In the darkest time since the end of the dictatorship of President Marcos in 1986, the trade union movement in the Philippines has come together to fight to save democracy. Today, 30 November marks the most recent global union mobilisation. The action day shines a light on advancing despotism and calls on the Government of the Philippines to honour its international human rights commitments. The Council of Global Unions (CGU) has joined and supports their struggle.
For years, the Philippines has been and remains one of the ten worst countries for workers and trade unions as rated by the ITUC Global Rights Index. The Council of Global Unions (CGU) confirms that 46 trade unionists have been murdered by extra-judicial killings for their trade union work since the Duterte administration came to power in 2015. During the rule of President Duterte, there have been unrelenting attacks on trade unions, independent media and journalists, opposition politicians and human rights activists. Government authorities have orchestrated harassment, which often targets women and representatives of indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups, “red-tagging” and disinformation on social media. On this background, France Castro from the teachers' union ACT was awarded the "Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights" two years ago.
Detentions, arrests, trials based on fake evidence, and red tagging have accelerated. The body count of trade unionists, journalists, and human rights defenders continues to grow. Since Duterte came into power some 90 workers, human rights, land and local community activists have been extrajudicially murdered. With rare exceptions, these abuses take place with impunity. Dramatic examples of the clamp-down on the free press are the conviction of media CEO Maria Ressa for “cyber-libel” and the shutdown of ABS-CBN broadcasting. The manipulation of social media, however, obscure these human rights violations for much of the population.
Red-tagging is increasing. The practice of labelling individuals or groups as communists or terrorists, has resulted in threats and violence. In some cases, it has been, in effect, a death sentence. Already weak legal protections of human rights, including freedom of expression and association, suffered another blow with the adoption of the Anti-Terrorist Act in July. It broadened and made more arbitrary the existing legislation. It expands the definition of terrorism to chill dissent and opposition and allows detention without a warrant from three to fourteen days, renewable for another ten days. It is another instrument to terrorise those who dare to speak up and organise by accusing them of being terrorists.
We call on the Government of the Philippines to end its violations of human rights and re-join the family of democratic nations. Governments, individually and collectively, should make it clear that they will not condone Philippine government atrocities for favourable economic agreements, while corporations and economic employers should respect universal human rights standards in the country, including in their supply chains, and not take advantage of weaknesses in business processes and regulations.
Democracy is in critical condition in the Philippines, but not yet dead. That is because so many brave Filipinos are fighting for it. The people of the Philippines require and deserve global support and they need it urgently. This is a moment for governments supporting universal human rights to step forward and show that their commitments are not just words.
- Stop red-tagging against trade unions and civil society organisations and demand accountability for the extrajudicial killings!
- Repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act and the implementation regulations!
- Provide health security and safety at work for all!
- Provide job and income protection in public employment programs!
- Accept the ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines!
- Ratify ILO Convention No. 190 to eliminate violence and harassment at work!
- Call on the European Commission to initiate the GSP investigation of the Philippines on human and labour rights compliance!