No doubt that Dandy Miguel was killed for fighting for workers, supporters say

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
No doubt that Dandy Miguel was killed for fighting for workers, supporters say
This photo handout from Kilusang Mayo Uno shows labor leader Dandy Miguel in a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights on March 15, 2021, a week after the bloody Calabarzon raids.
Kilusang Mayo Uno Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — When labor leader Dandy Miguel was shot eight times and killed on Sunday night, he was wearing a union shirt that read “Sahod. Trabaho. Karapatan. Ipaglaban.” To doubt whether he was killed for fighting for workers' rights would be insulting, rights activists and unionists who knew him said.

Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer Labog questioned the Department of Justice’s move to conduct a preliminary assessment on the killing of Miguel, vice chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog (Pamantik-KMU). The assessment is to see if Miguel's death falls under the extrajudicial killings of members of cause-oriented groups. 

"What is the profession of Dandy? Isn’t he a laborer? What evidence do they need?" Labog said in a Filipino at a virtual presser.

"There are so many who, instead of launching an immediate investigation and getting justice, are washing their hands and muddling the case," he added.

BAYAN Timog Katagalugan spokesperson Casey Cruz said it is “insulting” to ask if Miguel’s killing is labor-related when he was killed in a shirt proclaiming his advocacy.

DOJ still checking if killing falls under AO 35

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday they will still first make a preliminary assessment on Miguel’s death before they can rule that the department’s Administrative Order 35 committee, which probes politically-motivated killings, will look into the incident.

"We respect their sentiments. We’ll just do what we have to do. In any investigation, the agency concerned has to determine first and foremost whether it has proper jurisdiction," Guevarra said.

Miguel is the tenth activist slain in the Calabarzon region — Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon — in March alone. His killing happened three weeks after the simultaneous and bloody dawn raids in three provinces in the region that left nine people dead.

The Commission on Human Rights said they have dispatched a team from their regional office for an independent probe into the incident and to monitor the case until it is resolved.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia has also called on Congress, the DOJ and the Department of Labor and Employment “to give preferential attention to this prevalent disregard to the right to life, security and rule of law.”

Red-tagged labor leader

Miguel was killed as the Pamantik-KMU labor union commemorates its 37th anniversary. He is the group’s third offierl to have been killed since 2009, their Public Information Officer Paul Carlson said.

In May 2020, Pamantik-KMU condemned the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command for posting on their Facebook a photo that tagged their association as a terrorist group. Carlson said they were labeled as a "labor union of terrorists."

But Miguel had only advocated for workers and their rights, he said. Carlson recalled that the labor leader pushed for a P750 national minimum wage, for increasing the minimum wage of government workers, and for an additional P100 across the board wage hike for Southern Luzon workers.

He also recalled that Miguel helped farmers in Hacienda Yulo in Laguna in the past year.

The slain labor leader had also pushed for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) — a cause that was also advocated for by slain peace consultant Randy Echanis, according to Angelo Garcia, Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice-University of the Philippines Los Baños.

CASER contains proposals on agrarian reform, land distribution and development of the agricultural sector for food self-sufficiency. It also moves for the nationalization of utilities and of the mining industry.

Mia Antonio of Liga ng mga Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay also shared that Miguel had readily connected those in need of legal help with lawyers and different government agencies.

BAYAN Timog Katagalugan’s Cruz said that criticism of the government should not mean having to be afraid of being arrested or being killed.

Defend Southern Tagalog spokesperson Charm Maranan said they fear for their safety and their families. “Every day, we fear for our lives, every day we fear that we may be next, we fear that we wake up in the morning with policemen barging into our homes and our offices,” she added.

Carlson is appealing for government action on the killing of Miguel. "We don’t have the luxury of time, we don’t have the luxury of legal remedies because our colleagues are being killed left and right."

But the groups vowed that despite the killing of their fellow activist, they will not stop until justice is served for Miguel's death and for the deaths of the nine killed in the raids earlier this month.

Maranan said: “We ask for your support, in this trying time. We need solidarity. We will continue to defend Southern Tagalog.”

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