Phillippine Union Seeks Relief From On-Going Killings And Disappearances Of Its Members: Complaint Filed At ILO

Since 2001, sixty-four (64) union leaders,
members, organizers, and informal workers have been summarily executed
in the name of the “War on Terror.” An additional fifty two (52) union
members have been abducted, many of whom are feared dead. Many of the
victims were killed while participating in or organizing strikes
against the companies for which they worked. Others were killed simply
because they were community leaders seeking to help their neighbors.
The KMU, among others, has been trying to use all domestic legal means
available to stop the illegal killings of their friends and members and
have filed numerous complaints before the Philippines Human Rights
Commission, to no avail. Unable to find domestic help, the KMU has now
turned to the international community in a desperate attempt to protect
its members, which numbers over 300,000 Filipino citizens. This past
month, the KMU, with the help of the Center for Trade Union and Human
Rights and their attorney’s at the public interest law firm Pro-Labor
Legal Assistance Center, filed a complaint with the International Labor
Organization’s Committee on the Freedom of Association seeking relief
from the rampant government-backed killings and disappearances, an end
to complicity of foreign and domestic companies, like Nestle, who
provide direct assistance to the AFP and PNP by housing military
detachments on their premises, and an end to the constant clandestine
government surveillance of their members, including their legal

The KMU’s claims are far reaching and disturbing.
The complaint describes in detail the coordinated operations of the
Arroyo government to eliminate unions in order to promote labor
flexibilization reform, which is simply a way to eliminate job security
and stability with unrenewable short-term labor contracts. Companies,
some of whom produce consumer goods such as cereals and textiles, are
designated “indispensable to the national interest,” making union
activity at those companies impossible and, at times, illegal. These
“indispensable” companies are indispensable only to the limited number
of shareholders and government officials who benefit from them, not the
Filipino people, who receive very little in benefits.

In July 2006, I attended a conference at the United States
Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for
labor officers they were sending to various embassy posts around the
world. One of the purposes of the conference was to discuss the primary
obstacles facing the spread of democratic ideals and development of
free, democratic institutions in countries around the world. In
particular, the Department implored the labor and political officers to
seek out ways to work more closely with unions, who are, in many
instances, the only truly democratic, representative institutions in
many countries. Unfortunately, in the case of the Philippines, this
call has gone unheeded while the U.S. government has continued to
financially support the military and police, who have been brazenly
increasing their attacks on union and community leaders under the guise
of the “War on Terror.” The
response from the U.S. embassy in the Philippines underscores the
indifference the U.S. government has displayed towards these killings,
calling life in the Philippines “cheap” and laying blame for the
killings on personal and business disputes and an internal purge of the
NPA, despite clear evidence in many of the killings of official
Philippine government involvement.

Before the Congress approves renewed funding in
this year’s Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (HR 5522) and grants
the Philippines an additional $104 million in foreign aid, these
killings must stop. Funding for the AFP in the Foreign Ops bill is set
to increase by over $12 million dollars, despite the fact that the AFP
has yet to answer for its role in the killings. U.S. taxpayers dollars
must not be allowed to support campaign of terror against the Filipino