Yesterday teacher unionist Zhaydee Cabañelez was gunned down by 4 masked men, leaving her in critical condition with two gunshot wounds in the chest and two on the feet. Cabañelez is an active member of this year's Svensson award winner France Castros's ACT teachers union. The number of violations and open hostility to some trade unions have increased under the Duterte administration. At least 43 killings of unionists are documented.
The vicious attack on Zhaydee Cabañelez happened around 8:00am, during the school’s flag ceremony at Dalet Elementary School in Barangay Lumbayao, Valencia City, Bukidnon, with several witnesses—including school children—around. Cabañelez is the 2016 Outstanding Teacher awardee in her community and is also a vigorous union member who have been campaigning for the advancement of the welfare of teachers and of the people.
Following months of profiling, red-tagging, vilification, threats, and harassment, ACT says in a statement that this as the worst attack yet on the union. It is worth noting that this strike comes at a time when teachers have been growing in strength and uniting en masse for a substantial salary increase.
ACT says further that the union "will not let Zhaydee be just another figure in the growing list of victims of violence, extrajudicial killings, and rights violation of Duterte’s state policy of killing the poor and the masses who are fighting for their rights. We call on DepEd to exhaust all measures to bring justice to Teacher Zhaydee and her family. We challenge Pres. Duterte who has made grand claims of his love for teachers as a son of one to address the growingly brazen attacks and worsening impunity in Mindanao since he put it under Martial Law. The wanton disregard for human lives under the Duterte administration must not be allowed to continue. It is our duty as educators to fight for human rights and human lives. We will forward our call for justice side-by-side our call for substantial salary increase as both are fights to defend life which is an utmost duty of educators."
Democratic space in the Philippines is shrinking in an attempt to silence critics and agents of change by cultivating a culture of fear. These incidents are happening not only in this city but systematically in the entire country. The number of violations and open hostility to some trade unions have increased. The ‘war on drugs’, responsible for a reported 27,000 extra-judicial killings, have given the military, police and others with vested interests the license to conduct executions with impunity. The government’s failure to reach a peace agreement with communist groups has heightened the attack against any groups considered to be leftist or a critique of the government. “Red tagging” of groups and individuals and alleged lists of targeted activists and organisations, are increasing threats to trade unionists and making it easier for hostile employers to undermine and threaten unions.