Philippines: Gov't must be held accountable for union leader killings

The Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM), a Filipino socialist party, released the statement below on August 12.

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The PLM joins the campaign to protest against the recent spate of killings of labour leaders, the most recent case being the assassination of transport workers’ leader Antonio “Dodong” Petalcorin on July 2.

Petalcorin joins the ranks of assassinated workers’ leaders this year, such as Emilio Rivera and Carlos Cirilo, who were also members of the national labour centre, the Alliance of Progressive Labor in the Philippines.

While the PLM demands that the Benigno Aquino government put a stop to the assassinations and speedily bring the murderers to justice, we are also outraged at the seeming lack of determination of this administration to do so.

Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that this lack of determination emanates from a government which includes the left group Akbayan as a coalition partner.

Akbayan congress representatives have called on the president to act on the cases of the assassinated labour leaders, some of whom are also members of Akbayan. But what of the Akbayan leaders and their supposed allies in government and in cabinet? They all seem unable to bring the murderers to justice.

We know that justice is not merely served, especially when it comes to crimes against the working class. It must be fought for. This requires a determined campaign, pursued relentlessly, using all possible avenues: government agencies, the Commission on Human Rights, the courts, a massive media campaign and especially the mobilisation of the working-class organisations, in this case the unions.

It’s only then that both the class bias and related lethargy of these institutions can be combated and justice wrested from them by the working class. So why is such a campaign not taking place?
Akbayan, after all, is not a mere “trapo” (traditional politician) outfit.

It has been associated with the struggles of the labour and progressive movement in the past. It says that the strategy it is pursuing in joining the government is to work from within (and from without) the system to pursue a “reform” agenda.

A key platform of the government’s “reform” agenda, so called, is the fight against corruption. These transport union leaders were doing this in exposing the alleged corrupt practices of the regional director of a government transport body, Benjamin Go, of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Regional Office in Davao City.

They were trying to implement the campaign against corruption at the local level, where it impacts on their day-to-day struggle as workers.

They were assassinated for their efforts. This is a blow to any independent working-class action to fight corruption and abuse of power in the system.

Already there have been more than 140 reported killings of political activists under the Aquino government. The government must be held accountable. Akbayan, as a partner in government, has to be accountable as well.

We specifically appeal to all Akbayan officials in the cabinet to take a stand on the killings to protect the working people, who are, without rhetoric and fanfare, pursuing the fight against corruption — supposedly the main “reform” agenda of the Aquino government.

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