ZAMBOANGA CITY: Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is in danger of losing the support of workers and labor unions in the country after he threatened to kill members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno if they do not stop organizing labor unions.
Duterte reportedly made the threats on February 9 during his team’s proclamation rally in Tondo, Manila as revealed in a video circulated on social media.
Speaking on the first day of the election campaign, Duterte was heard saying, “I will establish economic zones. Mag-imbita ako, dito kayo magtrabaho. Wag kayong magmamadali. Tapos kayong mga KMU, medyo pigilan na muna ninyo ang mga labor unions. Ako na ang nakikiusap sa inyo. Magkasama tayo sa ideolohiya. Wag ninyong gawin iyan. Kasi sisirain mo ang administrasyon ko. Kapag ginawa ninyo iyan, patayin ko kayong lahat. Ang solusyon dito, patayan na. Eh pag-usapan mo, ayaw. Do not do it now, iyung active labor front. Kasi kapag ginawa ninyo, nagsasara [I will establish economic zones. I will bring in investors … Come and work here. Don’t expect things would go fast.
Then you KMU people, stop the labor unions. I myself am pleading with you. We are one in ideology. [But] do not do that because you will destroy my administration. If you do that, I will kill you all. What would happen is, the solution would be killing. [Why? Because] I’d ask you to have a discussion and you wouldn’t bring yourselves to the table.
So do not do that – an active labor front. Because if you do, companies will pull out.) Do not do it. Give the Philippines respect for about 10 years.”
KMU strongly criticized Duterte and said “its ranks are ready to defend themselves from whatever form of repression Duterte or any other president may unleash on the militant trade union movement.”
Joel Maglunsod, KMU vice president for Mindanao, said knowing Duterte’s penchant for hyperbole, his statement is prone to be taken literally. He chastised Duterte for making such threats, which Maglunsod described as “irresponsible and disrespectful” to workers, the urban poor, and drivers, sectors that are represented in the labor organization.
“We need to remind Mayor Duterte of the supremacy of the Constitution, as he has repeatedly invoked earlier to defend, particularly Article 13, Sec. 3, that the State shall afford protection to labor, including the right to organize and freedom of association. That is a right we, too, will defend vigorously, even to death,” Maglunsod said.
He said Duterte’s capitalist line that vilifies unionism is extremely disappointing following his earlier pronouncement to end labor contractualization.
“May we further remind Mayor Duterte that as far as history goes, even the brutality of Martial Rule under the Marcos dictatorship and subsequent repressions during the regimes thereafter failed to quell KMU,” Maglunsod said.
The KMU also cautioned Duterte against any plan to establish “special economic zones” to boost employment and fuel economic growth. “If he meant a continuation of existing economic zones, then these are nothing but exploitative neoliberal projects which will devastate the working class,” Maglunsod said.
He urged Duterte to focus on a genuine agrarian reform program, which is a crucial step toward a people-centered development, instead of national industrialization.
Other labor groups such as the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Partido Manggagawa(PM), and the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) also expressed dismay and said they will reject Duterte’s bid for the presidency.
Last week, the Davao mayor was also assailed by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) for “quickly” changing his stand on the land reform program in favor of foreign investors.
Julius Cainglet, vice president of the FFW, said Duterte’s declaration was a war on the labor movement. Duterte’s attack and death threat to the KMU was “unconstitutional and criminal,” he added.
“To threaten to kill workers who want to exercise their right to organize themselves for just wages, better working conditions, social protection and the right to be heard is a direct attack on workers’ and human rights,” he said.
Alan Tanjusay, TUCP spokesperson and ALU advocacy officer, told The Manila Times that the PDP-Laban presidential candidate will surely “face the brunt of labor unions by campaigning against him and by making sure he will be defeated in the elections.”