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Will Luxon Condemn Human Rights Abuses In Meeting With Philippines President?

FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga has condemned the decision of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to fly to Australia to meet with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but says that if the Prime Minister is so determined for Marcos Jr.'s company, he must raise critical human rights abuses like extrajudicial killings and a so-called 'crackdown' on trade union officials that intensified under former President Rodrigo Duterte and has not stopped under the new administration.

"Past Prime Ministers have not rushed off to meet with Philippine leaders like Marcos Jr. and Duterte because they're aware that future trade prospects and cheap migrant labour aren't worth cozying up to dictators for," said Mr Maga.

"If Luxon is intent on sitting down with Marcos Jr. for whatever reason, he must raise human rights abuses like the killing of trade unionists and activists and demand real action before exploring closer economic ties and encouraging migration to New Zealand."

Mr Maga referenced the current campaign by the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), calling for the Philippine government to immediately dismiss "trumped-up" charges against Anne Krueger and Danny Tabura, two trade unionists included in the 'Negros 52' who were charged with the illegal possession of firearms following a defective search warrant carried out in 2019 and remain targets of harrassment and surveillance by state forces, according to BIEN. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Ms Irene Khan, recently spent two weeks in the Philippines and assessed that the country must urgently address the killings of journalists, and abolish an anti-communist taskforce that has restricted freedom of speech and led to the 'red-tagging' of those critical of the state.

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In October 2023, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) denounced the killing by police of Jude Thaddeus Fernandez, an organiser with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) trade union centre. The ITUC said that since 2016, 72 trade unionists had been killed in the Philippines. According to the Global Rights Index of 2023, there is "no guarantee of rights" for workers and the Philippines is one of the ten worst countries in the world for working people, with arrests and violence against trade unionists and union-busting commonplace.

" Former Prime Minister Helen Clark used her time with former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to raise human rights abuses like extrajudicial killings and the threat to their democracy, offering New Zealand's assistance - I hope Prime Minister Luxon has the courage to do the same," said Mr Maga.

"We cannot be traveling the world and pitching investment in New Zealand to countries with an awful record for human rights abuses. Our strong international status means we must use our influence to demand more from our allies and potential trading partners."

"My concern is that the Prime Minister is only interested in cheap and docile migrant labour and has no plans to challenge President Marcos Jr. on anything at all - that is a form of encouragement and a green light to continue the abuse."

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