“In the case of Attorney Remigio D. Saladero Jr., a prominent opposition figure and labor-rights supporter, the Filipino authorities trumped up murder charges (against him). The ensuing court case kept Saladero and 66 co-accused fellow activists busy, some even imprisoned, for months,” said Wyger Wentholt of the CCC. “After a judge ruled against the accusations, less than a week after his release from prison, Saladero and five other labor and human rights activists were again indicted on new murder charges.”
CCC said this court case against 33 labor-rights activists and factory workers is also politically motivated and aimed at suppressing labor rights in the country.
The workers slapped with charges, mostly women, are officials and members of two labor unions active in the Chong Won and Philippines Jeon garment industries in the province of Cavite. These workers organized a strike in their factories in September 2006 to protest their factories’ refusal to negotiate for collective bargaining agreements. Two days after they struck, their pickets were violently dispersed. Police forces and agents of a private security company attacked the strikers with clubs and other crude weapons, injuring dozens of workers in the process.
Despite continued violence, the strikers persisted for another 10 months until a group of masked and uniformed men with firearms entered the heavily guarded factory compounds and threatened some of the strikers at gunpoint.
After the violence, both unions sued the local police and the security firm. Around the same time, the police also filed criminal charges against the 33 activists, accusing them too of violence. Although the case against the police is still being investigated by the prosecutor of Cavite province, the same authority issued arrest warrants against the unionized workers in early April.
According to Merly Grafe, a spokeswoman for the accused workers, “the resolution to file criminal charges against us is devoid of any substance.” She added that the prosecutor “failed to distinguish who were the real offenders and the real victims.”
“It seems that the authorities are using the judicial system to stifle dissent,” Wentholt of the CCC said. “We hope the Philippine authorities would respect labor rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association of workers and labor activists, and protect these rights if necessary.” (Bulatlat.com)