The government upholds its policy to promote and protect the Filipino workers' rights including their right to organize as evidenced by 362 new labor unions and workers' associations with 15,774 members that have registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) from January to April this year.
This developed as Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque exhorted militant groups to refrain from muddling the issue on the objective of the mission of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the country. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), in particular, has been raising issues that are outside the ILO review of matters relating to the application in law and practice of the right to freedom of association and the workers' right to organize.
Roque also said that based on a report from the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), the newly organized labor organizations bring to 34,320 the total number of existing unions/collective bargaining agreements which have registered with the DOLE. These unions, he said, have members totaling to 2.6 million.
He said the DOLE relentlessly conducts labor education seminars to educate labor and management on their rights and responsibilities as the government under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo remains committed to promote and protect labor rights which are essentially human rights.
He said the promotion and protection of human rights is a matter of national policy, adding the government has fulfilled its international obligations to protect human rights with its abolition of the death penalty and the ratification of 12 human rights treaties.
Undersecretary Romeo C. Lagman, in a statement, also said that The Philippines adopts and adheres to th principles of freedom of association and respects the rights of workers to organize. In fact, the Philippines joined the first 11 countries that ratified ILO Convention No. 87 in 1953, just three years after the Convention came into force in 1950.
He said the Philippine Constitution is explicit in declaring the State policy to guarantee the right of all workers to self-organization as embodied in Convention 87. The Labor Code breathes life into this State policy.
Lagman, thus, vehemently denied that there pervades in the country a grand design to suppress freedom of association and the right to organize.
He cited the KMU which lodged a complaint before the ILO's Committee of Freedom of Association on allegations of violations of Convention 87. In its complaint, it claims it has expanded and raised its membership to 300,000 workers since its foundation in 1980.
The Undersecretary said the KMU membership would not have risen had there been an active design to suppress it and its legitimate activities.
The complaint indicated that it is couched in both generalized and unsubstantiated allegations. For instance, of the 39 reported killings, 26 are clearly not labor-related because circumstances attendant to the killings show these to be common crimes. The complaint also contains no allegation that the victims were killed for specific trade union activities or related to a labor dispute.
"There is no climate of impunity that pervades in the country allegedly affecting the free exercise of trade union rights," Lagman said.
He said the government has accepted the request of ILO for it to conduct a mission to identify gaps in law and practice in the country's application of Convention 87 as a demonstration of its earnestness to uphold workers rights.
He said the government is prepared to engage the Mission in a constructive spirit for the formulation of a joint action aimed at improving the Convention's application in the country.