Uphold Workers’ Right to Free Association!
Junk Anti-Labor Policies of the Arroyo Regime!
Speech at the National Tripartite Conference
Dec. 2, 2009
Coming from the conduct of the ILO High-level Mission last September, this national tripartite conference provides us a venue to briefly share our assessment of the mission and the government’s response. Generally, we view the mission as a landmark in terms of international response and action on the worsening trade union situation in the country. Its outcome, however, has yet to be tested. The findings have yet to be formally released.
Because the ILO representatives’ statement after the mission implicitly points to the Arroyo government as responsible for the attacks against the trade union movement, it encourages us, and most especially the families of slain workers, to look forward to a stronger condemnation of these violations and of the Arroyo regime in its final report which will be released in March 2010. It also encourages us to look forward to stronger and more fool-proof recommendations from the Mission in that important and historical report.
It is important to note that even after the conduct of the ILO High-level Mission, violations of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association or C87 and Collective Bargaining or C98 persist. Workers continue to experience harassment by the military. Factories and workplaces remain militarized, concrete examples of which are the Robina Farms and Console Farms in Rizal. We have also noted the continuing anti-union campaign in DOLE Philippines, wherein a documentary versus unionism is being circulated in CD format. Recently, another labor organizer was harassed to death by agents of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines. Danilo Belano has become the 93rd victim of trade union repression under the Arroyo regime. Clearly, these continuing cases of trade union repression bolster our demand to the international community to impose more severe sanctions on the Arroyo administration.
We have always been clear and firm on our recommendations to the ILO: 1) Recommend economic and political sanctions to the Arroyo government as it is found liable for the worsening trade union situation in the country 2) Pressure the government, through the Commission on Human Rights, to prosecute government officers who are liable for the attacks against unionists 3) Urge the Philippine Government to junk its counter-insurgency program, which has been proven as the root of the violations.
It should be recognized by this tripartite conference that tripartism will never work out if the Arroyo government keeps its anti-labor stance and policies at its core. The Assumption of Juridiction order, which has been used to justify bloody preemptive response to organized actions of workers, remains as the deadly prerogative of the labor secretary versus trade unions. For the longest time, is is the government that has failed to respect and fully implement the ILO conventions. Unless the government scraps its anti-union policies and ensure speedy prosecution of violators, unionists will always be vulnerable to repression. Workshops, technical cooperation programs and conferences like this will eventually come to naught if criminals liable for the violations remain scot-free.
If the Arroyo regime keeps its anti-labor and anti-people policies intact, a body that will monitor adherence to ILO Conventions will merely become a dumping ground of cases, which the government will use to say that things are being done to resolve violations of the Convention.
Thus, it is highly necessary for the ILO to categorically hold the Arroyo adminstration and the institutions under it liable for the continuing attacks against the trade union movement. The recent death of another labor organizer highlights such need, because it proves that the government is unrepentant for its violations. Likewise, we demand the Arroyo government to stop playing with cosmetic measures in addressing the continuing violence against unionists. Social dialogue can never put the issue of trade union repression to rest. What the government must do is to face squarely its liability on the extrajudicial killings and harassment of workers by the armed forces. If it is really sincere in ending trade union repression, it should abolish policies and privileges which imperil trade unionism like the Assumption of Jurisdiction order.
Even with next year’s release of final report on the ILO mission, we vow to continue our crusade for justice and protection of workers. And we do believe that the only way to serve justice to all the victims of trade union repression is to punish the criminal, rather than treat her and her regime as if they are innocent. #