Seeking To End Culture of Impunity, United Church of Christ Philippines Brings Suit Against Former President Arroyo

Amid growing concern for the human rights situation the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston visited the Philippines in 2007. He found that in the name counter-insurgency operations against the armed-wing of the Communist Party, the New People’s Army, government killings had “eliminated civil society leaders, including human rights defenders, trade unionists and land reform advocates...”  

Trade unionist were frequent victims both of the conflation of civil society with insurgency, as well as extra-judicial killings. A 2010 ILO Committee on Freedom of Association noted that “blanket linkages of trade unions to the insurgency had a stigmatizing effect and often placed union leaders and members in a situation of extreme insecurity.”

Indeed trade unionist found themselves in a situation of “extreme insecurity.” This trend continued throughout the entirety of Arroyo’s administration and into Aquino’s. In their latest report (2010), which covers the last six months of Arroyo’s term and the first six months of Aquino’s, The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), documented 100 violations of trade union rights. Additionally, CTUHR documented 5 murders of trade unionist, 2 of which occurred while Arroyo was still in office. CTUHR’s report also found “Trumped-up criminal charges continue to be filed against labour leaders, and the military continues to intervene, intimidating legal organizations like trade unions that are merely exercising their legal and democratic rights.” The bulk of these human rights abuses per the report “can still be attributed to the government’s continuing counter-insurgency operations tagging workers as communist supporters, and unions as a breeding ground for the communist movement.”  

Violent harassment of trade unionist and other civil society actors has continued thanks in part to the the culture of impunity that is part of Arroyo’s legacy. Given this tainted legacy it is hypocritical for Arroyo to jet set across the globe condemning state-sanctioned violence.