Suara Bangsamoro reported that thousands of residents in Brgy. Pusao, Shariff Saydonna Mustapha and Brgy. Linantangan, Mamasapano in Maguindanao were forced to flee because of the AFP’s mortar bombardment.

“Martial law does not mean security and safety. Rather, it makes people’s rights even more susceptible to violations. We thus continue to call on President Duterte to immediately lift martial law, to stop the aerial bombardment of communities, and to put an end to the killings. With the US-driven counter-insurgency program enabling violations behind the stage, worsened by martial rule, rights abuses will only intensify,” concluded Palabay.