The International Labor Organization’s High Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines started its investigation into the situation of Filipino workers on Monday, January 23.
“We will fully cooperate with the ILO mission team, and expect the Philippine government to do the same,” said Elmer Labog, chairperson of the workers’ group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
“What we want is the protection of our Constitutional right to freedom of association,” said Labog as he called for an end to killings and the resolution of cases of rights violations.
“This requires policy changes from the government, which is why we also urge the ILO to call the attention of the [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. administration on these violations,” said the labor leader.
Rep. Fidel Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment in Congress, assured that the government “is very much open to address the concerns of labor groups.”
He said the ILO mission would “greatly” help legislators craft laws beneficial to workers, adding that the investiation will “greatly aid us in coming up with legislation that would strengthen” the rights of workers.
Kalikasan-PNE, a coalition of pro-environment groups, welcomed the investigation, saying that “environmentalists are not only concerned about protecting the environment for future generations, but also the rights of workers and other sectors of society to organize for climate and social justice.”
Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said workers “have an important role to play in ensuring the just transition necessary to tackle climate change.”
The concept of “just transition” has become a central topic in climate change discussions as it tackles the need to address human rights issues that are affecting workers.
In its statement, Kalikasan PNE noted that agricultural workers, in particular, also play the role of “land defenders.”
“When agricultural workers organize themselves against huge agribusiness corporations, they are also fighting against the environmentally destructive practices of these agribusinesses,” said Bonifacio.
Bonifacio said groups under Kalikasan PNE are hopeful that the ILO mission will live up to its mission and come up with findings that will protect the Filipino workers’ rights.
The ILO High Level Tripartite Mission takes place from January 23 to 26.
The Philippines ratified ILO Convention No. 87, or the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, in December 1953.
The ILO Committee on the Application of Standards had previously called on the Philippine government to accept the mission during the 108th Session of the International Labor Conference in June 2019 after noting “with concern the numerous allegations of murders of trade unionists and anti-union violence as well as the allegation regarding the lack of investigation in relation to these allegations.”
Meanwhile, the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations urged the Philippine government to investigate and punish those behind the attacks on unionists in its latest annual report in February 2022.
The report cited the alleged extrajudicial killing of 10 trade unionists; at least 17 cases of arrest and detention after a police dispersal, and raids on unionists’ homes and offices from November 2020 to March 2021; 17 cases of “red-tagging” and harassment, including against leaders of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Philippine National Police Non-Uniformed Personnel Association Inc. and other workers’ organizations; and 12 cases of forced disaffiliation campaigns and seminars, including for public school teachers, beverage workers and palm oil plantation workers. – with a report from the Philippine News Agency