“It’s disheartening that while workers are uniting to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, towards just compensation, and against widespread lay-offs, NTF-ELCAC is hard at work oppressing workers’ rights.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Despite the continuing lockdown, workers of Coca-Coca Femsa Philippines, Inc. continue to experience harassment and red-tagging, according to labor federation Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU).
At least three to five armed individuals in plainclothes visited the houses of members of the Sta. Rosa plant’s union, Liga na Pinalakas ng Manggagawa sa Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines Sta. Rosa Plant (LIGA). The officers forced the union members to “admit” that they were members of the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA) and to surrender under the government’s Enhanced Community Livelihood Program (E-CLIP).
E-CLIP is one of the programs under the Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC), the government’s anti-insurgency program that Pamantik-KMU derided as “actually targeting unionists, farmers, and progressives.”
“It’s disheartening that while workers are uniting to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, towards just compensation, and against widespread lay-offs, NTF-ELCAC is hard at work oppressing workers’ rights,” said Dandy Miguel, Pamantik-KMU Vice Chairperson. “Is Durterte really serious in trying to fight COVID-19?”
NTF-ELCAC stands for National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict, which has been notorious for labeling progressive organizations as communist fronts.
These ‘visits’ have been going on since January this year, the group said. Workers also revealed that Coca-Cola management repeatedly allowed police and military to enter the factory premises without any question; in some cases, going straight to the office of Rene Escuadra, the head of security.
Pamantik-KMU decried that Coca-Cola’s management was complicit in the harassment, noting that the company had a history of anti-union activities. The group stated that Coca-Cola’s management has been hosting seminars aimed at discrediting unionism and LIGA since 2015. These seminars were conducted with the cooperation of the Philippine National Police, either at the PNP-Special Action Forces camp in Fort Sto. Domingo, or inside the Coca-Cola plant premises.
Last March 2018, over 140 members of LIGA staged a strike in the Santa Rosa plant, calling for the regularization of 675 workers as per the decision issued by Department of Labor and Employment, and against allegations of union-busting.
“[The Coca-Cola workers] fought for their livelihoods, and their unity was what gave them victory. Workers nationwide shared in the victory their achieved, and this is what the capitalists, and even Duterte in the name of his Executive Order 70, wish to destroy,” said Miguel.
Aside from Coca-Cola workers, Pamantik-KMU noted that labor leaders from other companies were also being harassed.
Nedo Lagunias, an officer of Lakas Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda (LMNH-OLALIA-KMU) and Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Engklabo (AMEN), reported that at least three individuals staked out his residence, April 2. Eyewitness reports stated that the individuals carried what appeared to be small firearms.
Pamantik-KMU condemned the acts, stating that they were part of the Duterte administration’s “continuing anti-people policies meant to strengthen its power and silence the opposition and critics.”
“Duterte himself said as much last [April 1],” said Miguel. “It seems he’s more busy wanting to kill anybody he thinks is “Left”, who are all actually, hungry, furious, and sick of this administration’s stupidity and fascism.”