If GRP chief peace negotiator to the NDFP, Sec. Silvestre Bello III is saying that martial law in Mindanao is not meant to target the left, then he should order the 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army to withdraw from a Korean owned banana plantation in Compostela Valley plagued by a labor dispute.
According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), elements of the 66th IB occupied the packing plant of Shin Sun Tropical Corp. on the night of May 24. Martial law was declared in Mindanao on the same day.
Earlier death threats were made on May 23 on the organizers of said strike. Its members are affiliated with Shin Sun Workers Union-NAFLU-KMU. 80 of its workers staged a strike on March 16 for being dismissed by the company because of labor only contracting.
The 66th IB has been harassing them and the workers have been accused of being members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). It is just one of too many cases of legitimate labor disputes being criminalized by state security forces.
Ironically, Sec. Bello is also the head of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Besides ordering the military from pulling out of the strike area, the DOLE should also take jurisdiction of the case and act favorably on the demands of the workers.
Martial law or no martial law, this should be always the case.