Senate employees’ union hits gov’t over red-tagging activities

Published March 25, 2021, 11:36 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate employees’ union has slammed the government’s red-tagging activities against progressive leaders and organizations, and disclosed that the group is now also being targeted by law enforcement agencies.

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The Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO) — an organization of rank-and-file employees in the Senate — said it condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the “relentless” attacks against the progressive leaders and organizations, human rights defenders, lawyers and recently, unionists.

SENADO is a member of labor group Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), a federation of government employees’ unions that has been tagged by intelligence officials as communist or terrorists.

“The red-tagging, vilification, labeling, and accusing of critics being communist and terrorists by the state agents and law enforcement agencies have led to the arrest and detention of those critical to the administration due to trump up charges, and worst of all, murdering of innocent lives under the ‘kill, kill, kill’ directives of no less than the President of the country,” the SENADO said in a statement issued on Wednesday, March 24.

SENADO president Rosel Eugenio said that on March 11, a day after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a memorandum order directing all DILG offices to investigate employees of the department who are members of COURAGE, the union received a call from an unknown person who introduced herself as “Lyn” from the “House.”

According to Eugenio, “Lyn” asked for the union’s current president for “updating.” However, she said they were baffled why officials of the House of Representatives would ask for the name of the current union president for updating without fully disclosing her identity and purpose of query.

“With the spate of attacks among unionists, SENADO is apprehensive that our union leaders will be the next target of arrest,” the group said.

“We denounce the DILG’s action of demonizing progressive unions affiliated with COURAGE to justify their blatant attacks and infringement on the constitutional rights of the government employees and encroachment of our right to self-organization,” they also pointed out.

“While their denial of their memorandum as simply black propaganda and fake news, their effort to encourage their employees who will be found members of COURAGE to disaffiliate is intended to besmirch progressive and nationalists unions that defend employees and peoples’ rights,” the SENADO also stated.

COURAGE, the group said, as a federation of unions in the government sector has consistently advocated for the advancement of the government employees’ interest and welfare and the people they serve.

“The federation has been at the forefront of our struggle for our legitimate demands—salary and benefits, the security of tenure, and rights including good working conditions, which are rooted in the fundamental laws of the land,” they also said.

“The orchestration of ‘tokhang-style’ crackdown on unionist and activists like the ‘bloody Sunday’ mercilessly killing of union leaders and organizers, two days after President Duterte ordered police and military to kill and finish off communists rebels are enough reason for us to be apprehensive considering our affiliation with COURAGE which is tagged as communist terrorist by the state,” they further lamented.

The group urged lawmakers to support the repeal of the Anti-Terror Law that enables state agents, particularly the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to ruthlessly crackdown on people they perceive as communist rebels.

“With all these ruthless killings and escalating human rights violations, we call on the national government especially our lawmakers to junk the Anti-Terror Law that enables state agents—the PNP and the AFP—to be more ferocious on committing atrocities against the people especially to those who are critical to the administration and perceived as enemies of the state,” the group emphasized.