Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The government of the Philippines, its institutions the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) have long been in collusion with employers in the Province of Cavite who are waging what amounts to an undeclared war against workers trying to establish the right to unionize in that province. Amnesty International released a report in August of last year that estimated 51 activists had been murdered in the first 6 months of 2006. This followed a previous 66 murders in 2005. Amnesty expressed concern that the police and military might be involved in some of these killings. President Arroyo commissioned an inquiry into the killings late last August headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jose Melo. Even though the commission was hand picked by the government it apparently didn't deliver the "verdict" the President wanted as its report was submitted in late January of this year, but Arroyo refused to make the findings public.
A member of the Commission, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos has leaked the information that several parties were implicated in the killings. Not just the Maoist NPA but also members of the military and private armies hired by employers. President Arroyo finally caved in to pressure both internal and international and released the report at the end of February. As expected it put the blame for many of the killings at the feet of the army, though it stopped short of directly implicating the government.
This campaign of intimidation and violence continues up to this day. Some of the more outstanding attacks include the murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento, chairman of the board of the Workers' Assistance Center on Oct. 3rd, 2006, the gunning down of two dismissed union activists from the Solidarity of Cavite Workers, along with a fellow worker from the firm that they were dismissed by, Yakazi-EMI. The police officers assigned to "investigate" this case were the same ones implicated in a previous attempted murder of another union activist, Gerardo Cristobal. A report on the suppression of labor rights and human rights in the Philippines in 2006 can be seen from the 2006 annual report of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights. .
Violence on the picket lines of striking factories and other illegal union busting tactics are an increasing common event in Cavite. Molly has reported on some of this previously. The Clean Clothes Campaign has launched an international solidarity effort to pressure the government of the Philippines to respect its own law, guarantee workers' rights to freedom of association, properly investigate previous violence and immediately take action to halt violence against labour activists and striking workers. To participate in this campaign go to .
As has also been mentioned here on Molly's blog both the Union Voice and the Labour Start organizations have online solidarity campaigns to pressure one of the main buyers from the Chong Won (recently renamed as C. Woo) plant, Walmart, to put effective pressure on their supplier to recognize democratic rights in Cavite. These campaigns can be seen at
A good source of independent news from the Philippines is the weekly online journal Bulatlat at

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