Who is detained trade unionist Bob Reyes?

Si Juan Alexander 'Bob Reyes'. Kinuha mula sa Facebook page ng Karapatan Metro Manila.

Juan Alexander ‘Bob’ Reyes was walking home from a meeting with a workers organization when he was abducted by plainclothesmen on June 2. Hours after, his family found him detained in Camp Crame and accused of crimes he did not commit.

Who is Bob Reyes and why would the state go through such lengths to silence his activism?

From student leader to labor organizer

Reyes is a father of three, a loving husband, and a good son. According to his mother, he was an honor student when he was in secondary school. A talented and smart child as told by his siblings. When he was in college, he became the chairperson of League of Filipino Students – University of the East Caloocan Chapter and later on, the chairperson of the university’s progressive student party, Tinig ng Silangan Party Alliance. The school served as his training ground in becoming an effective organizer.

After serving quite some time in the youth and student movement, he volunteered to work for Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) where his skill in organizing developed even more. The years he spent as a student activist made him keen to the conditions of government employees. Eventually, he became an esteemed and effective leader. No wonder why he experienced a series of harassment by fascist state forces.

Later on, he decided to shift from the public to the private sector. He became a convener of Defend Job Philippines and a leader of Sandigan ng Manggagawa sa Quezon City where he organized workers in their struggle against contractualization and fight for higher wages. He assisted the illegally dismissed workers of Pearl Islands Corporation who are currently on strike.

Reyes is now facing trumped-up charges of arson in Agusan del Sur, a place he never visited, and illegal possession of firearms and explosives in Quezon City.

Like all political prisoners, charges against Reyes are baseless and farcically fabricated. This old and continuing practice to criminalize and malign activism shows how desperate Duterte is in consolidating his fascist dictatorship.

Dismay turned to rage

The imprisonment of Reyes is a state offensive against the workers’ struggle to end all forms of contractualization and their campaign for wage increase. It is obvious that after the ‘Endo’ Executive Order 51 fiasco, the dismay of workers turned into rage which revitalized the labor movement. The increasing crackdown against unionists and activists is a vain attempt to inculcate fear and pacify the clamor of the poor and working masses  a concrete manifestation of an undeclared Martial Law.

This Marcosian strategy takes its toll in the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF). Instead of discussing workers’ plight and struggles as one of the main topics in the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms, the government circumvents the issue by maliciously accusing the opposite party of “consolidating” its forces.

Government insincere about peace

Recently, the fifth round of the talks was stalled for the second time. According to the GRP panel, they are waiting for a “conducive environment” for the talks to continue. Duterte, on the other hand, demands that the talk should take place in the Philippines and paid for and managed by the the government he represents, which violates previously signed agreements by both parties that all negotiations, formal and informal, should be mediated by a third party.

This on-and-off resumption of peace talks speaks for itself  that the GRP doesn’t want to tackle the substantial agenda proposed by the NDF to alleviate the conditions of the poor and marginalized which is first and foremost the reason why there is a revolution in the countryside and protests in the cities.

If they are seriously committed to peace and demand an enabling environment for the talks, all political prisoners must be released immediately and granted general amnesty since all of the cases filed against them are trumped-up and baseless.

Ending ‘Dutertyranny’

In the midst of Duterte’s increasingly atrocious tyrannical rule and in time for Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address, Karapatan – Metro Manila encourages all progressive individuals and organizations to unite and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners through general amnesty, especially the elderly, sickly, women, and the youth, who were falsely accused of crimes they did not commit; and the resumption of peace talks, which will bring about the genuine and necessary change for the betterment of society in all aspects.

The people must strengthen their ranks and intensify the struggle for their rights and to end what is dubbed as ‘Dutertyranny’ to once and for all, establish a peaceful society based on justice.

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