Statement on ILO’s High-Level Mission in the Philippines: Support workers’ demands for rights, justice, and accountability

Statement on ILO’s High-Level Mission in the Philippines: Support workers’ demands for rights, justice, and accountability

We urge the ILO High-Level Mission to uphold the rights of Filipino workers, and to work closely with unions, labour groups, and advocates to come up with recommendations in protecting and promoting the right to organise and freedom of association, as workers continue to assert and defend their economic rights.

IBON International joins social movements and civil society in welcoming the International Labour Organisation’s High-Level Tripartite Mission (ILO HLTM) in the Philippines on 23-27 January 2023. The ILO HLTM will investigate labour rights violations in the country following complaints submitted by unions, labour groups, and advocates who highlighted violations of ILO Convention No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, which the Philippine government ratified in 1953. The ILO is the UN agency that sets international labour standards, and develops policies to promote decent work.

We join unions, labour groups, and advocates in their calls for justice and accountability especially for the killings of 56 unionists, labour leaders, and workers under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. We call on the ILO HLTM to investigate these cases and exact accountability from state perpetrators. The ILO HLTM complements other international efforts such as the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs for crimes against humanity.

We join labour groups in holding the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) accountable for systematic attacks against workers and unions. Instituted by the Duterte administration as a counterinsurgency measure and continued under the current administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the agency has legitimised and intensified rights violations against activists and their organisations.

In northeastern Mindanao, state forces intimidate workers as a way of union busting, causing local unions to dwindle from 21 to 4. The police and military hounded workers in their homes to force them to withdraw from progressive labour formations such as Kilusang Mayo Uno, and even set up a security detachment in their workplace, such as the case in a palm oil plantation.[1]

Early in January, labour rights advocates Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha were abducted in broad daylight in Cebu province, and were subjected to psychological torture. They were eventually found through the collective efforts of relatives, people’s organisations, and support from the public. Long-time union organisers Alipio “Ador” Juat and Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua who were abducted by state forces in Manila last May 2022 remain missing.

Impunity prevails. The justice department recently dismissed the murder complaint filed against police officers over the killing of trade union leader Manny Asuncion who was among the nine activists murdered by state forces in March 2021. While Asuncion’s assailants and other state perpetrators got off scot-free, twenty-seven trade unionists and labour rights advocates are still detained on trumped-up charges. The dire situation of workers in the Philippines has placed it in the top ten worst countries for workers in the International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index for the past five years.

We join unions, labour groups, and advocates in their calls for justice and accountability especially for the killings of 56 unionists, labour leaders, and workers under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. We call on the ILO to investigate these cases and exact accountability from state perpetrators.

IBON International affirms the importance of upholding workers’ rights to organise and collectively mobilise to fight for living wages, better working conditions, and other policy shifts to address the immediate needs of the poor and marginalised. While the Marcos-Duterte administration has failed to address peoples’ needs and welfare amid surging prices of food and living costs, unions and labour advocates have been steadfast on their long-standing demands for tenure security and a national minimum wage to enable workers and their families to meet day-to-day expenses.

We urge the ILO HLTM to uphold the rights of Filipino workers, and to work closely with unions, labour groups, and advocates to come up with recommendations in protecting and promoting the right to organise and freedom of association, as workers continue to assert and defend their economic rights. #

[1] https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2023/01/15/2237796/workers-hopeful-ilo-visit-will-lead-better-environment-labor-unions

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