Fredericton – Daniel Legere sent over 200 letters in support of Filipino political prisoners from CUPE New Brunswick members today at the Fredericton public post office. The union president says that it is important to support Filipino political prisoners. He explained that the political prisoners are in jail for organizing in their communities and for teaching farmers how to read and write.
Legere drew parallels to the Harper government’s attacks on workers in Canada. He mentioned Harper’s cuts to women’s groups and the court challenges program, pieces of legislation that harm Aboriginal people and the chill placed on environmental charities.
CUPE NB passed a resolution at their annual convention in the fall 2012 to support Filipino unions in their fight to end the killing and repression of trade unionists in the Philippines. Their resolution also included working with allies to lobby the Canadian government to investigate how Canadian relations with the Philippines contribute to the repression of workers in the Philippines and the exploitation of Filipino migrant workers in Canada.
Canada is second to Australia in terms of investment in the mining industry in the Philippines. Activists in the Philippines have been murdered, detained and tortured for their community organizing against large-scale industries like mining and agro-business.
CUPE has established a worker-to-worker relationship with several labour organizations in the Philippines such as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). ACT, like CUPE, struggles against privatization of public services. Last year, France Castro from ACT visited Fredericton and spoke of the struggles for public education in the Philippines.
Castro’s colleague, Charity Diño, is one of hundreds of political prisoners in the Philippines. Diño is a teacher and organizer with ACT. She was teaching peasant farmers to read and write at the time of her arrest. Her supporters say she was jailed under bogus charges.
As of December 2012, a total of 430 political prisoners are incarcerated in the Philippines. Of the total number detained, 33 are women, 12 are elderly, 45 are sick and one is a minor.
Conditions where Diño is detained, the Batangas Provincial Jail, are described as grossly overcrowded.
Here is Charity Dino’s story in her own words:
I started as a catechist under the auspices of the Sisters of Don Bosco in the province of Oriental Mindoro. Later, I volunteered as a religion teacher in San Isidro Memorial High School. This was before I worked as a full time public school teacher in Asiod Primary School in 2003-2004. The classroom, the blackboard and lesson plans were my way of sharing my time and talent with my Grade III and IV pupils. My hope was to help mold them to become good citizens. But time came when I thought I could be of greater service outside of the school institution. Immediately, I volunteered to work with the most downtrodden and marginalized sector, the peasantry.
I am Charity Diño, 31 years old, single. I am one of what is referred to as the Talisay 3, with Sonny Rogelio and Billie Batrina. All of us were volunteer organizers of the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Batangas (Batangas Farmers Organization). We are among the political prisoners, having spent the past two years at the Batangas Provincial Jail.
On November 23, 2009, while we were preparing and inviting people for the Poor Peasant’s Week, elements of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force abducted us. For 15 days I was tortured – physically, psychologically and mentally. I was beaten up. My captors hit my head against the cement wall. They applied electric shock on me several times. Worse, they undressed me and laughed at my nakedness and humiliation. The torture was a nightmare. Until now I cringe whenever I remember the terrible ordeal.
I was arrested illegally. I was tortured and detained, and now charged with illegal possession of ﬁrearms and explosives. I was deprived of due process and condemned despite the lack of evidence. Working with the farmers is now a criminal act.
In jail, political prisoners are considered criminals. We are in detention cells with inmates charged with common crimes. This is part of the government’s modus operandi to hide political prisoners so they may claim that there are no political prisoners in the country today.
I have suffered incarceration for two years now. I do not know how many more years I will be in prison for a crime I did not commit.
Tracy Glynn is a writer and editor with the NB Media Co-op.