Defense dep't to probe alleged harassment, red-tagging of workers

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2020 10:28 AM

MANILA - The Department of National Defense will investigate instances of the military allegedly harassing and red-tagging workers involved in unions. 

DND officials made this assurance to Makabayan bloc lawmaker Rep. Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna party-list at the department's budget deliberations on Tuesday morning. 

Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, speaking for the officials as the sponsor of the DND's P283.2 billion proposed budget, said the department was all for respecting human rights and following rules of engagement. 

"Kung mayroon mang alegasyon ng violation ng human rights, tinatanggap ng DND ang mandato na linisin ang kanilang ranggo laban sa mga bayolasyon," Alvarado said. 

Gaite, during his interpellation, raised several instances in the past year of union members in the Philippines who had experienced harassment as part of the government's anti-insurgency campaign.

Among those he mentioned were workers at Musahamat Farm in Pantukan, Davao De Oro (then Compostela Valley) who were allegedly illegally abducted by the Army's 71st infantry battalion in February 2019. They were said to have been forced to admit they were members of the communist New People's Army (NPA). 

Gaite said union members at the Pilipinas Palm Oil plantation and the United Workers of Mindanao Agriculture in 2019 also complained of being red-tagged and labeled as terrorists. 

Last April, he said workers at the Coca Cola plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna were threatened and brought to a military camp and forced to "surrender" as NPA members. 

Meanwhile, workers at the Alcophil Metals Inc. in Valenzuela claimed soldiers entered their plant in August, insisting on getting the name of the union head. 

Alvarado said the DND would get the details of the incidents to help them investigate whether violations were committed. 

"Kabilang dito ang request o panaghoy na 'yung mga naibigay na pangyayari ay makapagsumite ng mga police report o complaint na binasa upang mas maayos na mapag-aralan ng DND kung may bayolasyon man at kung sakali meron man ay maiwasan po ito sa darating pang panahon," he said. 

Gaite also reminded the DND officials that the Philippines is also a signatory to international agreements respecting the rights of workers to associate and organize.