he New York-based International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) has sent a letter to President Benigno Aquino III to express its serious concern about the ongoing harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in the Philippines, particularly the union leader at Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. Ed Cubelo.
MANILA – The New York-based International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) has sent a letter to President Benigno Aquino III to express its serious concern about the ongoing harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in the Philippines, particularly the union leader at Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. Ed Cubelo.
ESCR-Net is concerned that Cubelo might be a target of extra-judicial killings, as 11 other labor leaders have been killed since January this year.
Copies of the letter, signed by Chris Groves in behalf of the network’s 270 members, was also sent to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Peace Adviser Teresita Deles, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Toyota president Akio Toyoda, and Toyota Philippines president Michinobu Sugata, and Metrobank and GT Capital president George SK Ty.
Cubelo, who serves as president of Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. Workers Association (TMPCWA) and education officer of Defend Job Philippines, an organizational member of the network, has been the subject of surveillance and harassment by men claiming to be from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
On 5 March 2014, four men were seen monitoring a protest action of TMPCWA and Defend Job Philippines at the Department of Labor and Employment in Intramuros, Manila.
A few days later, another group of men who introduced themselves as CID members went to Cubelo’s house and asked for his whereabouts, saying that he needs to report to their office in the Makati Police Station.
On 18 March 2014, four armed men in civilian clothes who said they were from the NBI asked to see someone from Toyota. When Cubelo introduced himself to them, they “stared at him and menacingly said, ‘It’s you. Yes it’s you.’”
Following this recent event, Defend Job has repeatedly sought to clarify whether criminal charges have been filed against Cubelo; police and court officials said there are none.
Pattern of harassment vs labor
These incidents are “consistent with the ongoing trend of harassment, intimidation, and criminalization of organizers in the Philippines who work to defend the rights of workers and the urban poor,” ESCR-Net said.
“It suggests that such threats and harassment against human rights defenders have been perceived as an effort to impede the growing solidarity amongst workers who have faced similar situations at several national and international companies operating in the Philippines,” the network added.
ESCR-Net noted similar incidents in 2012 and 2013 involving human rights defenders Renante Gamara, Roy Velez, Amelita Bravante, Randy Vegas, and Raul Camposano. Gamara, along with other activists, has been jailed on trumped-up charges, while Velez and Bravante have since gone into hiding for fear of their lives.
Heed ILO recommendation on Toyota labor dispute
The network asked the Philippine government to implement the ILO recommendation to “take decisive action to resolve the longstanding labor dispute” in Toyota Philippines.
ESCR-Net also reminded the Philippine government that it is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and should thus respect the rights of all people to life, liberty, and security of person, as well as the right of free expression and assembly.
It also said the Philippines is party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and as such has the obligations to respect and protect the right to work; to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work which ensure, in particular, remuneration which provides all workers with a decent living for themselves and their families, safe and healthy working conditions, equal opportunity for promotions and a reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay; and to form and join trade unions.
Finally, ESCR-Net recalled the obligations of the Philippines to uphold UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which recognizes the right of each person to promote the realization of human rights and provides protection against any violence, threats or retaliation as a consequence of work to defend and promote human rights.