October turning bloody red as martial law kills, violates people’s rights in Mindanao

“Lest we forget, there is already martial law declared in the southern part of the country. The imposition of martial law has merely contributed to the intensification of attacks against the Filipino people. Five indigenous and peasant leaders were arrested in the first week of October in Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Sur. The violations continue unabated as another Lumad is killed in Sarangani province and striking workers at a Japanese multinational company were violently dispersed this week. Mindanao is being ravaged by what can only be referred to as State terrorism,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
(Photo from Kilab Multimedia) 
Palabay cited the case of leaders Gerry Basahon and Gabriela coordinator Merlita Dorado who were illegally arrested on the basis of trumped-up charges of attempted and frustrated murder on October 4. They were among the eleven members and leaders of progressive peasant and Lumad organisations who were wrongly charged with the said offenses. The next day, on October 5, Enecito Catapte, Junie Catapte and Lito Delicona, all members of a local indigenous organization, were held at the camp of the 36th IBPA headquarters in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, Caraga. 

Another Lumad leader, Jimmy Ambat was also gunned down by elements of the 73rd IBPA on the evening of October 5 in Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province. Ambat was killed when he stepped out of his house to check on his relatives when a volley of gunshots was directed at him; he died instantly. On October 7, the 71st IBPA released a statement that Ambat died in an encounter – a lie vehemently disputed by his family and community.  The perpetrators also torched the house of peasant Jomar Tinao; they also ransacked his house and stole eight chickens. This is part of the series of military operations done against indigenous communities in communities in Region 12. 

On October 5, the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao, Inc. (CTCSM) also reported surveillance while faculty and students visited their families to render health and cultural services in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. A blue Toyota Revo, with license plate XFK 795, was tailing the group while they were en route to their destination. On October 7, while leaving the community to go back to Davao City, the said blue vehicle continued to follow them. The group sought refuge at a church institution. Lumad community schools have long been red-tagged by the Duterte regime, even threatening to bomb these institutions. 

“The Duterte regime is adamant in wielding its power not only to suppress and discredit legitimate dissent, but also to protect the interests of companies who are exploiting loopholes to deny the rights of workers,” added Palabay.

On October 11, striking workers of Sumifru, a Japanese multinational company, were violently dispersed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the company’s security personnel. Around 400 workers were injured while two were reportedly arrested. The workers are organized under the union Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), an affiliate of the National Federation of Labor Unions- Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU). The union was certified by the Department of Labor and Employment as a Sole and Exclusive Bargaining Agent (SEBA) since 2010. The workers mounted their strike on October 1, 2018.

Palabay emphasized that the response by the workers to the company’s refusal to acknowledge an employer-employee relationship, despite a Supreme Court decision in 2017 that affirms this, is justified. The union already filed its Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) proposal in August 2018, but the company refused to negotiate. Sumifru engages in labor-only contracting practices, a form of contractualization prohibited in the Labor Code, and is a blatant violation of workers’ rights.

“There is no question as to the legitimacy of the workers’ actions. The Duterte regime, along with its agencies and security forces, has chosen to side with the company. We thus call on everyone to stand with the Sumifru workers, and all workers who are not only denied of their rights, but also criminalized. Unionism is not a crime; contractualization is. Along with Sumifru, the Duterte regime should likewise be held accountable for this blatant neglect of the welfare of workers, and the deployment of state forces to suppress the strike,” Palabay further stated.
“Duterte’s list of crimes against the Filipino people is getting longer, aggravated by repressive policies such as its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao. The exposition of State terrorism will continue, and so long as this oppressive and repressive system remains, the people will continue to struggle for justice and accountability. End martial law!” Palabay concluded.