The international trade union movement will mobilise to stand with Filipino workers on 10 December. For the third consecutive year, the Council of Global Unions (CGU) has set Human Rights Day as a global day of action on the Philippines in order to highlight the human and trade union rights violations in the country. In total, 50 cases of extrajudicial killings of trade unionists have been committed under Duterte’s administration. Anyone speaking out for workers’ rights and unions remains at risk of being red-tagged as a communist insurgent. In 2019 the brave trade unionist France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson Prize.
On 30 November 2020, trade unions across the world called on the government of the Philippines to end impunity in relation to the extrajudicial killings of 43 trade unionists, to stop vilifying trade unionists, and to enforce the June 2019 conclusions of the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) regarding freedom of association in the Philippines. The government has been using the pandemic to justify inaction and has postponed an ILO high-level tripartite mission to the country.
884 days have passed, how many more?
Persecutions against trade unionists since 2019 have not stopped. During this time, seven trade unionists have been murdered, which means that, in total, 50 cases of extrajudicial killings of trade unionists have been committed under Duterte’s administration. As affirmed in the ILO’s virtual exchange on the Philippines conducted online in September this year, the government has not made any tangible progress and has institutionally failed to act on the 2019 CAS conclusions. The attacks on the exercise of the right to freedom of association have been systematic under the Anti-Terrorism Act adopted in 2020, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), championed by President Duterte, serves in practice to bust independent trade unionism.
According to the CGU Philippines, by now, 17 union leaders have been red-tagged by state security agents or the industrial police for leading trade union activities; 16 have been criminalised, with trumped-up charges; and 12 trade unionists remain incommunicado. Many more activists and teachers have been profiled for their activism. Home visits have been paid to union members by state agents and the police to force trade union disaffiliation. Not a single person responsible has been arrested, nor has any state official been held to account.
Within the context of the deplorable human and trade union rights records and the entrenched culture of impunity in the Philippines, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello was elected in June of this year to chair the government group of the ILO Governing Body. Secretary Bello pledges to reform the decision-making body of the ILO by bringing in the voice of the Philippines and small nations. But in the Philippines, anyone speaking out for workers’ rights and unions remains at risk of being red-tagged as a communist insurgent. In the ITUC’s 2021 Global Rights Index, the Philippines remains, for the fifth year in a row, one of the ten worst countries for workers to freely associate and to bargain collectively without fear and intervention.
On 10 December, the CGU Philippines will hold protest rallies in Manila to press the government to:
immediately consult with trade unions for a time-bound road map to implement the conclusions of the ILO virtual exchange report on the Philippines;
accept a high-level tripartite mission of the ILO to the Philippines, without delay, to enforce the conclusions of the 2019 CAS;
expedite the investigation of the extrajudicial killings of trade unionists and end impunity; and
commit, with concrete policies and practices, to ending the red-tagging of trade unionists and their legitimate activities.
The ITUC and the CGU will mobilise the international trade union movement to organise protests and solidarity actions. On the same day, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize will be presented to Maria Ressa, the CEO of Rappler, and the Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. The international trade union movement has condemned the multiple cyber-libel charges against Maria Ressa and her politically motivated arrest on 13 February 2020. Trade unions in the Philippines will celebrate her victory in defending the right to freedom of expression to expose the abuse of power and the state-sponsored use of violence and fake news under Duterte’s administration, and they will laud the bravery of journalists and trade unionists who speak up against authoritarianism.
What you can do:
Stage a protest outside the Philippines embassy in your country or organise virtual solidarity actions on 10 December.
Send a letter (here) to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, copy the Philippines embassy in your country, and also copy the ITUC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Promote the day of action with your affiliates and civil society networks.
Follow Maria Ressa and the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony live, 13:00 CET, 10 December 2021.