'Lack of justice' 6 months into labor leader's killing scored

James Relativo - Philstar.com
'Lack of justice' 6 months into labor leader's killing scored
Members of different organizations hold an indignation rally against the brutal killing of veteran labor organizer Jude Thaddeus Fernandez at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Thursday, October 5, 2023.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) continues to demand justice for veteran labor organizer Jude Fernandez, who was killed exactly six months ago in Binangonan, Rizal.

Fernandez died on Sept. 29, 2023 after being shot by agents of the  Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP - CIDG), who claimed that the former "fought back" while being served with a search warrant.

"CTUHR continues to condemn the [PNP-CIDG] which claimed that Ka Jude was a certain 'Oscar Dizon' and resisted arrest," said the non-government organization in a statement on Friday.

"If this is true, the PNP-CIDG should have investigated deeply before carrying out the operation that killed Ka Jude. It claims to not know what thousands of workers, unionists and labor activists know: that Ka Jude is a veteran labor organizer and has always been unarmed in carrying out his labor activism."

Malacañang, through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, earlier pledged to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing while reiterating President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s commitment to "the inalienability of the people’s fundamental rights and welfare."

Human rights group Karapatan in October last year demanded the release of police body cameras in the service of said warrant, a requirement that the Supreme Court has mandated following the infamous Bloody Sunday killings in Southern Tagalog in 2021, to help the investigation.

Worker's organizations have long demanded the immediate identification, relief and arrest of the cops behind the killings pending the probe.

CTUHR said that PNP-CIDG's claims about the identity of Ka Jude and the cirumstances of his death, however, are lies that were "manufactured to try to justify his killing."

"The truth is that, as stated by the International Labor Organization’s tripartite mission, the Philippine government equates unionism with the armed rebellion in the country which it further equates with terrorism," the group said.

"This policy framework has caused numerous and grave labor and human rights violations, has justified silencing dissent and therefore attacking democracy in the country, and has to be rejected and changed immediately."

"The killing of Ka Jude is not just an issue of his family, friends and colleagues in the labor movement, as it negatively affects all workers and all Filipinos."

Fernandez was a trade unionist since the Martial Law era and a member of the progressive Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), an organizaation long red-tagged by state officials and lumped with the armed rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan last February called on the Philippine government to abolish the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for reportedly overstepping its mandate by red-tagging civilians.

Red-tagging has been criticized by dissendents for legitimizing human rights abuses against legal activists and critics of the administration.

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