Labor chief wants the accused to be the judge, group claims     

Labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) slammed Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma’s rationale for excluding workers’ representatives in the newly created Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers.

“Secretary Laguesma wants the accused to be the judge in labor rights cases. If we follow Laguesma’s faulty logic that complainants cannot be the judge then more so the accused. Laguesma’s logic betrays his class war framework that pays lip service to social dialogue principles. The demand that workers’ representatives sit in the Inter-Agency Committee is aligned with the normative tenet of tripartism in resolving labor cases and disputes,” according to Mario Andon, spokesperson of the PM Iloilo chapter.

On the eve of Labor Day, an Executive Order signed by President Bongbong Marcos created the Inter-Agency Committee with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin as chair, Laguesma as vice chair and includes other government agencies but excludes trade unions and employers’ groups. The security sector, specifically the Department of National Defense, National Security Council and the Philippine National Police, sits in the Inter-Agency Committee.

“Security forces are the usual respondents, along with several employers, in the 380 cases involving killings, abductions, arrests, harassments and red-tagging of unionists detailed in the report of the workers to the International Labour Organization’s High-Level Tripartite Mission (ILO HLTM) last January,” Andon elaborated.

He added that “Laguesma’s slip is showing. 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.”

The creation of the Inter-Agency Committee was the government response to the ILO HLTM recommendations. The annual ILO conference next month will consider if the Philippine government had adequately responded to the recommendations.

Andon insisted that “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.”

Some 1,000 workers in last Monday’s Labor Day rally in Iloilo, around 10,000 in Manila and similar labor unity protests in other cities called for respect for the right to unionize along with demands for a wage hike and an end to contractualization.