The Philippines launched guidelines for police and military to ensure the application of workers right to freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Department of National Defense (DND), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) launched the guidelines on 7 May 2012 at the Bayleaf, Intramuros, Manila. The guidelines define respective roles of police, military, local government officials including barangay tanods and security guards in concerted activities and other trade union activities.
The workers, employers, and various government bodies conceptualized and contributed to the contents of the guidelines, with the facilitation of the DOLE, with ILO technical assistance. The set of guidelines was not developed overnight and is a product of social dialogue in action. It went through thorough consultation in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao which provided opportunities for workers to surface their long-standing concerns on the conduct of the police, military, local government leaders and the barangay tanods and security guards during labour disputes and mass actions. Workers are hoping that the guidelines will end negative experiences they had in the past. This time, they would like to see the guidelines come to life through impact on the ground.
The guidelines specifies the role of key players and addresses human rights and workers’ rights, particularly the important issues raised by workers, including violence against unionists, presence of the military in (or near) the workplace, labeling, and stigmatization of unionists, and harassment. It provides for: complaints mechanisms and the opportunities for motu proprio investigations, the possible role of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC) to serve as an independent body to validate claims and regularly monitor cases at the regional level through the submission of quarterly reports.
Ms Karen Curtis, Deputy Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO based in Geneva, came to the Philippines to witness the launch. She recognized the enormous stride the Philippine government has taken since the High Level Mission in 2009, which gathered information on the Philippine’s application of the principles of freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. The Philippines has ratified the two key Conventions on this area: the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). The police and the military play an important role in the implementation of the guidelines.
Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of ILO Country Office for the Philippines, indicated that “freedom of association is possible if there is respect for civil liberties”. He further highlighted that the mandate of the police and military on peace and security are compatible with the concepts of freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, democracy, civil liberties and industrial peace based on social justice.
The guidelines are in place for labour disputes. In the meantime, settlement of disputes at lowest level and earliest possible time are very important, said DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz. The DOLE has taken an active role in facilitating the long process and discussions, leading to consensus among all parties concerned on the adoption of the guidelines.
The guidelines serve as a follow up to the Manifesto signed in July 2011 by the AFP and DOLE together with representatives of the labour sector, which agreed that all stakeholders must commit themselves to promote and protect human rights and workers’ rights in the pursuit of lasting peace based on social justice.