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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 530


Mr MILTON(7.51) —I would like to refer tonight to the background to the military investigation of Norma Pineda and Monica Gondo by the Philippines Constabulary. These two women, together with two others who are also officers of the union at the Judric Canning Co., a subsidiary of the Australian company Safcol in Manila, were invited to appear before a Constabulary Security Group in the interests of national security.

This procedure is highly threatening and intimidatory to these women for the following reasons: Firstly, a union organiser at this factory, Mr Ricardo Nolasco, was arrested by plain clothed military personnel in December 1981, held in communicado for two days and tortured with electric shocks and physical beatings and threats were made to his life. Secondly, during an industrial dispute earlier in 1983, military guards were placed at the Safcol factory and workers were concerned that any union organisers going there would be arrested. Thirdly, armed men in civilian clothes have been loitering in front of the residence of Norma Pineda in the weeks before and since the military investigations. Other men have escorted Monica Gondo from the factory to her home after work on several occasions. Fourthly, many other union organisers or activists in Manila have been assassinated or have disappeared over the last few years. Reputable human rights organisations in the Philippines, such as Task Force Detainees, and international groups such as Amnesty International have reported that most or all of these disappearances and assassinations are the work of the military forces of the Marcos Government.

Union organisers killed in or near Manila in the recent past include Ceferino Flores, an organiser at the Hotel Workers Union, who disappeared on 28 January 1983; Emiliano Pagino and Antonio Santa Anna, who were tortured and shot while in military custody on 5 July 1981-these two were union organisers in the Bataan export processing zone 80 kilometres from Manila; three union members of the National Association of Free Labour Unions employed at a Cosmos soft drink company at San Fernando, who disappeared in February 1983; and a union organiser for the Atlas Glove Co. at Cavite 50 kilometres from Manila, who was summarily executed in 1981.

This company is Australian owned and managed by a Mr Henry Kornfield. In addition, 35 union officials and members are on trial for the spurious charges of subversion and rebellion; 25 of them are in gaol and the rest are under house arrest. It is clear that the Constabulary Security Group regard the Safcol union board members as prominent union activists or organisers and that they do so in large part because of their role in an industrial dispute with the Safcol management earlier this year. As Safcol provoked the industrial dispute by its gross exploitation and has taken no steps to request the military forces to cease harassing its workers, it must bear partial responsibility for what has happened and what may happen in the future to these women.

The possible consequences of this attention from the Constabulary Security Group for the Safcol women workers are: Arrest, torture in a 'safe house' operated by the military and then summary execution; assassination by armed men outside their residences; arrest and a long period in prison on trumped-up charges of subversion; and arrest and detention for a short period as a further intimidation. International publicity may help to protect these women. Early this year a large number of Manila women journalists received similar invitations to assist the military in its investigations. These were highly publicised in the media and their effects rebounded on the military. I call on the Australian Government to ask the Australian embassy to make inquiries of Colonel Ishmael L. Rodrigo regarding the attentions that the security police have afforded to these two women. This may assist them in being released and prevent them from being murdered.