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KMU head on three-country speaking tour

Is the U.S. government softening its stringent policy towards militant leaders coming into this country?
KMU head Elmer Labog during a forum at the UCLA Labor Center in Los Angeles

This question was in the mind of many who attended a forum at the UCLA Labor Center in Park View Street attended by the leader of the Philippine’s foremost labor group. Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement) told his audience from local progressive organizations that he was the first member of the KMU to enter the US since the Philippines was under martial law during the Marcos regime.

Labog was in the course of a series of speaking engagements regarding what he said is the difficult economic and political situation in the homeland. According to a spokesperson of the U.S. Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN USA), an alliance of Filipino social justice organizations headed by Chito Quijano that organized the West Coast end of his speaking commitments, “the tour comes at a time when multiple international human rights monitoring bodies have confirmed a disturbing epidemic of politically-motivated killings and abductions in the Philippines, including wide-scale trade union repressions, rivaling patterns similar to the repression of trade unionists in Colombia…”

The KMU itself had 22 of its members killed and three are still missing since 2001, it was said. Its chief legal counsel, Remigio Saladero, Jr., is currently under detention by Philippine authorities for what the organization claimed as false charges.

BAYAN USA stated that it is urging President-elect Obama to withdraw aid to, and relations with, the Arroyo administration claiming that US support is largely responsible for the human rights crisis in the Philippines.

Labog’s itinerary included a community dinner in Seattle sponsored by Philippine U.S. Solidarity Organization (PUSO); a workers’ action in Emeryville; speaking engagements at Stanford, San Francisco State, and Berkeley universities; the Cuba/Venezuela/Mexico/North America Labor Conference in Tijuana, Mexico; and at the 52nd Convention of the British Columbia Federation of Labor in Vancouver.

Labog, is on his second term as chair of KMU. He is also vice-president of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN or New Patriotric Alliance of the Philippines) and the second deputy general secretary of the International League of People's Struggle (ILPS).

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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