The BWI has condemned increasing aggression against the trade union movement in the Philippines, which has resulted in a number of recent deaths as well as mass arrests. This includes the killing of a Department of Labor and Employment field officer Helen Dacanay by unidentified assailants in Manila on Monday and simultaneous mass arrests of trade unionists in Bacolod City and Negros.
Dacanay was rushed to hospital however was declared dead on arrival. Police are investigating the incident, and Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has condemned the killing, urging police to arrest those responsible.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these actions and demand an immediate investigation to ensure that justice is done,” said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “Our work as trade unionists defending workers’ rights is critical to addressing the chronic inequality that plagues our society, and we must ensure that those people doing this work are safe at all times. This aggression by the Duterte Government must end.”
The raids in Bacolod City, which were carried out on the pretense of search warrants issued in Quezon City (some 700 km away on a different island), took place simultaneously at the offices of progressive labour and women’s organisations. Fifty-seven leaders and members were arrested, and some were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The organizations have vehemently denied these charges.
Just last month two members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers were shot while on school grounds. While Ramil Cabañelez was unscathed, his wife Zhaydee was struck by six bullets. She was carried to a hospital; however, union representatives who wanted to visit her were denied entry by eight armed officers guarding her room.
At a June 2019 meeting in the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards during the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Yuson noted that Forty-three trade unionists had been killed in the last three years of the Duterte administration. He stated at the time, “This is a war on workers. They are construction workers, transport workers, vendors, farmers, informal workers and contractual workers who are trying to make a living and a better life for themselves and their families. Enough is enough.”
The BWI is appealing to Labour Secretary Sylvestre Bello to accept the ILO recommendation to dispatch a High-Level Tripartite Mission as well as to cooperate with UN Human Rights Council for an independent investigation of the reported killings of trade union leaders, activists and members. ”We strongly support the Philippine trade unions’ demand to Secretary Bello to convene the concerned Regional Tripartite Monitoring Bodies to look in the killings in different regions and the mass arrests of workers,” concluded Mr. Yuson.
The BWI will join the global trade union movement in launching a global day of action to protest the killing of Helen Dacanay on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.