DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A union leader here said that the Philippine army is using the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign to discourage workers from joining unions, specifically the militant labor union center Kilusang Mayo Uno.
Maparat Workers Union Chairman Elizar Diayon told DavaoToday in a phone interview that it was during the anti-illegal drugs symposiums organized by the 66th Infantry Battalion that soldiers would tell workers to stop joining unions, specifically those aligned with KMU.
His union is affiliated with KMU and Diayon was among the workers of Sumifru who protested in front of the Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan on Tuesday to call for an end to “militarization” in Compostela Valley Province.
“They would gather the people to these anti-drug symposiums. But in the last part, they would tell the people to stop joining unions,” Diayon said.
“They said that if we really need to join a union, we should pick the one that is allied with the company. They would tell us not to join the KMU because they are supporters of the NPA,” Diayon added.
Capt. Benedick Cagatin, Civil Military Operations officer of the 66th Infantry Battalion denied the accusations, saying that they have not conducted any anti-drug symposium in the area.
“It is the PNP who conducts anti-drugs symposiums, we only assist them in the campaign against illegal drugs,” Cagatin said in a phone interview.
In a statement, KMU Southern Mindanao spokesperson Carlo Olalo said the soldiers actions constituted a violation of the unilateral ceasefire set by the government in connection with the peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
Diayon also said that the soldiers are listing names of union leaders and sending them letters inviting them to a meeting in the barangay.
He said some of the members of their union were asked for information regarding his name and whereabouts.
“They would just say that they did not know me or that I was not from the area,” Diayon said.
He said these incidents have affected the workers in the area. “We don’t feel safe anymore,” he said.(davaotoday.com)