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TUCP welcomes Presidential Human Rights Super Body; calls to prioritize labor rights as human rights

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - TUCP

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) welcomes Administrative Order No. 22, s. 2024 issued by President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., creating the Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination, as a game-changing step to correct and address the dark history of Philippine human rights violations largely inherited from the errors and biases of previous Administrations. With this new Committee, the TUCP is hopeful that the President’s leadership recognizes that human rights violations have no place in a modern and modernizing Bagong Pilipinas. We trust that the Presidential imprimatur creating the human rights ‘super body’ will ensure that rampant human rights violations will be a thing of the past, and that a truly genuine whole-of-society response, including that from trade unions and civil society, will jumpstart accountability measures, ensuring justice for all, especially for the victims of human rights violations.

As the largest labor center in the country, the TUCP trusts that the Special Committee will also prioritize looking into the climate of impunity pervading the exercise of workers’ rights in the country. The United Nations agency International Labour Organization (ILO) already conducted three missions to the Philippines, the last in January 2023, which reiterated persistent violation of fundamental labor conventions, especially freedom of association. For nearly a decade, the Philippines has been one of the top ten worst countries for workers due to rampant freedom of association violations and violence, even abductions and killings of trade unionists.

The TUCP has long warned the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that all these unaddressed issues and their inaction on long-pending reforms in the labor front will jeopardize our common aim of generating more and better investments through the tireless promotion by President Marcos himself on the global stage as international trade instruments and foreign investments are tied to ensure greater respect for human rights and labor rights, such as Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), US GSP, EU GSP+, and free trade agreements.

Yet, even if the whole world knows that labor rights are human rights, it is unfortunate that the Labor Secretary not only failed to mirror the President’s human rights-centered leadership but even misled His Excellency in issuing Executive Order No. 23, s. 2023 establishing the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers without prior tripartite consultation, without tripartite representation in that body, and without the special investigation and prosecution powers that the “single presidentially mandated body”, recommended by the 2023 ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM), should have to end, once and for all, the long dark history of labor rights violations in the Philippines.

The TUCP hopes that the Presidential Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination, headed by no less than Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, will lead the way in institutionalizing inclusive social dialogue among all stakeholders beyond the Government, such as with civil society, and in ending senseless violence and hostile political profiling at a time when the Labor Secretary choose to downgrade the Administration’s response to the recommendations of the ILO to uphold the fundamental rights of every worker particularly, the right to organize, and in ending the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.

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