Legal defense readied for 50 trade unionists arrested in Negros Occidental

LABORERS are now preparing the legal defense of over 50 trade unionists and activists who were arrested by authorities in Negros Occidental last week due to alleged involvement in rebellion.

In an SMS, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Chairman Elmer Labog told the BusinessMirror they will help the concerned unionists and activists, especially since some of their affiliates are among them.

“We will definitely help them since they are our members,” Labog said.

Aside from those from KMU, also among the arrested are members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Anakpawis, Gabriela and National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).

KMU Secretary-General Jerome Adonis said they already consulting their lawyers on how to hold accountable the people responsible for the arrest, which he maintained as legally questionable.

“We are currently studying if we can file charges against members of the raiding of PNP [Philippine National Police] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] [who made the arrest],” Adonis said.

In a related development, the BPO Industry Employees Network (Bien) said it will also extend legal aid to those arrested.

An official of the Manila-based Bien said the group’s parelegal is already in Negros Occidental. Bien said their priority will be to process the bail of those arrested.

DOLE intervention

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to investigate the incident, which it said may constitute a violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) 87 or the right to organize.

The FFW said in a statement they are “one with other trade unions in their call” for Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III “to take necessary measures, intervene and form a tripartite body to investigate the arrests and searches of trade union leaders and women activitists.”

The FFW said the DOLE should look into allegations that some of the pieces of evidence against those were arrested were “planted” by the police and military.

Last, the FFW reiterated its call on the DOLE to accept the proposed ILO High Level Tripartite Mission that will look into “the case of extrajudicial killings of workers and other violations of the right to organize.”

“Though [the] FFW does not identify ideologically with [the] NFSW or KMU to which it is affiliated, FFW is of the submission that an attack to one is an attack to all,” FFW said.

“An attack to a legitimate trade union will endanger the other trade unions who are also organizing workers for purposes of collective bargaining negotiation and mutual aid and protection,” it added.

Ongoing verification

TO recall, the ILO proposed sending the mission last June after local labor representatives claimed there were at least 43 labor-related deaths in the country.

Labor Assistant Secretary Benjo M. Benavidez said they will defer accepting the ILO mission until they could complete the verification of the supposed list of labor-related deaths.

“Our regional offices are now conducting the verification process. It is expected to be completed by November,” Benavidez told the BusinessMirror in a previous interview.

The DOLE earlier said it only had recorded five labor-related deaths.

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