On Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), labour rights group, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) slammed the government’s neglect of the woes of the workers and the people, amidst intensifying economic crisis.
“Marcos Jr.’s first year has been all about reviving its name and strengthening power through corruption, nepotism and impunity. His government has done nothing significant to uplift the lives of Filipinos and has even brought us downhill,” CTUHR said in a statement.
The Center also highlighted that the BBM administration copy pasted Duterte’s deadly policies against activists and rights defenders, including unionists and labour organisers. Under his term, the notorious NTF-ELCAC got a whopping Php10 billion budget despite numerous complaints of red-tagging and other human rights violations.
Even international institutions such as the International Labor Organisation (ILO) raise concern on continuing attacks against workers’ rights especially freedom of association. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index Top 10 Worst Countries for Workers still includes the Philippines for the 7th consecutive year.
Based on At least 40 labor unions and associations have experienced red-tagging, threat, harassment and intimidation and forced disaffiliation in Marcos Jr.’s first year. Most of these workers’ organisations have been targeted in the middle of CBA negotiations, union registration and elections and other local struggles. One of the unions that experienced this is the Technol Eight Philippines Workers Union (TEPWU) whose President, Mario Fernandez is still not able to come home due to fear of being targeted of worse forms of attacks. Meanwhile, newly formed unions like the Unyon ng mga Panadero sa Philfoods Fresh Bake Products are subjected to red-tagging seminars inside the company premises.
Abduction and enforced disappearances have also become rampant under this regime. The viral video of two labour organisers – Armand Dayoha and Dyan Gumanao – being dragged to get inside a van in broad daylight in Cebu is a manifestation of how alarming the human rights situation is. Three (3) sugar workers in Batangas, also known as Balayan3, have been missing since March 2023. The 59th Infantry Battalion claims that they are under their custody and are being accorded their rights, but none of their lawyers and paralegals have been allowed to see them since then.
Two (2) incidents of extrajudicial killings involving unionists have also been recorded. Alex Dolorosa, a paralegal and organiser of BIEN Bacolod was brutally killed. He has reported incidents of surveillance and harassment prior to his killing, but the police and the government play the narrative that his death is a case of robbery or a common crime. One of the worst human rights violations recorded was the massacre of Fausto Family in Negros. The Fausto couple were active members of Baklayan, Bito, Cabagal Farmers Association (BABICAFA), a locally registered organisation for peasants and farm-workers in Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City.
Amidst all these, the labour movement continues to push back and forge its unity for living wage, decent work and free exercise of freedom of association.