Marcos issues EO creating body to probe killings, harassment of workers | Inquirer News

Marcos issues EO creating body to probe killings, harassment of workers

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. STORY: Marcos issues EO creating body to probe killings, harassment of workers

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (File photo from PNA)

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has created a presidential body, as recommended by an International Labor Organization (ILO) fact-finding mission that visited the country in January, to address the spate of killings and harassment of trade unionists during the Duterte administration.

“He signed an executive order yesterday in response to the recommendations of the ILO high-level tripartite mission [HLTM] that included a [suggestion] to create a presidential mandated body to look into the complaints of labor leaders and other workers with regard to freedom of association,” Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma told reporters on Sunday after the president attended a job fair at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.


Laguesma said the panel would draft measures to address “complaints” stated in the ILO mission’s report. “And we hope that this [executive order] is the beginning of the concerted actions and efforts of our government to address the long-standing issues related to the freedom of association,” he added.


But he also noted that resolving these issues would take time.

“We can’t have the solution tomorrow or next week. These are issues for the past 15 years that have been there when we assumed office. We will not point fingers at who is at fault but we will look into that,” he said.

56 unionists killed

The ILO mission to the Philippines was organized during the annual International Labor Conference in 2019 to investigate the killings of at least 56 union leaders and numerous incidents of violence and intimidation by state forces against workers during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under the Marcos administration, the ILO mission was allowed to visit the country from Jan. 23 to 27 to see if the government fulfilled its obligations under international labor conventions—specifically ILO Convention No. 87, on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize.

Among other suggestions, it called for the formation of a presidential commission to investigate extrajudicial killings of workers and ensure freedom of association.

“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 extrajudicial killings and abductions,” the ILO mission said in its report.


Under Executive Order No. 23, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers would be chaired by the executive secretary, with the labor secretary as co-chair.

Its members would come from the Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade and Industry, National Security Council and Philippine National Police.

Among the committee’s functions would be to consolidate and evaluate all comprehensive reports that contain findings and recommendations by concerned agencies to be submitted to the president; and develop a roadmap containing the priority areas of action, tangible deliverables, clear responsibilities, and appropriate time frames, consistent with the recommendations of the ILO mission.

“The roadmap shall be subject to regular review and should consider the consolidated reports and recommendations from the concerned agencies and inputs from other relevant stakeholders,” the EO said.

‘Bloody Sunday’ raids

In February last year, the ILO released its report on the state of labor standards in various countries, with its committee of experts on the application of conventions and recommendations urging the Philippines to investigate and punish those behind the attacks on unionists.

Then Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III assured the labor organization that cases on trade union rights violations had been filed or were being investigated by the government.

He said at least 60 cases of extrajudicial killings and attempted murders were being monitored by the national and regional tripartite monitoring bodies of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Of that number, 20 were pending before courts while the rest were undergoing regular criminal investigation.

In the so-called “Bloody Sunday” raids in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal provinces in March 2021, Emmanuel Asuncion, a mass organizer of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Cavite, was shot dead by policemen as they were serving a search warrant at the group’s Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas City.

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Also killed during the raids were brothers Abner and Edward Esto, Mark Lee Bacasno and Michael Dasigao, all of San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan; fisherfolk couple Chai and Ariel Evangelista of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan; and cousins Puroy and Randy dela Cruz, both rights advocates of farmers and indigenous groups.



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TAGS: Bienvenido Laguesma, Department of Labor and Employment, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., harassment of workers

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