A Catholic bishop warned against the possible impact of the implementation of the proposed anti-terror law on the country’s labor movement.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, head of the group Church People-Workers Solidarity, said the proposed bill will result in the “further criminalization of unionism” and “violations of labor rights.”
He said that it will also add to the burden of those who lost their jobs due to the economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In an online forum on July 2, the prelate also noted that several union leaders “have been killed, arrested, or silenced for asserting their rights.”
He said the proposed law can be used to “further suppress” labor leaders and trade unions that have been recently tagged as communist fronts.
Bishop Alminaza said that out of the 318 victims of extrajudicial killings since July 2016, at least 50 of whom were workers and unionists.
In June, the International Trade Union Confederation listed the Philippines as one of the ten worst countries for workers for the fourth consecutive year.
In its Global Rights Index report, the confederation said union members in the country “were particularly at risk of violence, intimidation and murder.”
The report noted “an increasing number” of trade unionists who were arrested in their homes and charged on dubious grounds, such as illegal possession of firearms.
Lawyer Fudge Tajar of the Labor Rights Defenders Network, said the right to strike is “one of the most violated” labor rights in the country.
“Workers exercising their right to strike are threatened with trumped-up charges, intimidation, summary dismissal, or worse, they are being killed,” she said.
Tajar warned that the bill, if passed into law, can be used as a weapon to silence workers and trade unions and further suppress their rights to stage a strike.
Bishop Alminaza said the government and the public “have the responsibility to promote the protection” of labor rights and the well-being of workers.
“No law that threatens these basic rights, which are guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution, should be enacted or justified,” he said.
The prelate called on church institutions and other sectors to “take the perspective of the poor workers and the victims of oppression.”
“The situation of our workers and the condition of human rights in the country challenge us how to respond to the call to aid the underserved and those who are neglected,” he said.
“Church people have to assume the sufferings and pains of the working people,” the prelate said. “Contemplate on the very painful reality particularly in the situation of our workers,” he added.
The prelate urged the government to “rethink its plans” and “scrap the bill that will only create more problems than solutions to the condition of human rights in the country.”