Karapatan asserts call to fight for workers’ rights, reject anti-worker Marcos-Duterte tandem

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

Karapatan marches with Filipino workers today to commemorate the International Workers’ Day to honor workers all over the world for their vital contributions to society and their role as shapers of history — as frontliners and leading forces in movements for social change and liberation. This day is also an annual reminder that the struggle of workers for rights and dignity is far from over.

As the country continues to grapple with the crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, we assert the calls for justice for Filipino workers who have suffered with the Duterte administration’s criminal neglect of people’s welfare which has endangered and threatened the lives and livelihood of millions of Filipinos, especially our workers.

There is lack of adequate aid for affected households, on top of the denial of just compensation for laid-off workers and the underemployed and the skyrocketing prices of fuel and basic necessities. The Duterte administration has been inutile amid waves of hunger, poverty and militaristic lockdowns. Also, in the past two years, we have seen the worst of President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies of State violence and repression as a response to the people’s demands for food, jobs, and justice.

Even in the middle of the pandemic, the Duterte administration is relentless in its murderous campaigns, from the sham and bloody drug war as well as its brutal crackdown on dissent led by the nefarious forces of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). From the raids and mass arrests of union leaders in Metro Manila during the International Human Rights Day in December 2020, the murder of long-time labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion during the Bloody Sunday raids last year in Southern Tagalog, to the red-tagging and harassment of unions to force them to “disaffiliate” from labor centers and federations — all these indicate a pattern of gross violations on the rights of workers to organize and to freedom of association.

Out of the 427 victims of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s counterinsurgency program from July 2016 until December 2021, 19 were workers, and nine of them were unionists or members of Kilusang Mayo Uno. Today, we remember them and pay tribute to martyred workers and unionists Dandy Miguel and Emmanuel Asuncion, among others, and vow to hold accountable the Duterte administration beyond the end of its term. We also call for justice for the 230 human rights workers and defenders killed under this murderous regime as we salute their lives dedicated in defending and advancing the rights of workers and the Filipino people.

A government that murders its own workers and people should be strongly denounced and rejected in the upcoming elections. Candidates who truly stand with workers and the people should support a genuine workers’ agenda in their platforms by asserting demands for living wages, such as the across-the-board increase of the daily wage to PHP 750 nationwide, to end contractualization, to protect and uphold the right of workers to unionize and to strike, to develop a self-reliant and humane economy through national industrialization, to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, and to stop the killings of trade unionists, activists, and human rights defenders.

The threat of a Marcos restoration and a Duterte extension represented by the tandem of the late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio, President Duterte’s daughter, presents a clear threat to these demands — especially when they promise the continuity of the same anti-worker and anti-people policies and programs of the Duterte administration, many of which can be traced to the fascist Marcos dictatorship’s declaration of martial law, championing of contractualization and policies of labor export, the ballooning of foreign debt and billions of ill-gotten wealth, and privatization of public utilities and social services which have buried Filipinos further in poverty.

No amount of lies and historical distortions can erase the atrocities and attacks of the fascist Marcos dictatorship against workers and the labor movement — and workers should reject tyrannical, fascist, anti-worker, and anti-people candidates like Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio as they fight for their rights.

May 1 is not simply a date nor a holiday: it commemorates the laborious and hard-earned rights that the workers of the world have struggled for in centuries. We are all challenged to hold on and fight for these victories together with the Filipino workers and the rest of the people as we advance the struggle for people’s rights and the resistance to tyranny and fascism in the upcoming elections and beyond.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General