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Free Filipino Unionists!

Written by: Kilusang Mayo Uno on 17 December 2020


(We are reprinting a call from the Philippines trade union organisation, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) for the immediate release of 6 unionists and a journalist, and the dropping of obviously fabricated charges against them – eds.)


At dawn, on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2020, simultaneous raids were conducted by the Philippine National Police in various residences of trade union organizers in Metro Manila, Philippines. With search warrants on hand issued by a City Executive Judge, the police forced their entries into the residences and planted pieces of firearms, ammunition and explosive devices. 

These events then led to the arrest of six trade union activists and a journalist namely: 

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines 
Romina Astudillo, Deputy Secretary-General of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Metro Manila 
Mark Ryan Cruz, Regional Executive Committee of KMU-Metro Manila 
Jaymie Gregorio Jr. of KMU-Metro Manila Joel Demate of Solidarity of Labor Rights and Welfare (SOLAR) 
Rodrigo Esparago of Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC) 
Lady Ann Salem, Communication officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), and editor for online news site Manila Today 

Trade unions in the Philippines condemn this brazen attack on trade union activists. The HRDay7 is just the latest of cases of illegal arrest and detention of unionists in the Philippines, as state security forces intensify their crackdown among activists. Ramon Rescovilla, national vicepresident of transport federation Piston and Jose Bernardino, organizer of zone workers and drivers of Workers’ Alliance in Region III (WAR 3 KMU) were also arrested during the militarist lockdown. 

We call for the immediate release of the HRD7 and a stop to the filing of manufactured criminal charges against activists. We call on trade unionists and rights defenders across the globe to: 

1) Issue statements of support for the HRD7, calling for their immediate release and dropping all charges against them; Sign the online petition here
2) Write the Department of Justice to appeal the release of the HRDay7 and all detained unionists in the Philippines; 
3) Take part in the 7 for HRDay7, and join the globally coordinated action to Free Our Unionists on December 21; 
4) Petition the Philippine government to accept the International Labor Organization High Level Tripartite Mission that could look into the cases of trade union and human rights violations among Filipino workers; 
5) Lobby your respective governments to take action to urge the Duterte Administration to respect human rights in the Philippines; 
6) Contribute to the legal and campaign fund for the HRDay7. 

Free Our Unionists will hold ‘7 for HRDay7’, or seven days of protests to free the HRD7 from December 14-21. We hope that you could extend your solidarity and support for this campaign.
The Coordination Group of the International Automotive Workers Coordination released a statement on the arrests which reads in part:

These targeted arrests push for the repression and criminalization of militant trade unionism, including death threats and politically motivated killings. Attacks target leftist progressive activists, members and officials of trade unions, from the women's, peasant, youth and environmental movements, as well as indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Over 600 political prisoners have been incarcerated, some for years, on "fabricated" evidence. There is a climate of intimidation, constant threats to activists and their families, kidnappings and political assassinations are commonplace. The anti-communist smear and terror campaign of the fascistoid Duterte regime has already led to the murder of several influential progressive people in recent weeks.

The International Automotive Workers Coordination protests with great indignation against the arrests of the 6 trade unionists and journalist. The massive repression of the workers' and people's movement in the Philippines requires to strengthen the struggle for more democratic rights and freedoms and to organize international solidarity. In our International Program of Struggle, we have consciously extended our coordination to the struggle against the rightward trend of governments and the advance of the right and fascists.

We support the urgent call of the KMU trade unionists and the human rights organization KARAPATAN from the Philippines and declare our full international solidarity:

FREE HR DAY7 ! (Free the 7 of Human Rights Day!)
A trade unionist is not a terrorist!
Release all political prisoners!
Long live International Solidarity!
With internationalist greetings of solidarity,
Ed Cubelo (Philippines), Dieter Schweizer (Germany)
Coordinators of ICOG

Hashtags #FreeOurUnionists #FreeHRDay7  #StopTheAttacks


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