ILO-HLTM backs proposal for creation of Palace body on workers’ rights


The International Labour Organization-High Level Tripartite Mission (ILO-HLTM) has adopted the proposal of local labor groups for the creation of a new Palace body for the promotion of Freedom of Association (FOA).

In a news conference on Friday at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Quezon City, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) deputy secretary general Joanna Bernice Coronacion reported that members of the mission made the announcement during the presentation of their preliminary recommendation to government, employers and labor representatives last Thursday, Jan. 26.

During the said briefing, the ILO-HLTM recommended the creation of a “presidentially mandated body” to identify and address all outstanding cases of alleged labor-related extra judicial killings (EJK) and abductions.

Coronacion said the proposed commission would greatly help in addressing labor rights-related violations, which may have to be addressed by the government.

Based on the monitoring of the Associated Workers Union (AWU), there are 70 recorded pending cases of killings of trade unionists as of Jan. 25, 2023.

“During the investigation (of the ILO-HLTM)…the existing mechanism (to address FOA-related violations) were insufficient because in 2009 when the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council and Monitoring Body (NTIPC-MB) was formed, the group lacked resources and funds,” Coronacion said.

The NTIPC-MB was created to look into FOA through the ILO-HLTM, which was deployed in the country in 2009.

Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Sonny Matula said they had already drafted an executive order (EO) for the creation of the proposed commission, which they will submit to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for his consideration.

The labor leader said they are hopeful the President will implement the ILO-HLTM recommendation since both the labor sector and employers jointly support it.

The other recommendations of the ILO-HLTM is for the government to prioritize investigations and prosecution of people behind FOA violations; as well as providing access to victims and their families of such violations to “publicly funded compensation.”

Meanwhile, the critical findings of the mission include the government “mindset linking parts of the trade union movement to the insurgency, without due process of law leading to wrongly linking trade union activity to law breaking and overthrowing the state; a climate of impunity/no accountability; and impeding workers from exercising their rights free of fear.”

The government will be required to give updates on their compliance to the recommendations of the ILO-HLTM before or during the 2023 International Labour Conference (ILC) on June 5, 2023.

Failure on the part of the government to implement the recommendations of the ILO-HLTM, Coronacion cautioned, may send a “bad signal” to labor groups and to the international community that the state is not serious in addressing labor rights violations.

This in turn, she said, could prompt the United States and the European Union (EU) to revoke or no longer renew the country’s inclusion in their respective General System of Preferences (GSP).

The GSPs are agreements, which exempt tariffs on Philippine exports in the markets of the US or EU.

FFW President Emeritus Allan Montaño said the government would also run the risk of being called out at ILO Committee on the Applications of Standards if the government ignores the ILO-HLTM proposals.

As of this writing on Friday, Malacañang has yet to react on the preliminary recommendations of the ILO-HLTM.

Labor and Employment Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma deferred any comment on the said recommendations.

“(I) will reserve my comment/reaction [until] when we are officially given copy of their final report,” Laguesma told the BusinessMirror in via text message.

ILO is expected to come out with the official report of ILO-HLTM by the end of next month.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Elmer Labog, for his part, said labor groups would be intensifying their calls to President Marcos to implement the ILO-HLTM recommendations in the coming weeks.

“We need to intensify our call to the Executive Department or President Marcos on the findings and conclusions and recommendations of the Mission, which includes a review of the counter insurgency policies,” Labog said.

“We are giving the President 129 days before the Philippine government reports to the ILO on June 5, 2023 at the ILC (International Labour Conference) to answer the call of workers and address the recommendation of the ILO-High Level Tripartite Mission,” he added.

AWU is a broad coalition of private and public sector unions, including SENTRO, FFW,  KMU,  Trade Union Congress of the Philippines; the Philippine affiliates of global union federations—Building and Woodworkers International, Education International, IndustriALL, International Transport Federation, International Union of Food, Public Services International, UNI-Philippine Liaison Council, Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, All Workers Unity, United Labor, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan, among others.