Planters control sugar workers’ votes, says labor leader

Published by rudy Date posted on May 8, 2010

BACOLOD CITY—SUGAR PLANTATION WORKERS in Negros Occidental are being harassed into voting for the choice candidates of planters in yet another manifestation of how slave-like the workers’ conditions are.

A labor leader in the province on Thursday said some planters are withholding the release of the workers’ rice subsidies until they voted for the planters’ selected candidates.

Allan Gozon, chair of the Democratic Association of Labor Organizations (Dalo), said at a press conference that some planters in EB Magalona and Silay City, who are campaigning for Arroyo presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro and gubernatorial candidate Rafael Coscolluela, were withholding the rice subsidies of their workers until after May 10.

No work subsidy

The sugar planters give rice subsidy to workers to help feed them during days when there’s no work in sugar farms. These subsidies would be later deducted from the workers’ wages.

Gozon said sugar planters were withholding the rice subsidy release to ensure that their workers would vote for the planters’ candidates.

Gozon appealed to planters to allow their workers to exercise their free will and vote for the candidates of their choice.

Eviction threats

“What they are doing is violating the democratic right of their workers to exercise their free will,” he said.

Gozon recalled that sugar planters used to threaten their workers with eviction if they failed to vote for the landowners’ candidates.

In the last two days, some landowners threatened to withhold the rice subsidy until the outcome of the elections were known, he said.

Gozon, however, refused to identify the planters, fearing retaliation on the workers.

Reached for comment, Coscolluela said he has not heard of such a practice. “That is hard to believe,” he said.

Not logical

Coscolluela said he did not see the logic in withholding rice subsidies. “What is logical is that if you release the rice you will get the support of the voters and not the other way around,” he said.

He said he would check, but that he believed it was just part of black propaganda.

Gov. Isidro Zayco, Lakas-Kampi-CMD chair in Negros Occidental, also said he was unaware of the non-release of rice subsidies as a leverage for planters to secure votes for their choice candidates.

“If ever that exists, it is a private decision of individuals. The Lakas-Kampi-CMD does not have anything to do with it,” Zayco said. –Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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