Independence Day was just last week but everything that’s been happening around us just screams that we are not truly independent. A Filipino fishing boat was just sank by a Chinese vessel, Zagu workers are going on a strike against unfair labor, and Hong Kong citizens are rallying against extradition.
At a time like this, one can’t help but ask: Pilipinas, kaya pa ba?
A Chinese shipping vessel sank a Filipino fishing boat
Chinese- Filipino relations have been tense for the past few years, ever since China started claiming the West Philippine Sea as theirs. Despite The UN Tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines in 2016, China has continued to assert their ownership on the seas. The Chinese have continuously harassing Filipino fishermen, with instances of the Chinese coast guard taking the catch of FIilipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal.
On June 9, a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat F/V Gem-Ver 1, which led to the sinking of the boat along with the 22 crew members onboard. The fishing boat, owned by Felix dela Torre, was anchored near Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea, an area claimed by both the Philippines and China. The Chinese vessel rammed into the fishing boat and abandoned the fishermen as their boat sank. They were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen who were near the area.
China has deemed the incident as an ‘ordinary maritime incident’. President Duterte has issued a statement days after the incident, stating that the sinking of the fishing boat was just a “little maritime accident.”
Zagu Workers go on strike to protest labor practices
On the heels of the brand’s 20th anniversary, workers of shake staple Zagu Foods Corporation, commonly known as Zagu, went on strike in protest of the company’s labor practices. One of them is the issue of contractualization: Zagu contracted around 250 individuals from various service agencies, namely Infinity Strategic Management Solutions, Inc., Kapitolyo Business Group, Yearnings Outsourcing Cooperative, to perform in core function capacity (such as machine operators and service crew) — a violation of Department Order 174, which states companies are not allowed to contract out jobs directly related to their business. Some of these workers have been with the company for years, and yet they’re still not regularized under Zagu. The shake brand has also been accused of alleged union busting, intimidating workers against going on strike through giving out termination threats and disciplinary memos and dissuading contractual workers to join the union. The members of Organization of Zagu Workers – Solidarity of Unions in the Philippines for Empowerment and Reform (ORGANIZA-SUPER) are still on strike at #52 West Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig: here’s how you can help.
Hong Kong citizens protest against extradition bill
Last June 9, Hong Kong citizens young and old took to the streets clad in all black ensembles to demand that their nation’s autonomy be protected.
Before we go into specifics, a quick background: Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. After the British transferred the territory to China in 1997, Hong Kong has had its own leaders, legislative measures, economic systems — the whole shebang. Now, that autonomy is under threat due to an extradition bill that was supported by the decidedly pro-Beijing government.
Provisions under the proposed extradition bill will allow Hong Kong to transfer suspects to countries that it currently lacks a formal extradition agreement with, with one of them being mainland China. An article from Time states that the Hong Kong administration is supposed to protect the region from criminals, but critics fear the bigger picture: they state that Beijing will use the provision to apprehend its many political opponents.
The June protests against the bill saw an estimated two million person turnout. That’s two out of the seven million-person population of the entire Hong Kong. Wild, right? Police were criticized for their excessive use of force in the form of pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Some protesters were arrested and eventually released. All in all, it’s a rough time for the nation that’s fighting to keep their sovereignty.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has since issued a public apology, ensuring the extradition bill’s indefinite suspension. Protesters are now urging for the bill to be killed entirely, and for Lam to resign. Though they gave Lam a deadline of 5 p.m. last June 14 to meet their demands, as of this writing, the protests have since winded down without them being met. At this point, protesters are asking: what’s next? We have yet to find out.
Sudan is in crisis
Towards the end of last year, there was widespread political unrest in Sudan surrounding the administration of President Omar al-Bashir, who had been their leader for some 30 years. The country was suffering from economic turmoil, and people who needed resources most were having supplies cut off by the government. Protests ensued for months, most of which were met by police brutality. The focus of these demonstrations was to urge the military to act against the president, which they eventually did. On April 11, 2019, it was announced that Bashir was arrested in a military coup, and replaced by a council of generals, called the Transitional Military Council (TMC).
The TMC was to act as a placeholder until the country was ready to return to a full-blown democracy. An agreement was reached between the military and the opposition to hold the election in three years. However, protesters still demanded for a civilian transitional authority instead of a military one. As a response, soldiers opened fire on a group of demonstrators. Suddenly, the military council announced that the elections would be held in nine months instead of the agreed-upon three years.
The protesters initially refused to engage with the TMC since the incident. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Sudan to act as a mediator, and talks between parties have again become a possibility.
Three human rights defenders killed in suspected acts of state-sanctioned violence
On June 15, senior high school student Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala both members of human rights alliance Karapatan, were gunned down in Sorsogon by unidentified men. Two days later, on June 17, former Bayan Muna Bicol regional coordinator Neptali Moraga was killed in Naga City.
According to Karapatan, a group of rights workers including Hubilla “were subjected to periodic surveillance conducted by military and police operatives,” and the killings of Hubilla and Bagasala took place only a kilometer away from the local city police office — which they claim is an indication that these are part of ongoing attacks against human rights defenders.
The Department of Justice, under the orders of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is currently conducting a special investigation into the killings to determine whether they are politically motivated, as well as in hopes of finding and prosecuting those responsible. This is in accordance to Administrative Order No. 35, which seeks to resolve cases of political violence and violations of citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and security, including enforced disappearances, extralegal killings, and torture.
The Philippine National Police has claimed that there is no coordinated attack against human rights advocates.
On June 18, the Court of Appeals wrapped up a hearing on the plea of human rights advocacy groups, including Karapatan, for protection. The groups were unable to present evidence to support their cases or have witnesses testify — one of which reportedly would have been Hubilla, had he not been killed three days prior, due to the above mentioned military surveillance he and his fellow activists had undergone.