KMU to Duterte: Are you joking?

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - NEWS -

WE SAW the video of Davao City mayor and presidentiable Rodrigo Duterte speaking on the first day of the campaign period for the 2016 elections.

“I will establish economic zones. Mag- imbita ako… Dito kayo magtrabaho. Wag kayong magmamadali. Tapos kayong mga KMU, medyo pigilan na muna ninyo ang mga labor unions. Ako na ang nakikiusap sa inyo. Magkasama tayo sa ideolohiya. Wag ninyong gawin iyan. Kasi sisirain mo ang administrasyon ko. Kapag ginawa ninyo iyan, patayin ko kayong lahat. Ang solusyon dito, patayan na. Eh pag- usapan mo, ayaw. Do not do it now, iyung active labor front. Kasi kapag ginawa ninyo, nagsasara. Do not do it. Give the Philippines respect for about 10 years.”

Is Mayor Duterte joking? He declared war on unions, KMU, and all workers on the first day of his campaign. He called on workers to lessen actions in defense of their rights right in the birthplace of working- class hero Andres Bonifacio. He claimed he shares KMU’s ideology yet threatened to kill KMU members in the same breath. He showed no respect for workers, who belong to the majority of Filipinos, in the name of an abstract “Philippines,” which can only mean big foreign and local capitalists.

Is Mayor Duterte joking? The plight of workers won’t improve without their own action and organization, without unions, and without genuinely pro- worker unions in particular. It is simply not true that workers, unions, and KMU cause companies to close down; that is just a scare tactic to make workers accept low wages, contractual employment, and repression. The truth is that the number of unions in the country has been in decline for years, yet the situation of workers has only gotten worse and small Filipino businessmen have continued to close down their businesses.

Is Mayor Duterte joking? Candidates have always promised to implement antiworker and pro- business measures in order to attract the support of big foreign and local capitalists. None, however, has done it with more bombast than Duterte. Is he that desperate in trying to court the support of big capitalists? Whatever his reason, talking about killing trade- unionists is simply unacceptable. He should be respectful of the labor movement, which has fought for improvements in workers’ conditions.

Is Mayor Duterte joking? We ask this in recognition of his support for workers’ and KMU Southern Mindanao Region’s campaigns for higher wages and against contractualization. We ask this in recognition of proworker items in his platform; we even hailed his statements against contractualization right after he declared his candidacy. We ask this to give him room to change his mind, reverse his statement, and stand against greedy capitalists, not workers’ unions.

Is Mayor Duterte joking? We ask this not because labor leaders are not being killed in the country; they are. We ask this not because his human- rights record is dubious; it is. We ask this because we are unfazed. Not even the open fascism of the US- Marcos dictatorship or the intense political repression of the US- Arroyo regime stopped us from organizing workers and fighting for workers’ rights. We vow to continue organizing workers and fighting for workers’ rights despite threats from Duterte and his ilk.

Is Mayor Duterte joking? He cannot make progressive statements on other issues and then make this horrid mistake on the issue of workers – directly addressing the KMU and threatening the lives of unionists – and still expect people to believe him. He is making a big joke of himself with this statement.

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