Workers charge Duterte with labor rights violations in International Tribunal

Kilusang Mayo Uno

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) joins other marginalized and oppressed sectors this week at the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) 2018 in Brussels, Belgium, charging President Rodrigo Duterte with gross, systematic labor rights violations and other crimes against Filipino workers and the Filipino people.

KMU’s delegates to the tribunal, set to be conducted on September 18-19, include representatives from the banana plantation workers of Sumifru, based in Compostela Valley; contractual workers of condiment giant NutriAsia, based in Bulacan; and drivers and operators of national transport group PISTON.

“Over the past two years, Duterte has actively worsened the plight of Filipino workers. He must be held accountable for his crimes,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU Vice-Chairperson for Political and External Affairs.

The Philippines was tagged by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in its 2018 report as among the “worst countries in the world for workers,” based on deteriorating conditions of labor in the country.

“Under this regime, workers who protest these unjust and inhumane conditions have been killed, arrested, and brutally dispersed for daring to fight for their rights and welfare,” said Ustarez.

Violations of political, economic, and human rights

“The Duterte regime has blatantly opposed and suppressed long-established labor rights, such as the right to strike, right to organize, right to regular jobs, and right to livable wages,” said Ustarez.

The IPT will hear the case of NutriAsia workers, who are among the many victims — including Jollibee, Middleby, Magnolia, and PLDT workers — of Duterte’s anti-labor policies, especially recent toothless laws such as DO 174 and E0 51 that legitimized contractualization instead of ending it.

Last June, NutriAsia terminated over 50 contractual workers instead of regularizing them as ordered by DOLE. Dozens of people were severely injured and arrested during multiple attempts by state forces to disperse the NutriAsia strike.

Sumifru workers will also relate the union-busting tactics used against them in Mindanao, where Martial Law has yet to be lifted. The 66th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) was charged in an April 2018 fact-finding mission with using red-tagging, coercion, forced displacement, harassment, intimidation, illegal entry into dwellings, and planting of fake evidence in order to discourage union activities.

“Duterte is notorious for his fascist and violent tactics against his critics,” said Ustarez. “To silence labor leaders and organizers, the Duterte regime resorts to extrajudicial killings and illegal detention based on trumped-up charges.”

Thirty labor leaders have been killed under Duterte. Meanwhile, the list of the regime’s political prisoners includes Rafael Baylosis, former KMU vice-chairperson for external and political affairs (arrested February 2018); Maojo Maga, KMU and PISTON organizer (arrested February 2018); and Alexander “Bob” Reyes, organizer of KMU-National Capital Region (arrested April 2018).

The Sumifru delegate to the IPT is also set to testify regarding an assassination attempt this August on Vincent Ageas, a member of the Board of Directors of Sumifru’s union Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA).

Moreover, “Duterte, in collaboration with the Trump-led US government, has enacted harmful, anti-people economic policies and programs that have affected all Filipinos, especially workers,” said Ustarez.

The gap between wage rates and the cost of living has rapidly widened, as inflation hits record highs due to neoliberal policies such as the controversial Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. Yet Duterte continues to ignore growing calls to junk TRAIN and institute a livable national minimum wage.

Workers of the transport sector have also been hit hard by Duterte’s planned jeepney phaseout, touted as a “modernization program” that would supposedly benefit the Philippine economy.

The PISTON delegate will testify how the phaseout would result in a massive loss of livelihood for jeepney drivers, as well as corporatization of public transport and higher fares for commuters. PISTON has been a staunch critic of the phaseout, instead proposing alternative, sustainable modernization policies that would prioritize the welfare of transport workers and commuters.

KMU urged all workers and other Filipinos to join them in holding Duterte accountable for his crimes.

“We can no longer ignore the overwhelming evidence showing the atrocities of the Duterte regime. Stop the attacks on trade union and human rights! We call on the public to support our struggle to defend and uphold the rights and welfare of all workers and the rest of the Filipino people,” Ustarez said.

Find out more about the Tribunal

Follow the proceedings of the Tribunal


Lito Ustarez
Kilusang Mayo Uno
Vice-Chairperson for Political and External Affairs

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
Genuine, Militant, and Anti-imperialist Unionism
63 Narra Street, Project 3, Quezon City, 1102
Email: [email protected]

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