Workers’ group slams exclusion from inter-agency committee

A CEBU-based labor group slammed Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma for justifying the exclusion of workers’ representatives from the newly created Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers.

In a statement, Partido Manggagawa (PM) said on Thursday, May 4, 2023 that Laguesma’s rationale that “complainants cannot be the judge,” contradicts the notion that the accused cannot also be a judge.

Dennis Derige, spokesperson of the PM Cebu chapter, said the demand to include workers’ representatives in the newly formed committee was simply in line with the tenet of tripartism in resolving labor cases and disputes.

“What can workers expect from a Labor Secretary that makes lame excuses for banning trade unions? This behavior may be expected of the government’s security forces but cannot be the attitude of a Labor Secretary,” Derige said.

On Labor Day, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued Executive Order 23 creating the Inter-Agency Committee with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin as chair, Laguesma as vice chair and other government agencies such as the Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Trade and Industry as members.

However, it excluded trade unions and employers’ groups while the security sector, specifically the Department of National Defense, National Security Council and the Philippine National Police were part of the committee.

The committee was the government’s response to “reported incidents of acts of violence, extra-judicial killings, harassment, suppression of trade union rights and red-tagging allegedly perpetrated by state agents, targeting in particular, certain trade unions and workers’ organizations.”

It was also the Marcos administration’s response to the International Labor Organization (ILO) High Level Tripartite Mission’s recommendation to establish such a committee.

Derige said the ILO will have its annual conference which will determine how the country responded to its recommendation.

“We ask the government to heed fully the ILO HLTM recommendations, especially for a Presidential Commission that includes workers’ representatives. The clock is ticking as the ILO annual conference is due to open in a month’s time,” Derige said.