WHEN the old man from the south stepped down, many were made to believe that extra-judicial killings would come to an end.
However, the death of a labor leader in Rizal province proved otherwise as it underscores the continuous culture of impunity targeting unionists in the Philippines.
Police authorities should thoroughly investigate the killing of labor leader Jude Thaddeus Fernandez and appropriately prosecute all those responsible.
Police said they shot Fernandez on September 29, 2023 in his home in the town of Binangonan when he “fought back” while they were serving him with a search warrant. Interestingly, the operatives kept mum as to why his home was being searched or why he resisted.
Fernandez’s colleagues told Human Rights Watch that they believe police are using the claim of nanlaban (fought back), a commonly used defense by law enforcement officers for extrajudicial killings, to justify shooting him.
The killing of Jude Fernandez fits into a broader pattern of harassment and violence against labor leaders in the Philippines, for which the government should seriously consider an independent third party to independently investigate the police actions and pursue prosecutions as warranted.
Fernandez’s death isn’t the first infraction against the labor sector since the new President took the helm at the Palace. The tragic end of the veteran labor union organizer is consistent with many of those cases, including that of the 72 workers and unionists who have been killed in the Philippines since 2016.
Four of those deaths occurred after the International Labor Organization (ILO) sent a high-level mission to the Philippines in January to investigate killings of workers and union leaders
In one of the worst reported incidents, police in 2019 raided the compound of trade unionists in Cavite province and killed nine activists, unionists, and their colleagues. The police said they were serving a search warrant but the victims “fought back”.
Most of the slain labor activists were red-tagged before they were assaulted. Alex Dolorosa, an organizer of the outsourcing labor group BPO Industry Employee Network, had been red-tagged before he was reported missing in Bacolod City on April 23. His body was found days later with multiple stab wounds.
Interestingly, not one labor assailant has been convicted and worse, there’s no indication that the labor-related killings would stop.
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