By the allocation of billions for NTF-ELCAC, something wicked this way comes for unionists, labor leaders, and progressives everywhere.
Last August 22 saw the homes of four Nexperia Philippines, Inc. union officers visited by “agents” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Although the workers of the Chinese-owned technology manufacturing company were victorious last December 2020 in securing their demands, they remain vulnerable to state attacks (READ: Mga manggagawa ng Nexperia, tagumpay sa negosasyon sa pamunuan).
Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) explained that around 8 to 9 AM, the four Nexperia unionists, all living in either Brgy. Banaybanay and Brgy. Pulo in Cabuyao, were invited to their respective barangay halls. They were threatened to have their union disaffiliated with KMU, then to “agree” and be oriented with a “surrenderee.” Three of the unionists relented, while one was at work when the incident took place.
Mary Ann Castillo, Nexperia Philippines Inc. Workers Union (NPIWU) President, expressed her worries over their families’ security and safety. The recent visits “cause more troubles for [their] union,” on top of dealing with another COVID-19 breakout in their workplace.
“Two of our fellow workers died due to COVID [weeks ago]. [After the unwanted visits,] we were wrong to think that COVID-19 is the biggest threat to our lives right now,” Castillo said in a Facebook post by Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) Philippines.
KMU wrote that this is the fourth time a total of almost 36 Nexperia workers were harassed. Some were visited house-to-house in March 2021, a month when state forces launched COPLAN ASVAL, more commonly known as the Bloody Sunday massacre.
The workers were said to have been surveyed two to four times with the same narratives and interrogation (READ: 5 patay, 7 arestado matapos ang ‘Bloody Sunday’ sa Timog Katagalugan).
The CTUHR Philippines wrote that NPIWU unionists are not new to visits by uniformed NTF-ELCAC agents, with some of the latter even armed. All such visits are said to include red-tagging and intimidation to make the workers disaffiliate with their union.
The state forces also constantly claim that their interrogation and house visits are all part of their “awareness program” against insurgency. Agents ask workers regarding the proceeds of their union dues, followed by a “direct accusation” of the union “supporting CPP-NPA.”
“Why are the unionists being hounded like criminals, tokhang-style? Is this the way to treat essential workers like them during this pandemic who are required to work to keep the economy working?” slammed CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago.
CTUHR also said that Nexperia Philippines, Inc. still requires their employees to work even with hard lockdowns and rising cases to meet their quota in exportation. In turn, this leaves the workers prone to COVID-19 infection.
Breaking the unions
NTF-ELCAC has been at the forefront of red-tagging since its establishment under Executive Order (EO) No. 70 in 2018. The agency continues to threaten unionists and activists, tagging such people as “communists” and even “terrorists.”
After Bloody Sunday, more activists and unionists are arrested and even killed. As a matter of fact, before the bloody month of March even ended, Southern Tagalog saw unionist Ka Dandy Miguel fall dead in a street in Calamba, Laguna while he was on his way home. Miguel served as Vice-Chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – KMU (PAMANTIK-KMU) (READ: Lider manggagawa Dandy Miguel, patay matapos pagbabarilin sa Calamba).
Meanwhile, progressive organization Tanggol Quezon, was red-tagged by the 201st Brigade of Philippine Army, accusing them of being linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) (READ: Progressive organization Tanggol Quezon harassed by military, linked to CPP-NPA despite being lawfully-registered).
Workers of Aichi Forge Philippines, Inc., a car spare parts manufacturing company located in Laguna, were not spared from the state’s harassment. Last August 11, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Laguna reported that a certain ‘Sergeant Andres’ approached Aichi Forge’s HR department, demanding them to reveal the workers who supported the call for release of Laguna 5.
The Laguna 5, composed of Organized Labor Associations in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA)-KMU’s Steve Mendoza, BAYAN Laguna’s Mags Camoral, Kapatid-ST’s Nimfa Lanzanas, and unionists Arnedo Lagunias and Ramir Corcolon, were all captured last March 7, when the police allegedly planted evidence to justify the arrests. The latter two, however, were arrested three days before COPLAN ASVAL took place (READ: 2 lider-unyon sa Laguna, inaresto sa magkaparehong araw).
Last August 11, BAYAN Laguna said that Aichi Forge unionists were repeatedly visited by the government, trying to get more information about their leaders and their addresses. The organization said that this is a clear violation of workers’ rights in their privacy, citing that freedom of speech should still be observed, and that being a labor union member is a right of a worker.
“Nailalantad ang sabwatan ng kapitalista at ng pasistang rehimen [ng kasalukuyang administrasyon] dahil sa mga atakeng ito.Bukod saAichi,matatandaan na sunod-sunod din ang mga ganitong tipo ng surveillance at harassment sa mga manggagawa [ng Timog Katagalugan] [The collusion of capitalists and the fascist regime is being revealed by such attacks. Aside from Aichi, it can be recalled that there are continuous cases of surveillance and harassment on Southern Tagalog workers],” the statement reads.
The wages of sin
Despite the unionists’ cry against threats, the Duterte administration still believes that the creation of NTF-ELCAC “has resolved root causes” of insurgency. Malacañang defended Pres. Rodrigo Duterte for requesting a P28.1 billion budget for the agency in 2022, Php 11.7 billion more than its 2021 budget. On top of the proposed amount, P1.08 billion more was itemized for “anti-insurgency funds” under the PNP.
Progressive groups question the allocation for the BDP, as almost P6 billion of the agency’s fund goes to Davao region, with Php 1.64 billion in Davao City alone, the President’s home city. In fact, more than three-fourths of the budget goes to Mindanao alone. Based on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)’s Local Budget Circular No. 35 Series of 2021, nine of the top ten provinces that received NTF-ELCAC funds came from Mindanao.
This was not the first time the agency got flak for its massive budget allocation, with progressive groups calling foul on the additional P19.1 billion increase for their 2021 budget (READ: Groups criticize NTF-ELCAC’s “questionable” 2021 budget).
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro said that the BDP “does not guarantee any progress” on the barangays being awarded with the money.
“Government resources should be concentrated in addressing the perennial shortages in our healthcare system and aid for our fellow Filipinos. Programs that terrorize, harass and criminalize […] our fellow Filipinos who demand better services do not deserve a single centavo from taxpayer money,” she said. [P]
Photo by Isabel Pangilinan