Labor leader declared missing, workers and kin search military camps

Surface Ben Villeno
Surface Ben Villeno

The workers under the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) and Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture – KMU (OLALIA-KMU) declared their labor leader, Benjamen Villeno, missing after 21 days of being incommunicado. Following traces of the last text messages sent by Villeno, workers and kin began searching military camps and claimed their leader was abducted by military forces as part of Aquino’s continuing fascist regime and undeclared martial law.


On September 17, 2013, workers under the PAMANTIK-KMU and OLALIA-KMU have declared their leader, Benjamen Villeno, missing after 21 days of being incommunicado. Villeno’s last text message sent on August 27 to a fellow organizer said that he was being followed by suspected military men somewhere in Cavite.


Villeno is the former regional coordinator of the Bayan Muna Party List in 2010. Prior to becoming an organizer of the party list under the Makabayan bloc, the former labor leader was union president of Lakas Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda-OLALIA-KMU (LMNH-OLALIA-KMU) from 1998 to 2000. He resigned from his employment in Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. and became national president of OLALIA-KMU, as well as chairperson of PAMANTIK-KMU in the subsequent years.


At present, Villeno is a full time staff of the national federation OLALIA-KMU.


Together with members and leaders from Bayan Muna Party List – Southern Tagalog, workers from different unions and factories began their search in military camps within Metro Manila.


“There is no other place to search. Labor leaders who serve the interests of the workers have been, and are always, a target of state fascism. Villeno, just like other labor leaders, have been subject to endless surveillance initiated by the military, policemen, intelligence units—all under the government’s commands. Because of his commitment to organizing unions and promoting good governance through campaigning for Bayan Muna, Villeno has been a target of the state’s Oplan Bayanihan that limitlessly red tags progressive organizatiions, and justifies the armed forces’ blatant violations of human rights through abduction, political killings, and the like.” Wenecito Urgel, PAMANTIK-KMU Secretary General said.


“Just as we are commemorating Trade Union Human Rights month in September, we are facing yet another case of abduction of a labor leader.” Urgel added.


The PAMANTIK-KMU has declared September as TUHR month after the assassination of former Nestle union president and PAMANTIK-KMU chairperson Diosdado Fortuna on September 22, 2005.


“Under the present Aquino regime, we have witnessed how labor leaders are subject to political persecution through false criminal charges such as with OLALIA-KMU national president Hermenegildo Marasigan. He was filed with false charges of serious physical injuries and alarm and scandal. Marasigan, who is a senior citizen, obviously does not have the capability to inflict serious physical harm towards young, and more resilient members of the military.” Said Romeo Legaspi, OLALIA-KMU Vice President and present LMNH-OLALIA-KMU union president.


“All these—the continuing political persecution, abduction, and killings of trade union leaders—are more than enough to name Aquino a fascist dictator, a killer, a human rights violator.” Legaspi ended.


“With a deluge of issues being hurled at the Filipino people right now, the continuing and intensifying fascism under the Aquino regime sends us a big warning on how this ‘tuwid na daan’ is really going. We will continue to search for Pangulong Ben. He has been a committed organizer to the labor sector in Southern Tagalog, and has definitely helped not only his own union in fighting for their rights, but also other workers from all throughout the region and the country in negotiating for better working conditions, and lived and sacrificed with marginalized sectors through the years. We will not stop until he is surfaced, and will continue to expose Aquino’s incessant use of undeclared dictatorship to protect and promote his own interests, and the interests of his imperialist boss.” Urgel ended.###



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