Ban on military intervention in labor and agrarian disputes pushed

A lawmaker has filed a bill banning the deployment of any unit of
the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitary groups
to areas with ongoing labor or agrarian disputes.

Rep. Teddy Casiño (Partylist, Bayan Muna) said House Bill
5374 seeks to enforce the rights of workers and peasants to
self-organization and concerted actions and to check the reported
continuing state-initiated violations of such rights.

Casiño cited the violent dispersal of the Hacienda Luisita workers’
picket that resulted to the death of 14 people and wounding 133 others
on November 16, 2004.

Casiño said elements of the Philippine Army were deployed in the area
with 10 military trucks and armored personnel carriers to enforce the
assumption of jurisdiction issued by then Labor Secretary Patricia
Sto. Tomas.

“One lesson that should be learned from the Hacienda Luisita massacre
is that the deployment of military forces in areas with labor and
agrarian disputes is a major contributory element to the eventual
violation of the workers’ and peasants’ rights to life and self
organization,” Casiño said.

Under the bill, except for the President of the Philippines, no person
shall order the deployment of any unit of the AFP or paramilitary
groups for law enforcement duties in areas with labor or agrarian
disputes.

The bill prohibits judges and officers of quasi-judicial bodies
involved in litigation to deploy military and paramilitary troops to
implement orders, notices, and decisions.

Under the bill, no officer and personnel of the AFP shall escort
individuals who seek to enter or leave the premises of an area with
labor or agrarian disputes.

Casiño said that while the Constitution mandates the
protection of farmers and workers against harassment and abuses by
authorities, several peasant leaders and workers are still being
abducted, tortured and sometimes killed amid agrarian or labor
disputes.

“Soldiers are not trained and equipped to take on law
enforcement duties and functions. Owing to their military training and
orientation, these military personnel consider the workers and farmers
as their enemies that must be crushed and oppressed,” Casiño said.

Casiño said there are several other plantations, large estates as well
as development projects and mining exploration areas in many parts of
the country that have been militarized,

“Counter-insurgency has been used as a ploy by civilian and military
authorities to suppress the resistance of hapless farmers and
indigenous peoples,” Casiño said.

Under the bill, violators face three years imprisonment and a fine of P100,000.

The co-authors of the bill are Reps. Neri Colmenares (Party-list,
Bayan Muna), Rafael Mariano (Party-list, Anakpawis), Luzviminda Ilagan
(Party-list, Gabriela), Emmi de Jesus (Party-list, Gabriela), Raymund
Palatino (Party-list, Kabataan) and Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT
Teachers).

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