Various trade unions in the country supported the recommendation of a United Nations agency to establish a Presidential Commission to address EJKs of workers and to promote freedom of association.
The recommendation was forwarded by the International Labor Organization-High-Level Tripartite Mission (ILO-HLTM) to representatives of the Philippine government, employees, and workers, during its recent visit to the country.
The HLTM is an independent three-person body composed of one representative each from governments, workers and employers. It was created at the annual International Labor Conference (ILC) in 2019 in view of long-standing issues raised against the Philippine government, ranging from allegations of extra-judicial killings, violence, intimidation, and red-tagging to harassment committed by state authorities against workers while exercising their trade union rights. The 2019 ILC recommended the sending of an ILO HLTM to the Philippines.
The ILO-HLTM has mainly recommended that “a single presidentially mandated body should be established and empowered to comprehensively identify and address through a specified plan of action, including time frames, resources and accountability, all outstanding cases of alleged labor-related EJKs and abductions.”
It added that “the priority emphasis should be on criminal investigation and prompt and accountable prosecution.”
Labor leaders led by Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to address the ILO recommendation. “With the ILO HLTM’s emphasis on presidential action and the creation of a presidential body to address the EJKs of workers and to promote freedom of association, the ball is clearly in the court of President Bongbong Marcos Jr.,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).
The creation of a Presidential Commission is one of the principal recommendations contained in the “Joint Report of Trade Unions to the ILO HLTM” prepared by the Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Philippine affiliates, United Labor and All Workers Unity (AWU), among others.
The ILO HLTM sought the truth behind the reported killings of more than 70 Filipino trade union leaders and organizers, as well as other forms of violence and harassment experienced by workers and their organizations.
The killings and harassments, as reported by Philippine trade unions to the ILO, were in clear violation of ILO Convention 87 on the protection of the rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The UN labor body also said that there are severe and long standing cases (violations of ILO C. 87), very little policy and legislation taken (to stop the killings and make Philippine law and policy compliant to ILO C. 87), and insufficient utilization of genuine tripartism.
Workers are optimistic that should the recommendations of the ILO HLTM be adopted by government it could significantly reduce, if not finally put a stop to the killings, enforced disappearances, abductions, illegal arrests and detention and other forms of threats, harassment and intimidation faced by workers.
The ILO HLTM has tasked government to report progress on its recommendations by the time the 111st International Labour Conference (ILC) comes to session on June 5 of this year.
In an unprecedented show of unity, trade unions from various formations came out with one voice and came up with a joint report for the ILO HLTM. Among the trade union centers and major labor federations coming together for the Report were ITUC affiliates the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP); the Philippine affiliates of global union federations—Building and Woodworkers International, Education International, IndustriALL, international Transport Federation, International Union of Food, Public Services International, UNI-Philippine Liaison Council, Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, All Workers Unity, United Labor, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan and many more.
Trade unions also sought the support of employers for their recommendations, leading to the release of a joint statement of workers and employers composed of ECOP, PCCI and PhilExport in support of freedom of association, speedy investigation of the killings and strengthen of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council – Monitoring Body (NTIPC-MB).
The ILO HLTM is composed of the government representative of Sweden, The employer representative from Australia, and the workers representative from Fiji .