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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

IUF Condemns New Violence in Philippines Sugar Dispute

Posted to the IUF website 07-Nov-2005

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Violence continues to stalk the year-long dispute at the Philippines Hacienda Luisita sugar plantation and mill complex. Last year, the IUF protested to the Philippine authorities when an attack on striking sugar workers outside the plantation by heavily armed army and police units killed 7 workers and wounded 36 others (background here). The IUF demanded swift judicial action and a full public investigation.

To date, no one has been charged. In March, the Philippine Court of Appeals upheld the intervention (under legislation from the Marcos dictatorship) by the Department of Labor and Employment which enforced a back-to-work order and authorized the deployment of police and military units in the strike zone.

On October 25, Ricardo Ramos, leader of the mill workers union, was shot at close range by two assassins who escaped. Ramos was killed as the workers were celebrating an apparent negotiated resolution to the conflict.

The IUF has written Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to say that another perfunctory police investigation into the violence will not suffice. IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald wrote that "Given the failure of the investigation into the November 2004 violence, the investigation into the Ramos murder must be conducted on an entirely different basis if it is to have credibility at home or abroad, where international opinion is shocked by your government's apparent passivity in the face of persistent violence around industrial relations disputes. For justice to be done, a credible investigation into the murder of Ricardo Ramos must involve independent legal experts and experienced human rights advocates. It must be open, transparent and empowered to investigate without hindrance all available evidence, witnesses and hypotheses, including potential police or military involvement in the murder."

Neither of the two unions involved in the dispute are affiliated to the IUF.