This Human Rights Day, the international trade union movement is calling attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks.
The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder.
Just this past 31 October, coordinated police raids saw weapons being planted on premises and children held at gunpoint. That day, over 40 people were arrested on falsified charges of illegal weapons possession, 21 of whom were bus workers who had been attending a meeting of their trade union. Over the last three years, 43 union members and officials have been killed by extrajudicial violence. To this date, the government has failed to pursue the perpetrators. The ITUC calls for an urgent independent investigation into these cases.
“Ever since the start of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in 2016, extrajudicial killings have been given a free pass and an ever-increasing number of murderers are walking free. Those estimated to have been killed in this way number a staggering 27,000. ‘Tokhang’ – the dreaded night-time knock that precedes many of these killings by both police and armed militia groups – should sound the alarm to the international community of this affront to the rule of law,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands :
- Stop the attacks and red-tagging of legitimate trade union organisations and labour activists ;
- Implement the recommendations concluded by the Committee on the Application of Standards of the ILO in June 2019 ;
- Accept the High-Level Tripartite Mission of the ILO to visit the country at the soonest possible time.