ILO Conducts Orientation-Seminar and Dialogue on AO35 and Labour Rights

The ILO Country Office for the Philippines (ILO CO-Manila), in partnership with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Administrative Order 35 Inter-Agency Committee on Extrajudicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons (AO35), the Department of Labor and Employment-Bureau of Labor Relations (DOLE-BLR), the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), the University of Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR), the Office of the UNRC Senior Human Rights Adviser, and the major national trade union centers and labour federations, recently organized a labour rights orientation-seminar for the technical working group (TWG) members of the AO35 Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) and an open social dialogue with leaders and represent last 23 March 2021.

Atty Maria Theresa Sindico-Guillame formally open the orientation-seminar and dialogue on AO35 and delivered the welcome remarks in behalf of DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Ferdinand Sugay and affirmed the Justice Department’s commitment to address labour and human rights issues. Director Khalid Hassan of ILO CO-Manila gave his message of support and assured the ILO’s support for tripartite collective efforts and actions to safeguard workers’ trade union rights and civil liberties and promote freedom of association. Mr Jajoon Coue, Labour Standards Specialist from the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok introduced  focused his discussions on the principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining, summary of the  ILO supervisory mechanisms   and the observations on the Philippine application of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention.  His presentation highlighted  issues that are relevant to strengthening the work of AO35 in handling cases of violations of workers’ trade union rights and civil liberties. While Atty Abigail de la Rosa of DOLE-BLR provided an  overview of the its Regional Tripartite Monitoring Boards (RTMBs)  and how it complements with the  AO35 monitoring and investigative mechanism,  in handling cases and allegations of extra-judicial killings of workers and trade unionists.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion on perspectives on the current challenges faced by Filipino workers and current state of labour rights in the country with Atty Ray Paolo Santiago, Executive Director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, Atty Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, director of the UP Institute of Human Rights, and Ms Signe Poulsen, UNRC Senior Human Rights Adviser. Afterwards, a dialogue between the labour sector and the TWG members of the AO35 IAC was held.  Trade union members and leaders expressed their concerns over the recent cases and allegations of extra-judicial killings, red-tagging, intimidations and violations committed against workers and labour leaders. They also raised long-standing gaps, challenges and issues that they said need to be addressed and resolved. The trade unions also agreed to call for the convening of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) to move towards the inclusion and greater involvement of trade unions in AO35 and also to hold further dialogues with the AO35 IAC, including the DOJ, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly their human rights offices, among others. 

In response, the AO35 Secretariat, thru its head, Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santiago, expressed openness to continue further dialogue with the labour sector and also to receive   information or any evidence on cases, complaints and issues that the trade unions would may have and would want to address. Likewise, the AO35 Secretariat also affirmed its commitment to work closely with the DOLE and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which are current observers of the AO35 IAC, to address cases covering labour and human rights concerns. 

For its part, the ILO affirmed its commitment to support further capacity-building workshops aimed at strengthening the labour rights lens of AO35 mechanisms and continuing social dialogue between the labour sector and the AO35 TWG member-agencies. 

About 60 participants from 30 offices, bureaus, agencies, and workers organizations, and trade unions attended and participated in the orientation.

On the part of government, agencies that took part were from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Commission of Human Rights (CHR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of National Defense (DND), Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the human rights offices of the AFP and the PNP. 

On the part of the labour sector, trade unions that were present included the Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), IndustriALL Global Union Philippines (IndustriALL), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry in the Philippines (NACUSIP), National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Public Sector Labor Independent Confederation (PSLink) and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), among others. The ILO orientation-seminar and dialogue on AO35 is part of the ILO CO-Manila’s RBSA-PHL826 Project on Increasing National Capacity for Policy and Legislative Reforms Addressing ILO Standards Review Mechanisms. The development partners of this project include the ILO's RBSA donors from the governments of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Bryan Balco
National Project Manager, ILO-EU Trade for Decent Work Project
ILO Country Office for the Philippines