An alliance of major labor unions in the Philippines, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition (NLC), criticized the lack of responsibility of the President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government to protect the rights of workers. The groups expressed that their freedom of association and right to organize are being restricted. Moreover, the NLC denounced that a recent government inter-agency body or task force created under Executive Order No. 23 to investigate labor rights violations against trade unionists did not provide for workers’ participation.
The severity of the threat situation of activists in the Philippines is underscored by the recent unlawful arrest of 75-year-old Adolfo “Tatay Opong” Salas Sr, a former land rights activist, on May 25, 2023, in Bohol. Salas was arrested by police for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Salas’ family affirmed that the charges are fabricated and evidence was planted on Salas by the police.
The human rights organization Karapatan Central Visayas and other labor unions condemned Salas’ arrest, saying it was another attack on the rights of land and labor activists. As recently as April 2023, labor rights activist Alex Dolorosa of the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry Employee’s Network Pilipinas was found stabbed to death in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.
Due to the numerous human rights violations, All Philippine Trade Unions (APTU) warned that EU trade preferences enjoyed by the Philippines under the Generalized Schemes of Preferences Plus (GSP+) could be withdrawn in the next cycle due to further serious human rights violations.
According to a study by the non-governmental organization Civic Futures, an engaged civil society and various forms of activism ensure that shrinking civil society spaces remain animated.
According to NLC, so-called “red-tagging” (i.e. falsely accusing invidivduals of supporting the communist insurgency) is the greatest issue for labor rights activists of becoming victims of threats or even extrajudicial killings.
Photo © Raffy Lerma