CWA, AFL-CIO, AFT, Teamsters, SEIU, and USW Issue Statement Condemning Duterte Expansion of Power to Arrest and Detain Critics in the Philippines

The Unions Are Urging Congressional Action on Philippines Human Rights Act
Thursday, July 30, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — The Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and United Steelworkers (USW) issued the following statement calling on the Philippine government under Rodrigo Duterte to rescind the newly-signed Anti-Terror Law (ATL):

“The Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and United Steelworkers (USW) are teaming up to condemn Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s newly signed law, which went into effect on July 18th."

“The new law gives a body hand-picked by President Duterte to declare any organization a ‘terrorist entity’ and expands the powers of security forces to intimidate, surveil, arrest and detain members or supporters of those organizations and those they deem to be terror suspects.”

“This new law comes as the Duterte Administration has been aggressively attempting to silence independent media outlets in recent months. Recently, a leading independent journalist in the country and one of the recipients of the 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year was convicted of ‘cyber libel.’  Last month, Duterte shut down the country’s largest broadcast network for being critical of his administration.”

 “Duterte is using every fascist trick in the book to silence his critics, and we have seen an alarming escalation of these tactics during the pandemic. His government has a long history of using raids, arrests, and violent attacks in an attempt to silence and intimidate political opponents.  Prominent amongst the targets are union leaders and brave union and progressive organizers who are seeking to improve the lives and conditions of Filipino workers, as well as the workers themselves who are attempting to exercise their fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. People like Anne Kruger, an activist working to organize workers in call centers serving US corporations, Coca-Cola workers struggling to unionize at a bottling plant, or one of the many Labor leaders assassinated in targeted killings documented by the ILO and the UN were at risk before this legislation was enacted and this step puts their work and livelihoods in danger.”

“We strongly urge the Government of the Philippines to rescind this new ‘anti-terrorism’ law, which is yet another tool for Duterte to silence political opposition and end the Armed Forces of the Philippines ‘red tagging’ efforts targeting union leaders, labor organizers, and all human rights defenders for arrests and targeted assassinations. Considering the military and police forces complicit involvement in these repressive and murderous actions, we demand that Members of Congress review the U.S. taxpayer funded military aid which is used in these human rights violations and that Congress consider and pass the Philippines Human Rights Act which would deny U.S. taxpayer money in the form of military aid to the Philippines until the armed forces and police stop engaging in the suppression of the human rights of all citizens of the Philippines. Also, we urge US corporations profiting off this blatant abuse of fundamental human rights to join us in condemning these actions by Duterte and the Philippines military.”

The Anti-Terror Act (Republic Act No. 11479) was signed into law by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, giving the government broad discretion to label critics of the government as terrorists given the law’s vague definition of terrorism. The provisions of the new law include wiretapping without notice, arrest without warrant, and detention for up to 24 days, which goes beyond the limit prescribed by the Philippine Constitution. The law has been met with widespread opposition in the Philippines and across the world, including from the United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet.

The legislation gives Duterte’s security forces the power to intimidate peaceful protesters by surveilling, arresting and detaining them without due process — which he did immediately after signing the bill into law. A group of activists protesting the signing of the law were accused by soldiers of being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines and were then violently dispersed by police and military forces. Eleven of them have been detained without charges.

This new law comes as the Duterte Administration has been aggressively attempting to silence independent media outlets. Recently, a leading independent journalist in the country and one of the recipients of the 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year was convicted of “cyber libel.”  Last month, Duterte shut down the country’s largest broadcast network for being critical of his administration.

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