DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A union of banana plantation workers in Davao de Oro province expressed alarm over they were red-tagged by a vice mayor and military in a news report.
A local news outfit reported on the settlement of the labor dispute between the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farms (NAMASUFA) with the big Japanese firm Sumifru Philippines Corporation that took place on June 9.
The report quoted Compostela town Vice Mayor Levi Ebdao and the military saying that the settlement will benefit “peace and order” especially that some NAMASAUFA members are New People’s Army (NPA) returnees.
The news quote is as follows: “Compostela Vice Mayor Levi Ebdao and Bravo Company Commander Lt. Arthur Garidan gladly welcomed the settlement between Sumifru and the workers as a significant development to the local government’s peace and order efforts as some of the NAMASUFA PP90 (Packing Plant 90) members are NPA returnees who wish to be reintegrated to society and become productive members of the Compostela community.”
The union denounced the allegation. “None of us are members of the NPA,” said NAMASUFA in a statement posted on their Facebook account.
“This very act of a local executive, supported fully by the AFP, of tagging mere workers as rebel surrenderees is a death sentence,” it added.
NAMASUFA said that they are a duly-accredited labor union and recognized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The union has been subject to vilification and harassment since 2018. On October 1 that year, the union launched a strike demanding the Sumifru management to face the workers in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The union asserted their right after a 2017 Supreme Court decision recognized their petition that Sumifru is their employer and had to face them in collective bargaining.
On the tenth day of the strike, dozens of union workers were injured after unidentified men accompanied by government troops dispersed the striking workers.
Danny Boy Bautista, an active member of NAMASUFA was shot dead last October 31, 2018, while unidentified men opened fire at the union president’s house on November 30, the same year, and tried to burn it.
There had been incidents in the past two years where NAMASUFA workers were coerced by the military to sign papers that they are allegedly NPA supporters but have surrendered to the government.
“Despite Ebdao’s and the 66th IB’s machinations, NAMASUFA will never succumb to fear. We protest these nonsensical allegations and maneuvers of Sumifru and the state. We have protested against this through the ILO [International Labour Organization] several times – but the Philippine government continues to persecute us,” the union added. (davaotoday.com)