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We are a delegation of nine trade unionists from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP) who have recently concluded a two-week solidarity exchange and exposure tour in the Philippines.  We were hosted by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).

A Global Justice delegation from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has recently learned that while union activists in both Canada and the Philippines share a common struggle against privatization, deregulation and global restructuring, in the Philippines trade union, social movement and human rights activists face alarming levels of  repression and violence.  We are particularly concerned about recent accounts of torture by 3 peasant organizers currently being held in Batangas Provincial Jail in Batangas City, especially in light of the recently passed anti-torture legislation.     

As a delegation, we would like to address the following 3 points:

1.    We support the Filipino people’s right to oppose the privatization of their public services.  CUPE supports a peoples’ right to water and education.  Over the past 2 weeks we have heard numerous accounts of the disastrous impact that privatization of land and resources has had and continues to have on workers and communities.  The US $1 billion Laiban Dam project in Tanay, Rizal, to be built by the San Miguel Corporation in order to sell water resources to two private water companies in Metro Manila, will flood the lands of indigenous peasants in Rizal and Quezon provinces.  
2.    The prevalence of “union-busting” tactics and the failure to recognize the legal rights of trade unionists to organize and bargain is a concern.  Militarization has become rampant, particularly in export processing zones (EPZ’s), where workers’ protests are violently dispersed and individuals are kidnapped.  The relocation of industry and the shift to contractual labour under the guise of the economic crises are prevalent in these zones and throughout the country.  We were shocked and appalled to learn that the military are conducting “awareness campaigns” in several public schools denouncing the work of ACT.

3.    Human rights violations and the resulting culture of impunity must end.  From intimidation, harassment, and extrajudicial political killings, the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration has launched a direct campaign against legal organizations and activists from groups such as our partners ACT and COURAGE, in addition to several others.  The recent Ampatuan Massacre is a shocking example of the culture of impunity that reigns in this country.  Targeting trade union and human rights activists appears to be an attempt to stifle any attempts to defend workers rights or oppose detrimental government policies.

As a result of our observances, the Canadian national delegation is extremely concerned over the continuation of such repressive practices, particularly in relation to the upcoming 2010 May presidential elections.  The International Observers Mission will be an important mechanism to continue to monitor the human rights situation in the Philippines in the context of national elections.

We are committed to Resolution No. 238 at the 2009 National CUPE Convention and will continue to monitor how Canada is implicated in the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philipines.  For example, Canada offers training to the Philippines National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).  The Philippines is the primary source country for temporary foreign workers to Canada and therefore has a stake in the economic and political conditions that contribute to the forced migration of Filipino citizens.
The delegation plans to continue our solidarity work with ACT and COURAGE.  In bringing our experiences and local testimonies back to Canada, we hope to spread awareness, strengthen international solidarity and, ultimately, advance the struggle for national democracy in the Philippines.

CUPE Global Justice Tour – Philippines delegation:

Ms. Kelti Cameron                 CUPE National Staff
Mr. Stuart Ryan                      CUPE 4600 Staff
Ms. Priscillia Lefebvre           CUPE 4600 Member
Ms. Natalie Phillips                CUPE 4600 Member
Ms. Rebecca Warden             CUPE 4600 Member
Mr. Joseph MacDonald          CUPE 4600 Member
Mr. Serge Landry                    CUPE 2079 Member
Mr. Ilian Burbano                   CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee Chair
Mr. Douglas Booker               Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
                                                (OCHRP) Coordinator