Philippines: BWI condemns abductions and violence targeting unionists, calls for accountability and action

Amid disturbing incidents that continue to plague the labour movement in the Philippines, the 12 million-strong Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI) extended its solidarity with the Philippine trade union movement in vehemently condemning the recent attack and abduction of Francisco Dangla, affectionately known as "Eco," and his associate Axielle "Jak" Tiong. This troubling event occurred on the night of 24 March 2024, in Barangay Polo, San Carlos City, Pangasinan, exacerbating the persistent threats to the lives of labour activists in the country despite the high-level mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2023 aimed stopping the red-tagging, harassment and killing of trade unionists. 

Adding to the urgency of the situation is the critique directed at the Presidential Commission on Freedom of Association established under Executive Order 23 (2023). According to Council of Global Unions-Philippines (CGU-Philippines), the commission notably lacks representation from workers, a crucial element for its intended effectiveness. They asserted that the commission’s performance in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of association remains dubious, raising doubts about its commitment to addressing the fundamental issues faced by the labour sector in the Philippines.

BWI urgently called for support for the ongoing campaign to surface the missing labour leaders, aimed at ensuring the safe return of Eco and Jak. The CGU also called on the Philippine authorities to conduct a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Eco and Jak. “We stand united with them, their families, and the broader community of labour activists during this challenging period. We also add our voice in calling for immediate and radical improvements in the functionality and performance of the Presidential Commission on Freedom of Association, emphasising the imperative for genuine representation and tangible action,” BWI Asia Pacific Regional Representative Apolinario Tolentino said.