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A CUPE-led delegation investigating human and worker rights violations in the Philippines concluded its ten-day worker-to-worker solidarity mission today. Travelling with representatives from the Public Services Alliance of Canada and the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, and working closely with CUPE’s Filipino partner organization the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), the delegation visited with public sector workers to investigate the rising and intensifying attacks on unionized government employees, organizers and rights defenders.

The mission was initiated by COURAGE, the national center of government employees in the Philippines, after at least six of its leaders were executed in a span of five years. Members travelled to several urban centres, including the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) office in Makati City, Calamba and San Pablo City in Laguna,  to Daet in Camarines Norte, to Bacolod and Iloilo in the Visayas and to Davao City in Mindanao.

Mission delegates learned of the military’s surveillance and intimidation of union leaders, who were harassed until they laid low from their union organizing work. Other union leaders complained of union busting, sanctions of administrative and civil cases and even physical harassment, especially for those engaged in exposing and fighting corruption, privatization and other anti-people policies of the government.

There are currently 401 political prisoners held across the country, including 124 political prisoners arrested and detained during the Aquino regime. Two COURAGE national organizers, Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, known as the COURAGE 2, have been detained since December 3, 2012 in Daet, Camarines Norte, based on trumped-up charges of murder, theft and frustrated murder.  According to the human rights group Karapatan, there have been 239 victims of illegal arrests and detentions under the Aquino administration.

As stories unfolded CUPE delegates stressed the point that they too dealt with similar concerns and issues of union busting and privatization as public sector workers in Canada. However, they also pointed out that extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests, forced disappearances and other blatant violations of human and trade union rights were simply unacceptable in Canada.  Sister Kelly Moist echoed this message as a speaker at the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines in a workshop entitled: “Workers in private and public sectors struggle for higher wages and job security and against contractualization, trade union repression and privatization.

As the Mission drew to a close delegation members committed themselves to raising awareness in Canada about the human and union rights violations public sector workers endure at the hands of the Philippine government. They will also campaign to have the international community pressure the Filipino government to stop the impunity and allow public sector workers the freedom to exercise their union rights.