National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Southern Mindanao Region
PRESS STATEMENT | October 17, 2018
The National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao vehemently condemned the US-Duterte regime for actively conniving and abetting the rapacious stance of the Japanese banana firm Sumitomo Fruits Corp. (SUMIFRU) that brutally dispersed the strike camps of 789 workers of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Sayupa Farms (NAMASUFA) on October 11, 2018 in Compostela town, Compostela Valley.
For eight hours, at least 300 company-hired individuals, goons and scabs attacked the makeshift barricade mounted by the workers in SUMIFRU Packing Plant (PP) 370 in Brgy. Pilar Babag, PP 98 and PP340 in Brgy. Osmena, PP 92 in Brgy. Alegria, PP 90 in Brgy. Gabi, PP 99 in Brgy. San Miguel and PP115 in Brgy. Maparat. In plain view of the PNP and the AFP forces, the rabid SUMIFRU goons destroyed the bamboo makeshifts and used the broken pieces to batter the hapless workers. They also burned the structures and demolished the makeshift kitchen, razing precious food stuff and cooked meals and looting the food supply. On the spot, 17 workers were injured including a seven-month pregnant worker. As the goons were on a rampage, members of the 66th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army searched and ransacked the workers’ houses, while the police arrested and detained the workers.
The US-Duterte regime-backed attack against the NAMASUFA workers aimed to end the latter’s strike which effectively paralyzed SUMIFRU operations for 11 days. SUMIFRU produces 19,000 boxes of Cavendish bananas per day from its nine packing plants out of the 2,200 hectares of farm lands in Compostela alone.
The workers were legitimately struggling for their economic and democratic rights as long-standing regular workers of SUMIFRU. Aided by a Supreme Court ruling issued last year and previous DOLE decision which affirmed their status as union members and regular employees of SUMIFRU, NAMASUFA members were merely exercising their legal and democratic rights when they militantly launched a strike on October 1.
On October 2, the AFP and PNP escorted scabs and goons to disperse striking workers of Packing Plant 115; two days later, company goons mauled 7 workers. On October 5, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction order, directing the workers to stop the strike, while on October 6, the Regional Trial Court 56 issued a Temporary Restraining Order. However, the workers earned a temporary reprieve on October 10 when the the same local court denied SUMIFRU’s petition to extend the TRO and a preliminary injunction.
The NDF-Southern Mindanao regime holds Silvestre Bello, III, GRP’s labor secretary, the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command and the PNP, Compostela Mayor Lerma Bollo and GRP Pres. Rodrigo Duterte for systematically assaulting SUMIFRU workers in the name of defending foreign imperialist capital’s neoliberal interests.
Once more, Duterte has displayed his limitless fascism by deputizing his reactionary armed forces to savagely quell legal redress of grievance of the exploited toiling class. In vain attempt to maintain his tenuous hold to power in his decaying regime, Duterte has shown his merciless mettle to refuse the right to tenure, economic welfare and political rights of the exploited workers. Since the October 11 dispersal, SUMIFRU continued its Compostela plant operations by employing hundreds of scabs. At the same time, agents and operatives of the 66th IB conducted house to house campaign to harass the striking workers, offering P2,000 per worker to force them to resign from the company. The 66th IB is already responsible for the spate of extra-judicial killings of workers, farmers and activists in Compostela, Maragusan, Montevista and Monkayo towns in Compostela Valley province.
NDF-Southern Mindanao commends the brave alliance mounted by the banana plantation workers, peasants and their supporters in order to defend their livelihood. NAMASUFA continues to stand ground and assert the legitimacy of their strike and struggle against SUMIFRU’s unfair labor practice and the brutal dispersal.
Since forming their union in March 2008, NAMASUFA had consistently shown the power of collective action in countering the worsening exploitation of SUMIFRU against them. They have won battles in the class war against capitalist greed and continue to regard their militant union as a weapon to thwart the capitalist machinations. Last year, the workers successfully put an end to the company’s implementation of the exploitative “pakyawan system” by mounting a 13-hour strike that slowed down SUMIFRU’s production.
Decades of unabated greed buoyed up by the reactionary state’s fascist support and neoliberal policies allowed SUMIFRU to amass massive profit at the expense of workers’ rights. SUMIFRU aggressively expanded its operation over the years, exploiting at least 12,000 hectares of lands in Mindanao and contributing to galvanize the country’s backward export-oriented, imported-dependent economy. The Japanese firm continues to peg wages at measly rates, maintains workers as contractuals and refuses to recognize their unions.
The NDF in Southern Mindanao calls on the public to support the striking workers’ struggle in Compostela Valley. The recent attack against the workers’ lives and livelihood adds up to the mounting crimes of the US-Duterte regime against the Filipino people. Duterte’s time in the presidency is fast coming to a head and, like the dictator Marcos before him, the toiling masses will ensure that he will be made to answer for the atrocities he has committed.
RUBI DEL MUNDO
NDF-Southern Mindanao Region