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Issue #1602      July 17, 2013

Killings, harassment of union in Philippines

Trade unions in the Philippines and abroad are urging the Aquino government to press the police to look into the connection between the killings of leaders of transport workers in Davao City and their corruption exposé against an official of the local office of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

This was underscored during an indignation rally last week in front of the Mandaluyong head office of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) whose attached agencies include the LTFRB.

Led by the labour centre Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), the protest coincided with the funeral in Davao City of Antonio “Dodong” Petalcorin, which was attended by hundreds of protesters from different unions and activist organisations.

Petalcorin, president of the Network of Transport Organisations (NETO), was executed gangland style as he was leaving his house in Matina Aplaya on July 2. He was shot three times in the chest by a lone gunman who calmly escaped on a motorcycle. This cold blooded murder was captured by a CCTV camera nearby.

Petalcorin’s colleague, Emilio Rivera, former chair of the Matina Aplaya Transport Cooperative (MATRANSCO), was also shot dead by unknown assailants last January 25.

This was followed on May 21 by an obvious attempt to terrorise Carlos Cirilo, chair of the Mindanao Alliance of Transport Organisations (MATO), when a grenade was placed on the terrace of his house.

“Dodong, Emilio and Carlos have one thing in common – they were very active in disclosing many irregularities in LTFRB-Davao,” revealed Luis Macailao, vice chair for Luzon of the National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU-APL), to which NETO is affiliated.

Macailao added that Petalcorin and his colleagues, especially in NETO, NCTU and APL-Davao, were in the thick of finalising all the evidences needed to file a corruption case and other charges, including frequent absenteeism, in the Office of the Ombudsman against Benjamin Go, director of LTFRB-Davao.

NCTU explained anomalies in LTFRB offices that usually victimise small-time public transport drivers and operators by demanding from them bribes to facilitate the release of franchises, among others.

Edwin Bustillos, APL deputy secretary general, said that not only Philippine-based trade unions and other mass organisations put across their indignation over the cowardly killings, especially of Petalcorin, but also groups from abroad.

Some of which include the global union International Transportworkers’ Federation (ITF), of which the NCTU is a member; the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the largest global labour centre; KSBSI, a national trade union centre in Indonesia; and the list is growing.

Protest letters on the murder of Petalcorin are posted on the Internet and are being sent to Malacañang, Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), DOTC, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The letter senders stressed their “outrage over the ruthless killing of Petalcorin, who may become just another statistic to the long and bloody list of victims of extrajudicial murders, especially among trade unionists and human rights defenders, in the Philippines.”

It added that they wish to convey their “grave concern regarding the virtual reign of impunity that apparently continues to worsen in the country.”   

Next article – Walmart’s Bangladesh safety pact “weak and worthless”

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