ILO seeks PH gov’t action on ‘labor-related’ EJKs, abductions
The International Labour Organization (ILO) asked the Philippine government to initiate the filing of criminal charges and ensure the speedy resolution of cases of unresolved extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and disappearances of workers.
The organization made the call after a four-day investigation by the ILO high-level tripartite mission into alleged labor violations in the country.
In its preliminary recommendations presented before government officials, employers and labor groups on Thursday, the fact-finding mission urged the government to form a presidential body that would identify unresolved labor issues, including the killings, arrests and abductions of labor leaders and organizers.
Ensuring workers’ protection
“A single presidentially mandated body should be established and empowered to comprehensively … address through a specified plan of action, including time frames, resourcing and accountability, all outstanding cases of alleged labor-related EJKs and abductions,” said the mission.
It stressed that “priority emphasis should be on criminal investigation and prompt and accountable prosecution,” adding that this would be the “urgent function” of the proposed presidential body.
The mission also urged strengthening the role of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council-Monitoring Body, the policy-making body of the Department of Labor and Employment on labor concerns, to ensure the safety of trade unions and protect their right to associate.
It then tasked the government to act on its recommendations and submit a report by June 5, or when the 111th International Labour Conference convenes.
Formed in 2019, the ILO mission visited the country to look into reported violations against some 70 Filipino trade union leaders and organizers who were killed, arrested, harassed and Red-tagged during the Duterte administration.
The members, composed of Thomas Janson from Sweden representing the government sector; Felix Anthony from Fiji for the workers sector; and Scott Barklamb from Australia for the employers sector, met with labor, employers and government agencies from Jan. 23 to Jan. 26.
Labor groups optimistic
“The mindset linking parts of trade union movement to the insurgency without due process of law [has] wrongly linked trade union activity to law-breaking and overthrowing the state,” noted the mission.
Red-tagging of labor unions, it added, has led to a “climate of impunity and [zero] accountability” and has prevented workers from exercising their rights “free of fear.”
Labor organizations Federation of Free Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa welcome the mission’s preliminary findings.
In their joint statement on Friday, the labor groups expressed “great satisfaction” over the mission’s conclusions and recommendations.
They also called on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to act on the findings, saying: “The ball is clearly in the court” of Mr. Marcos to address the EJKs and promote the freedom of association among workers.
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