Urgent Appeal for Action: Surface William Lariosa!

Urgent Appeal for Action: Enforced Disappearance of William Lariosa and Escalating Attacks on Labor Organizers and Workers’ Rights Defenders in Southern Mindanao Region

We urgently appeal for national and international solidarity and support in response to the alarming escalation of threats, harassment, violence and enforced disappearance targeting labor organizers, union leaders and workers’ rights defenders in the Southern Mindanao region of the Philippines.

The Enforced Disappearance of William Lariosa

On April 10, 2024, William Lariosa, a 63-year-old long-time labor organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Southern Mindanao Region was arbitrarily arrested and forcibly abducted by alleged state forces from the 48th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army in the community of sugarcane plantation workers in Barangay Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon province. Eyewitnesses report that fully armed soldiers kidnapped Lariosa at gunpoint while he was staying inside the house of a sugarcane worker.

Despite urgent appeals from his family and from his colleagues in KMU, to the Commission on Human Rights, and to other human rights organizations, Lariosa remains missing over three weeks later. His family has been left devastated, fearing for his safety and well-being. Lariosa’s abduction and enforced disappearance constitutes grave human rights violations under international law.

Pattern of Attacks on Labor Activists

Lariosa’s disappearance did not occur in isolation, but is part of a disturbing pattern of intensifying attacks targeting labor organizers, union leaders and activists in the region in recent months. These attacks include:

· Red-tagging and vilification campaigns falsely labeling activists as “communists” or “terrorists”

· Harassment through unannounced visits and interrogations by state forces

· Intimidation tactics like surveillance, threats and coercion to “surrender”

· Cyber harassment targeting activists and their families online

· Judicial harassment through fabricated criminal charges

Prominent labor leaders like Paul John Dizon, Carl Anthony Olalo, and Melodina Gumanoy of NKMDDO have all been subjected to such harassment, intimidation and red-tagging by elements linked to the government’s counter-insurgency program NTF-ELCAC and military.

On May 3rd, just days after Labor Day protests, red-tagging posters vilifying the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were disseminated and posted in downtown Davao City, putting activists at heightened risk.

Labor nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Nonoy Librado Development Foundation Inc. (NLDFI) have also been targeted. Staff residences were visited and their former executive director Emma Ricaforte was interrogated by NTF-ELCAC agents while showing her a list of human rights defenders to be summoned.

These attacks pose a severe threat to basic rights like freedom of association, expression and assembly guaranteed in the Philippine constitution and international human rights instruments that the government has ratified. They create an atmosphere of pervasive fear that aims to silence and criminalize any dissent or advocacy for workers’ rights.

Recommendations and Calls to Action

In light of these grave violations, we urgently appeal for concerted action and solidarity from the international community, human rights groups, labor unions, and all individuals who uphold democratic rights and human dignity:

1. Demand that Philippine authorities take all necessary measures to immediately locate William Lariosa, secure his safe release, and hold perpetrators accountable. His enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity.

2. Call on the Philippine government to dismantle the NTF-ELCAC, which has become a primary instigator of red-tagging and attacks on civil society activists, especially in rural and marginalized communities.

3. Urge investigations into the role of military and police elements involved in the harassment, intimidation, red-tagging and threats against labor organizers like Lariosa, Gumanoy, Olalo and others. Those responsible must face appropriate sanctions.

4. Press for legislation strengthening human rights protections and accountability mechanisms for attacked and threatened human rights defenders in the Philippines, in compliance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

5. Demand guarantees for the rights to freedom of association, assembly, expression and advocacy for workers’ rights, labor organizing and civil society activism without fear of reprisals.

We call on human rights organizations, labor unions, civil society groups and concerned individuals to:

· Issue statements and letters urging action on these demands to Philippine authorities

· Organize protests and awareness campaigns

· Publish statements of solidarity across websites and social media

· Initiate parliamentary questions and raise the issues in intergovernmental fora

Only through unified and sustained action can we secure justice for William Lariosa, protect labor rights activists facing escalating attacks, and uphold democratic rights and human dignity for all in the Philippines.