Labor Activist Cordero’s Arrest, Brazen Weaponization of the Law

Press Statement 
26 October 2022

Labor activist Cordero’s arrest, brazen weaponization of the law

Migrante International vehemently condemns the arrest of labor activist and former Overseas Filipino Worker who worked in the Middle East Banjo Cordero at around midnight in his house in Quezon City. 

Cordero is not in the sidelines of the struggles of workers and the urban poor, but at the forefront. He is chairperson of the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Quezon City, campaign officer of the Urban Poor Coordinating Council-NCR, and labor sector representative of the Quezon City Development Council. He attends meetings with workers, urban poor, fellow activists and other sectors of society in Metro Manila, maintains a Facebook account, and is highly visible to the public. 

The accusation that Cordero is involved in frustrated murder, as the warrant for his arrest states, is utterly unbelievable. The filing of said case, the court’s release of an arrest warrant, and Cordero’s arrest highlight the weaponization of the law against labor rights defenders and government critics. Happening to a labor leader in Metro Manila who has always been in the public’s eye, these attacks signal a new level of brazenness in the government’s campaign of repression.

Migrante International likewise condemns the inclusion of indigenous Dumagat leaders Danilo and Amor Acayen in the arrest warrant for Cordero, even as Amor already died of an illness in August 2022. The Acayen’s inclusion in the warrant further proves that the case is merely trumped-up and aims to harass human rights defenders and prevent them from carrying out their tasks. We believe Cordero’s claim that he does not even know the Acayens or any of his co-accused. 

Cordero’s arrest is the latest in a long string of attacks on the labor sector. Since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, 56 labor leaders and activists have been extrajudicially killed, many have been imprisoned, and 30 remain in jail to this day. Just a few weeks ago, labor activist Kara Taggaoa and transport leader Larry Valbuena were arrested because of trumped-up charges and were only freed when they posted bail.

The bail for Cordero and his fellow co-accused named in the warrant is a staggering PhP72,000. Trumped-up charges are costing activists and their supporters a lot of money that is better spent on basic needs amidst the skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services. 

Cordero’s arrest shows the further worsening, under the Bongbong Marcos presidency, of the government trend of seeking to silence activists and human rights defenders instead of addressing the valid issues that they raise alongside with grassroots sectors. Instead of addressing the issues that cause the peso to decline and improving services for OFWs, for example, the Philippines has just increased fees for consular services in the entire Eurozone. It has continued to neglect the more than 100 OFWs who recently surfaced as victims of human trafficking in Europe, the human trafficking victims among OFWs in Syria, and the OFW construction workers in Saudi Arabia claiming backwages and unpaid benefits. The government under Marcos Jr continues to treat OFWs as milking cows and commodities for export amidst the mix of crises battering the Philippines.###