Heightened repression still feared after Human Security Act approval

Vincent “Ka Bebot Borja”, KMU National Council member representing Eastern Visayas, and also Anakpawis coordinator for that region when he was arrested three years ago, was freed from jail after the military’s lone “star witness” did not recognize him in a hearing on Wednesday (Oct. 13).

Ka Bebot was forcibly arrested at the height of the last electoral campaign on May 7, 2007 after being charged with murder by the military.

“It took more than three years before the military’s so-called star witness testified in court, only to say that he does not recognize Ka Bebot and he was not involved in the crime he has supposed to have seen. The military has not just confirmed the innocence of Ka Bebot, but also their malicious intent to invent charges against progressive leaders to jail them and prevent their noble advocacies,” KMU General Secretary Roger Soluta said.

“Our persistent protests and collective action all over the nation and even around the world pressured the military and government to finally release Ka Bebot. We celebrate Ka Bebot’s release with joy that he can now serve the people outside jail, and with passion to further expose the military’s lies,” Soluta added.

Legalizing repression

“While one of our labor leaders has been finally freed from detention, we still expect heightened repression against our ranks with the recent court affirmation of the legality of the Human Security Act,” Soluta said.

“The HSA will legitimize red-tagging and malicious interpretations of the military on critical actions against the government. The right to protest and to advocate genuine changes is still in danger under Aquino.”

KMU also denounced the Aquino administration’s continued implementation of Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya program, which incorporates legal offensives and concoction of criminal charges to detain hundreds of activists.

Harsh arrest

Ka Bebot just came from a whole-day caravan of Anakpawis, Cong. Teddy Casiño, and other progressive candidates in Ormoc on May 7, 2007. Together with other electoral coordinators in the region, they settled in a house of a local official in Brgy. Malinao, Ormoc City, and held a meeting to discuss the electoral campaign.

In the middle of the meeting, at around 9:00 pm, the house’s gate was forced open and around ten armed men in civilian clothes carrying M-16’s and caliber .45’s barged into the house. Outside were two six-by-six trucks, two vans, and several motorcycles with around 40 uniformed soldiers in full battle gear wearing bonnets and without nameplates. They were from the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The armed men, led by the 19th IB commanding officer himself Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy, immediately took hold of Ka Bebot. When confronted, Col. Dagoy showed a defective warrant of arrest with “Tata Borja” as arestee. The warrant was issued by the military, not the Philippine National Police which is the body empowered by law to issue warrants. When questioned about the warrant, Col. Dagoy snapped that he can present other warrants of arrest just to get Ka Bebot, and threatened those who questioned his actions, saying they can be arrested with Ka Bebot for “obstruction of justice.”

Cong. Casino and the partylist coordinators present decided to accompany Ka Bebot to ensure his safety when he was brought to Camp Downes, Altavista, Ormoc City.

Past midnight of May 8, Ka Bebot was brought to PNP-Ormoc City jail. On the same day, a murder case was filed against him.

Responding to clamors for his transfer of jail, Ka Bebot was transferred to the Tacloban city jail so his family and colleagues can visit him more easily in a nearer detention.

Concocted charges, delayed hearings

Ka Bebot was accused of murdering a certain Marianito Calibo, a military man, on July 8, 2006. Three others were filed with the same murder case, together with Ka Bebot. One of them is Florencio Agunos, who was already dead five months before the date of the said murder.

The other one is “Junie Maningo” – whose name is suspiciously close to that of a KMU union officer in Leyte. And the other is Simeon Cabonegro, also an organizer of the National Federation of Labor Unions-KMU (NAFLU-KMU), who has never encountered the person he is being accused of murdering.

The hearings have been rescheduled one after the other. The lone “star witness” who is Tito Lagarit, never appeared to testify until the recent Oct. 13 hearing.

Unhindered service

Ka Bebot is suffering from asthma and has had attacks every month since he was jailed. He has also lost considerable weight.

But despite this, Ka Bebot was able to lead a hunger strike in the Ormoc City Jail on August 2008 to protest the inadequate and indecent food served to the prisoners. The strike forced the jail administrators to serve inmates more decent food.

Ka Bebot also continued to educate and organize people behind bars. He has been the consultant of inmates and people who visit the jail on various cases they were facing.

Ka Bebot is 41 years old. He started working as a bus conductor when was still at elementary school. He became a worker of the Philippine National Oil Company-Leyte in 1994. He was a leader in the union when it launched a strike in October 2004. He was among those dismissed because of the strike. Since then, he became a full-time organizer of the KMU. #



The Prosecution is Delaying Ka Bebot’s Release
A New Zealand Unionist Visits Ka Bebot

I visited Ka Bebot in Tacloban prison. There was a noticeable lack of privacy when meeting but Bebot’s morale was high. There were seven other political detainees in the prison and they supported each other. He conveyed that the conditions in the prison were an improvement from Ormoc; he was able to cook his own meals and had more room in his cell. Water though was in scarce supply. In general, his health was good and he was extremely thankful for all the solidarity and support he had received. The solidarity was fuel for the struggle ahead. He asked that the following message be conveyed.

“It is necessary to resolutely continue organizing the workers, peasants and other sectors in the struggle.I challenge P-Noy (Philippine President Benigno Aquino III) to free all political prisoners and bring justice to bear for the victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

We must uphold the strength of the masses and carry on with the struggle, especially the struggle of the workers. I call on the workers to fight for security of employment and wider economic and political change. To the international community who have been helping me and supporting me in my struggle, I express my heartfelt thanks. The support raises my morale in jail and inspires me to struggle on.

To my beautiful family, my wife, children and my friends and comrades; your support means so much to me, thank you so much. I am hoping for a speedy trial and that I will soon be released to be with you all.

All political prisoners, myself and the Morong 43 included, are victims of political persecution of the Gloria Arroyo regime. We must stop all political killings and other forms of harassment of those who struggle for a just and democratic Philippines!”

On July 28th, Ka Bebot appeared before the Tacloban Trial Court. We were expecting him to be released on bail. The Ormoc Trial Court had indicated that he would be released on bail as the prosecution had failed to produce their witness (Bebot does not know who this witness is) on four separate occasions. The prosecution had stated that it would not oppose bail.

During the court hearing, Judge Salvador Apurillo, the new presiding judge on his case, appeared to not have read Bebot’s case, knowing nothing about his case and commenting that he was expected to rule on something that had been handled elsewhere.

We were then surprised when the prosecution said it was opposed to bail as their witness should have the right to appear in the Tacloban Court. The judge unfortunately agreed to this and on September 6th the prosecution’s witness has been requested to appear. It appears we are now back at square one; with the state prosecution continuing to use delaying tactics to keep Bebot in prison.

It is vital that we step up the campaign and have letters sent to Pres. Aquino, to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Judge Apurillo, demanding justice for Bebot and his immediate release from detention.


August 6, 2010

Undoing the Injustice

June 21, 2010

Free Ka Bebot Borja Now!

Freeing political prisoners is one step in undoing the injustice done by the Arroyo regime.

Like Cory Aquino, presumptive President-elect Noynoy Aquino should release Vincent “Ka Bebot” Borja and all the political prisoners under the Arroyo regime from jail.

Vincent “Ka Bebot” Borja is a victim of the US-Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime’s war against militant trade unionism. Since 2007, he has been detained in the Provincial Jail of Leyte, on trumped up murder charges.

Aquino must prove that new government is opposed to the Arroyo regime and all the policies it imposed against the Filipino people. It is also a challenge for Aquino to uphold the findings of the local and international fact-finding missions which hold the Arroyo regime responsible for the killings, abduction and fabrication of cases versus activists.

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, the International Labor Organization, and even the Melo Commission – they have all spoken. Noynoy has to uphold the findings of these bodies simply by releasing Arroyo’s political prisoners as initial step. (KMU)

Free Bebot Borja Now!

May 25, 2010

Representatives of workers’ organizations from different countries as well as people’s organizations from the Philippines show solidarity to Ka Bebot by holding petition-signing campaign, noise barrage and picket protests this May 2010.

click to watch video:

Talambuhay ni Ka Bebot

April 25, 2010

Ipinanganak si Vincent Borja noong Mayo 12, 1970 sa dating maliit na munisipalidad ng Bislig sa Surigao del Sur.

Isang security guard sa isang pabrika ng papel sa probinsiya ang kanyang ama. Samantala, nangangasiwa ng pagmamay-ari nilang maliit na tindahan ang kanyang ina.

Kilala siya sa palayaw na Bebot. Panganay sa walong magkakapatid. Nakapag-aral si Bebot sa pribadong paaralan ng La Salle sa Mangagoy, Bislig Surigao del Sur hanggang Grade 5. Lumipat siya sa pampublikong paaralan ng San Roque noong Grade 6 dahil sa kakapusan ng pangsuporta sa pag-aaral.  Nagtapos siyang isang tipikal na estudyante ng Bislig Municipal High School noong 1986.

Sa edad ng lapimpitong taon, nagpunyagi siyang maging tagapagtaguyod ng pamilya.  Lumuwas siya patungong Isabel, Leyte sa tulong ng kanyang tiyahin upang magtrabaho bilang manggagawang kaswal sa Philippine Phosphate Corp. o Philphos (pagawaan ng fertilizer). Mula sa perang kinikita sa pagtatrabaho ang pinapadala niyang tulong sa kanyang magulang at kapatid sa Bislig.

1990. Dahil manggagawang kaswal o pana-panahon lamang na trabaho sa Philphos nakahanap ng pagkakataon si Bebot na maging aktibo sa gawaing simbahan sa kanilang lugar.  Nagsimula sa pasama-sama sa mga kaibigan sa simbahan, naging miyembro siya ng isang relihiyosong grupong charismatic sa parokya ng Isabel. Bago matapos ang taon, nahalal siyang tagapangulo ng mga organisasyon ng kabataan sa parokya. Kabilang sa mga organisasyong ito ang  Relocation Site Catholic Youth Movement at Catholic Youth Encounter. Nagsisilbi din siya sa Isabel Parish Youth Choir.

Sa mga organisasyong ito unang nalinang ang kanyang kakayahan sa pag-oorganisa at pagmumulat.  Nagsagawa siya ng mga seminars, camping and fellowship activities na naglalayong mapalapit sa Diyos ang mga tao at maging mabuting mamamayan ng Diyos.

Isa rin siya sa nag-organisa ng mga unang catechumen sa parokya ng Isabel kung saan nagbibigay sila ng pag-aaral sa iba’t ibang propesyunal tulad ng guro, empleyado at superbisor tungkol sa simbahan at inoorganisa sila sa mga prayer group.   Naging lay minister din siya ng parokya at kasabay noon ay naging tagapangulo ng Western Ecclesiastical District Youth Movement , isang kapulungan ng mga Kristiyanong grupong pangkabataan sa Silangang Leyte na binubuo ng munisipalidad ng Mahaplag, Alguera, Ormoc, Merida, Isabel, Palompon, Villaba, Kananga, Matag-Ob, Fatima at Valencia sa ilalim ng Archdiocese ng Palo.

1992. Natapos ang isang kontrata at tuluyan nang nawalan ng trabaho sa Philphos si Bebot.  Ngunit nagpatuloy sa pag-aaral si Bebot. Dahil sa kanyang dedikasyon at mabuting pakikitungo, sinagot ng parokya ng Isabel sa pangunguna ni Fr. Chris Pacheco, kura-paroko at Fr. Romy Salazar ang kanyang pag-aaral ng Automotive Mechanic sa isang paaralang bokasyunal.

1994. Natapos niya ang dalawang taong kurso. Pagsapit ng June 6, 1994, natanggap siya at nagsimulang magtrabaho sa Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) at nadestino sa Leyte-A Geothermal Plant bilang pump tender. Sila ang tumutulong sa mga drilling personnel na naghuhukay ng lupa upang makuha ang init as ilalim nito at saka ipoproseso bilang kuryente. Ganito ang naging trabaho niya sa loob ng dalawang taon bilang isang manggagawang kaswal. Bagamat kaswal ang turing, isa sa pinaka-delikadong trabaho sa loob ng planta ang nasabing trabahong ginampanan niya.  Kinailangan niya ng malaking pag-iingat dahil sa pangamba sa kaligtasan kahit pa kumpleto ang gamit pangkaligtasan sa loob ng planta.

1996. Kinuha siyang regular na empleyado ng kumpanya dahil sa kasipagan at magandang rekord sa trabaho. Itinalaga siya bilang flash plant technician na  naghahanap ng  geothermal areas at naglalagay ng mga steam pipe lines. Ganito ang naging trabaho niya hanggang unang bahagi ng 1997 hanggang sa tuluyan nang magsimula ang operasyon ng planta. Noong una, lumilikha ang nasabing planta ng 235 megawatts ng kuryente noong 1997-1998.  Pero sa taong ding iyon, umabot sa 640 megawatts ang nalilikhang kuryente ng buong planta ng PNOC sa probinsiya ng Leyte. Nakakapagtustos na ito ng kuryente sa probinsiya ng Cebu at karatig-isla.

Sa planta nabuksan ang kamalayan ni Bebot sa pagiging unyonista.  Dito siya nakilahok sa mga pag-aaral at pagpupulong ng unyon para sa pagtatanggol sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa.

Nagsimula siyang maging aktibong miyembro ng Leyte-A Geothermal Plant Employees Union o LAGPEU-Independent. Sa mga taong ito, tila wala pang mabigat na problemang kinakaharap ang mga manggagawa dahil nakakatanggap naman sila ng karampatang benepisyo at sahod na nilalaman ng kanilang collective bargaining agreement.

Mayo 12, 1998. Sa ika-28 na kaarawan ni Bebot, ikinasal siya sa kanyang kasintahan na si Armida “Amy” Mayor. Nanirahan sila sa Ormoc City.

Huling bahagi ng 1998, Pinagkatiwalaan siya ng buong kasapian ng union na maging isa sa mga Board of Directors o BOD nito.  Dumami ang kanyang trabaho bilang lider ng unyon. Naging pangunahing tungkulin niya ang public information, external affairs at media liaison. Naging gawain niya ang pakikipag-ugnayan sa mga miyembro, media, at mamamayan sa palibot ng planta.  Ngunit, taon ding ito umugong ang balita ng privatization ng planta.

Huling bahagi ng 1999. Nalalapit ang CBA negotiation at tumindi ang harassment sa unyon.  Sunud-sunod ang ginawang constructive dismissal ng management sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatapon sa mga lider ng unyon sa malayong lugar kung saan halos wala silang makausap na ibang manggagawa.  Isa si Bebot sa nakaranas nito. Dinala siya sa pinakadulong parte ng planta. Nilabanan ito ng unyon sa pamamagitan ng iba’t ibang uri ng sama-samang pagkilos.  Naglunsad sila ng black ribbon-wearing. Nang magpiket sila sa labas ng planta, nagpataw ang management ng suspesyon sa 50-60 miyembro ng unyon na umabot ng dalawang linggo.

Pebrero 16, 2000. Nagdeploy ang PNOC management ng dagdag na 100 security guards sa buong planta bago pa man simulang pag-usapan ang ground rules ng CBA negotiation.

Abril 2000. Nang matapos ang ground rules negotiation at patungo na sana sa aktwal na pakikipagtawaran, nagsimula nang magpakita ng hindi magandang pakikitungo ang employer’s negotiating panel sa unyon.  Ipinipilit nito na tanggapin ng unyon ang alok ng management na economic provision. Laman nito ang PhP2,500.00 na buwanang dagdag-sahod at pagpapatuloy ng iba pang benepisyong nakasaaad sa naunang CBA.   Taliwas ito sa hinihiling ng unyon na PhP2,800.00 dagdag-sahod at karagdagang halaga ng benepisyo sa electricity allowance, rice subsidy at iba pamga bagay na nakita ng unyon bilang makatwiran dahil lubos na lumaki ang kinikita ng kumpanya kumpara noong nagsisimula pa lamang ito.

Pinagpatuloy ng unyon ang sama-samang mga pagkilos. Pinatindi din ng management ang harassment. Inabuso nito ang pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang company rules and regulations. Buwan ng Mayo, tatlong miyembro na nagsumite ng paternity leave ang nagulat nang sila ay suspindehin. Doon lang nila nalaman na hindi pala sinang-ayunan ng management ang kanilang leave at dahil doon ay kinunsidera silang AWOL o Absent without Leave.

Hunyo 20, pinangunahan ni Bebot ang isang prayer rally upang kundenahin ang katulad na unfair labor practices (ULP) sa loob ng pabrika.D inaluhan ito ng mahigit 70% ng mga manggagawa. Kasabay nito, nadagdagan ng 12 miyembro ng unyon ang pinatawan ng suspensiyon.

Nang dumating sa deadlock ang usapin sa CBA at kasabay nito’y pagpapatupad ng ULP sa mga manggagawa, napilitan na ang unyon na magsumite ng notice of strike noong Setyembre 12 na binabaan din kaagad ng assumption of jurisdiction order ng Department of Labor Secretary. Naganap ito matapos ang  anim na araw na naisumite ang strike vote sa NCMB.

Alas 8:00 ng umaga ng Oktubre 21, pumutok ang welga sa planta. Isa si Bebot sa mga nanguna.  Kasama niya ang 105 pang mga manggagawa.

Nasimulan nilang iparalisa ang operasyon ng planta matapos maglakad ng kalahating araw paakyat sa kabundukan kung saan matatagpuan ang planta.  Kinagabihan pasunod sana sa piketlayn ang 28 manggagawa sa pangunguna ni Dante Senillo, isa sa mga organisador at kaibigan ni Bebot. Ngunit sinalubong sila na paputok ng mga M16. Nagmula ang militar sa isang magubat na lugar na papuntang planta.  Kasabay ng paghagis ng teargas, sabay-sabay na nataranta at nagpulasan ang mga manggagawa upang makaligtas sa bala.

Sa buong panahon, si Bebot ang nangasiwa sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa komunidad at media hinggil sa kanilang welga.  Matagumpay niyang nakuha ang suporta ng komunidad sa paligid ng planta ng PNOC.

Makalipas ang isang araw, sinimulan nang buwagin ang piket ng mga manggagawa.  Tinatayang nasa 600 ang pinagsamang bilang ng sundalo at pulis ang nagsagawa nito.  Pinaulanan ng bala ang piketlayn habang inaresto at binugbog ang mga manggagawang nagtatakbuhan.  Apat na miyembro ng unyon ang nagkaroon ng permanenteng trauma ang marahas na pagbuwag sa kanilang piketlayn.

Matapos nito, nagbantay sa buong paligid ng planta ang mga militar.  Dala na din nang takot, hindi na muna nagpatuloy ang mga manggagawa sa pagwewelga.

Buwan ng Nobyembre, nagsikap muli ang mga manggagawa na ituloy ang welga.  Nagtayo sila ng mga piketlayn sa Brgy. Dolores, Ormoc City at Brgy. Agiting sa Kananga. Ngunit marahas din itong  binuwag ng mga militar.  Sa panahong ito, gumamit na din ng psywara ng militar sa pagkausap sa mga asawa ng mga welgista. Pinaabot ng militar sa mga asawa ang utos na itigil na ang pagwewelga ng mga manggagawa.

Isa ang asawa ni Bebot na si Amy sa nakaranas nito.  Ayon sa kanya maraming beses nagpunta ang mga militar sa kanilang lugar at sinasabihan siya na bilang asawa, siya na mismo ang mag-utos kay Bebot na itigil na ang welga.  Maraming beses na ipinatawag ng militar si Amy sa kanilang barangay hall at pinipilit na makipagtulungan ngunit ‘di ito pumayag.  Todo-todong suporta ang binigay pa din nito sa asawang organisador ng manggagawa.

Noong panahon ng welga, dahil wala nang kinikita ang asawa, si Amy na din ang gumawa ng paraan para magkaroon ng panggagastos ang kanilang pamilya sa pamamagitan ng pagtitinda ng ulam.  Kung minsan nagdadala pa siya ng pagkain sa piketlayn para kay Bebot at sa mga kasamahan nito.

Lumipas ang mga araw, panibagong kaso ang ibinintang sa mga manggagawa. Dahil sa pagdepensa nila ng kanilang piketlayn sa Kananga, Leyte, simampahan sila, kasama si Bebot, ng malicious mischief at attempted destruction of property. Malinaw na harassment at union-busting ang pakay ng kaso. Kung tutuusin, ang huling kaso (attempted destruction) ay hindi nakasaad sa saligang batas pero kakatwang tinanggap ito ng korte. Naghain lamang si Bebot at ang ibang manggagawa ng piyansa para pansamantalang makalaya. Hanggang ngayon, buhay pa ang kasong ito. Noong Abril 22, 2010 iaanunsyo sana ang desisyon ng korte sa kasong ito ngunit hindi ito natuloy.  May lead ang mga manggagawa na convicted ang magiging hatol sa kanila.

Kahit nakapanlulumo ang resulta ng welga, nanatiling pursigido si Bebot na ipagpatuloy ang laban.  Nagdesisyon siya na maging full-time organizer ng NAFLU-KMU sa kanilang lugar habang binabantayan ang takbo ng kaso ng kanilang unyon.

Noong eleksyong 2001, nahirang si Bebot na maging local coordinator ng bagong tatag na Bayan Muna Partylist. Tumulong din siya sa pagtatayo ng local chapters at pangangampanya ng Anakpawis Partylist sa probinsya ng Leyte.

Sa mga lumipas na taon, kasama si Bebot sa gawaing pag-oorganisa at pagbibigay-tulong sa mga unyon PASAR at marami pang iba. Kabilang na dito ang una niyang pinasukan – ang Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. o PHILPHOS.

Minsan nakasalubong niya ang isa sa mga paring nagpaaral sa kanya. Tinanong siya kung saan na siya nagtatrabaho. Ang sagot niya, isa na siyang organizer. Dagdag niya na bilang organisador, ipinagtatanggol nila ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa – bagay na tungkulin din sa kapwa. Kasabay nito ang paaanyaya sa nakatatanda na  lumahok din sa isyu ng mga manggagawa. #

Source: Center for Trade Union and Human Rights

Kagawasan ug Hustisya

April 17, 2010

Show solidarity to Ka Bebot.

Ka Bebot has been appealing to the court to grant his request for bail. Let us show our solidarity by sending letters of appeal such as the following:

Letter of appeal to judge to hear immediately the case

Hon. Apolinario Buaya

Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court

8th Judicial Region, Branch 35,

Imelda Boulevard, Ormoc City, Leyte

(053) 255-52-62

Letter of appeal to prosecutor to immediately drop the case

Atty. Clinton Nuevo
Officer in Charge
Office of the City Prosecutor
Imelda Blvd. Ormoc City, Leyte

Letter of appeal to the 19th IB which arrested Ka Bebot and asked the prosecutor to file a motion a transfer of jail location far from Ka Bebot’s hometown.

Lt. Col. Roberto Capulong
Commander, 19th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army
19th IB Headquarters, Brgy. Agiting, Kananga, Leyte

Letter of appeal to the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the violations of human rights in the conduct of his arrest as well as violation to Ka Bebot’s right to a speedy trial.

Atty. Paquito Nacino
Director, CHR Region 8
P. Paterno St., Tacloban City, Leyte
email:  chrtac8@yahoo.com

(Please send a soft copy of your letters to kmu.intl@gmail.com)

April 16, 2010

please reproduce

Message from Prison

March 25, 2010

Ka Bebot delivers message from prison.

Vincent “Ka Bebot”  Borja is a political prisoner in the Philippines. Since 2007 he has been detained in the Provincial Jail of Leyte, on trumped-up murder charges.

He is a victim of the US-Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime’s war against militant trade unionism.

This message was recorded in March 2010.

Watch the video: