Not a joke but a worldview: Duterte's response to unionism 1

Not a joke but a worldview: Duterte's response to unionism

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Feb 11 2016 11:10 PM

It was unprovoked. It wasn't an off-the-cuff, careless response to a pesky reporter. It was 1:24 minutes, right smack in the middle of his economic agenda, in a speech officially kicking off his presidential campaign.

Rodrigo Duterte has squarely placed unions in his crosshairs. Any talk of him joking or engaging in "hyperbole" is an exercise in delusion.

“I will establish economic zones… iimbitahan ko; dito kayo mag-trabaho… huwag kayong magmamadali. Kayong mga KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno, the militant labor federation), medyo pigilan na muna ninyo ang mga labor union. Akon a ang nakiki-usap sa inyo. Magkasama tayo sa ideolohiya. Huwag ninyong gawain yan kasi sisirain nyo ang administrasyon ko. Pag-ginawa po ninyo yan, patayin ko kayong lahat. Ang solusyon ko patayan lang. Eh, pagusapan nyo, ayaw eh. We better come to terms with each other. Do not do it now, yang active labor front. Kasi pag-ginawa ninyo, nasisira. Do not do it. Give the Philippines a respite of about 10 years…”

He was talking of "generating jobs, increasing employment," -- included in his "Focus Five" agenda. 

Duterte, who has vowed to work for genuine land reform, also aims to establish foreign investment enclaves where capitalist guests can make their own rules and policies – the Constitution be damned.

There is no taking his words out of context. Only the blind would not see the context.

Duterte thinks he is owed thanks for this economic vision. He asks the KMU to repudiate its reason for existence. He wants to transform KMU into some kind of yellow union – “try to stop labor unions.”

He touts a shared “ideology.” Last I checked, only scabs and dictators and their hatchetmen subscribed to union-busting as an ideology.

Duterte makes an appeal. Anybody who doesn’t accept his gracious offer dies. Killing is his solution to anything and anyone that opposes his demand. 

Well, let’s put that in perspective.

Do you know that 85 union leaders were murdered in the first seven years of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration?

In 2007 alone, there were 59 cases of union and human rights violations involving a total of 829 victims. These included the killings of two labor leaders, violent dispersal of picketlines, illegal arrest and detention, torture, grave threats, and enforced disappearances. 

In a report, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) said that from 2001 to August 2007, there were 1,167 union and human rights violations, all in all involving 14,623 victims.

Many of these attacks occurred in Southern Luzon where Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo’s government dangled the very same thing Duterte wants to offer his foreign investor pals: carte blanche in crafting policies to boost profits, going hammer and tongs against those who bring up the issue of basic human rights.

Duterte vows to instill discipline “for everyone to adhere to the rule of law,” and to strengthen the country's justice system. 

You tell me how killing unionists fit in with this. You tell me how killing anybody, how chucking out due process, fits in with the concepts of justice and rule of law.

In case Duterte needs a reminder, many agricultural sectors, especially those under the plantation set-up, have workers paid very low monthly or piecemeal rates. Many of them face the worst labor inequities and labor under conditions that threaten their health.

How does this fit in with a vision of “equitable distribution of wealth” – when workers are told to wait until the rich are content with their profits, before seeking higher wages?

That sounds like the peace of the graveyard. Last I heard that phrase, it was a young Lumad woman warning President Benigno Aquino III that would happen if soldiers and paramilitary troops keep on mowing down anyone who stands in the path of miners and plantation owners.

Read: Slain Lumad leader's child to PNoy: Your peace is of the graveyard

A couple of months back, I reminded people of Nazi Germany, where they first rounded up criminals and deviants, proceeding to communists and Jews, and anyone who dared speak up against mass murder.

We started off shrugging the killings of juvenile delinquents, hailing threats to kill all suspected drug pushers. 

Now, we’re into murdering unionists.

Where will it stop?

I understand the support of people who think human rights are an inconvenient nicety. I do not agree with them but understand why they support Duterte.

What I cannot understand is protesting, even risking your life, for the rights of threatened people -- and then joining Duterte on that very slippery slope.

Macapagal-Arroyo’s henchmen didn’t stop with unionists. By the end of her term, the rights watchdog Karapan documented 1,206 killings of members of trade unions, farmer organisations and church based advocacy groups.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos claimed he declared Martial Law to stop a then rag-tag band of communists. More than 75,000 human rights complainants and their heirs have filed for compensation. And the communist movement grew into one of Asia's strongest insurgencies during his two-decade dictatorship. 

Think about that. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.