Opening address at the ILO labour rights orientation for DOJ Administrative Order 35 secretariat and technical working group members

By Mr Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO labour rights orientation for DOJ Administrative Order 35 secretariat and technical working group members , 23 March 2021, Manila, Philippines via Zoom

Statement | Manila, Philippines via Zoom | 23 March 2021
  • Atty Guillaume from the Office of DOJ Undersecretary Sugay, Assistant State Prosecutor and Head of the DOJ AO35 Secretariat, Atty Santiago, along with members and officials of the AO35 Technical Working Group (TWG);
  • Director Bacay of DOLE;
  • Brothers and sisters from the labour sector;
  • Ms Poulsen, UNRC Human Rights Adviser for the Philippines;
  • Atty Pangalangan of the UP Institute of Human Rights;
  • Atty  Santiago and Atty Villarin of the Ateneo Human Rights Center;
  • ILO colleagues – Jajoon and Ravi from the ILO Regional Office in Bangkok, and our ILO Manila team;
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!
The ILO believes that issues involving labour injustice and the quest to universal and lasting peace can only be resolved and achieved if it is based upon social justice. This is part of the ILO’s mandate and vision to advance social justice and to promote decent work for all workers, regardless of where they work

Hence, ILO’s work on social justice and human rights primarily stems from international labour standards in the form of legally-binding Conventions and advisory Recommendations.

The Philippines , as an active and long-standing member State of the ILO has ratified several Conventions. These include core Conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively.  

The ILO supports member States like the Philippines to apply ratified ILO Conventions, guided by observations of supervisory bodies, which have noted challenges on compliance with the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention or ILO Convention No. 87.

Its application has been discussed thrice at the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) of the International Labour Conference held in 2009, 2016 and 2019.

The 2017 Direct Contacts Mission Report summarized three major areas where action is urgently needed, specifically:
  1. amendments on laws restricting workers’ rights to freely organize;
  2. urgent measures to combat the climate of impunity on violence against trade unionists and;
  3. ensure meaningful and effective implementation of laws and access to remedies on FOA/CB violations
These observations include long-standing cases of labour-related extra-judicial killings, violence and intimidation against trade unionists, which contribute to the climate of impunity. These relate with the operations, investigation and monitoring mechanisms such as the Department of Justice's Administrative Order 35.

We greatly appreciate the commitment of the DOJ, particularly the AO35 Secretariat and the revitalized partnership with the ILO, to further strengthen operations that will effectively address cases involving unionists and workers’ rights advocates.  

We also acknowledge contributions of the UP Institute of Human Rights and the Ateneo Human Rights Center in designing this orientation process.

We look forward to your recommendations on steps to review and update AO35 policies and operational guidelines, especially in today’s open dialogue.

We hope this would result into greater involvement and  engagement of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the unions, and improved outcomes of AO35 mechanisms in resolving cases covering workers, trade unions and labour-related concerns. 

These recommendations will guide follow-up strategies  on strengthening AO35 and promoting labour rights and freedom of association not only as a matter of civil liberties but also as a foundation for sound, sustainable and equitable development.

All these will contribute to support the Philippines in implementing the Decent Work Country Programme and also efforts to build a better future and world of work in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, this orientation-seminar is just the beginning of our constructive engagement on AO35, with the DOJ, DOLE and our trade union partners. The ILO will continue to support future activities and engagements on AO35.

It is our hope that this continuing dialogue and collective, tripartite action will yield significant progress and positive results leading to a better climate for freedom of association in the Philippines.

As such, I wish you all a productive orientation-seminar through open and strong social dialogue. From here, we can move forward towards results-based outcomes and reforms.

Rest assured of the ILO’s continued support for all efforts and initiatives promoting freedom of association and safeguarding worker’s human rights and civil liberties.

Maraming salamat po! (Thank you very much!)