Union members condemn illegal arrest of union organisers and activists in Negros
Source: First Union
At FIRST Union’s Regional Conference in Auckland yesterday, officials and delegates from around New Zealand condemned the All Saints Day evening raid and arrest of over 60 union organisers, human rights defenders and activists in the Philippines province of Negros, FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga said today.
Anne Krueger, regional organiser for the BPO Industry Employee Network (BIEN) - the union for call centre workers - was among those arrested in the city of Bacolod following armed military police raids on the 31st of October that targeted workers and activists in the province. Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said the raid was timed to pre-empt courts closing on the weekend so that those apprehended cannot challenge their arrest. The activists are still being held under the pretence of firearms charges that local organisations maintain are trumped-up and false.
"This is an illegal crackdown on human rights defenders who’ve dared to question President Duterte’s hostile anti-worker policies and are now being harassed and detained by their nation’s leader," said Dennis Maga, FIRST Union General Secretary.
"We are calling on the Filipino government to release the 60-or-so activists illegally arrested by the state, and in the meantime, the world will be watching how they are treated in detention."
Local Filipino media reported that 44 individuals suspected of being members of the armed communist rebel group New People's Army were charged on Monday with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives. Targets included union leaders of the National Federation of Sugar Workers. Mr Maga believes that the charges are likely falsified.
"It has been unfortunately common for critics of Duterte’s brutal Government, particularly union officials and other progressive defenders of human rights, to be illegally targeted and framed," said Mr Maga.
"FIRST Union stands in solidarity with those detained while advocating for those worse off than them, and we’re calling on our Labour Government to ensure it does all it can democratically to hold Duterte’s crooked administration to account."