After a year of extensive consultation and social dialogue, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Justice, and National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police yesterday signed a historic document which all the signers said will promote workers right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, concerted peaceful actions, and other trade union activities.
The "Guidelines on the Conduct of the DOLE, DILG, DND, DOJ, AFP, and PNP Relative to the Exercise of Workers' Rights and Activities" (Guidelines for brevity) was signed in a simple ceremony at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, with DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz leading the signatories.
The other signatories were Undersecretary Eduardo G. Batac, who signed on behalf of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, who signed on behalf of Justice Secretary Laila de Lima; PNP Chief Supt. Lina Sarmiento, who signed on behalf of Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome; and Lt. Gen. Ireneo C. Espina, who signed on behalf of AFP Chief of Staff Jessie Dellosa.
Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, director of the Manila Office of the International Labor Organization and Karen Curtis, ILO Geneva Deputy Director signed the document as witnesses.
Baldoz, who delivered the welcome remarks at the signing ceremony, hailed the Guidelines as a first in history.
"The Guidelines is not just a document but a live document. As we are confronted with day-to-day labor and management concerns, we are committed to deliver the commitments in the document that we have signed today. The key to sustained industrial peace with social justice is effective coordination with labor, management, and government,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz said the Guidelines seeks to ensure peace and order and security during labor disputes, while at the same time respecting the exercise of workers’ and trade union rights in an environment free from violence, pressure, fear, and duress of any kind.
She further said the Guidelines seeks to promote the effective exercise of workers' and trade union rights and to address violence and threats against workers and trade unionists, including reports and/or allegations of militarization of workplaces in and during labor disputes.
The Guidelines governs the official conduct of all members, personnel, and officers of the DOLE, DILG, DND, DOJ, AFP, and PNP, including the CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAAs), Special CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (SCAAs), PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agency (SOSIA), and the Barangay Public Safety Officer (BPSO) during concerted action of labor in their workplaces and in labor disputes.
It also clearly outlines workers' and trade union rights relative to the exercise of freedom of association; during the conduct of AFP and PNP internal peace and security operations; modes of coordination between the DOLE, AFP, PNP, and local government units (LGUs) during labor disputes; remedies in cases of violation; and modes of monitoring and evaluation of the Guidelines' implementation.
The Guidelines requires that members, personnel, and officers of the signatory agencies conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution; Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended; Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines; United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); International Labor Organization (ILO) Protocols and Recommendations and International Labour Standards, in particular ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (Convention No. 87) and Convention on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (Convention No. 98); International Humanitarian Law (IHL); Presidential Memorandum No. 393; Joint Circular 2-91 (Directing the AFP and the PNP to Re-affirm their Adherence to the Principles of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in the Conduct of Security/Police Operations); and President Benigno S. Aquino III's Social Contract with the Filipino People.
The guidelines emphasizes that all labor disputes shall be under the primary and sole jurisdiction of DOLE and its appropriate agencies, and highlights the role of the members of the AFP, PNP, and other law enforcement agencies, including Barangay Tanod/BPSO and company security personnel/security guards as peace keepers in labor disputes.
Under the Guidelines, the AFP and PNP may intervene only in labor disputes if expressly requested in writing either through mail, email, fax, or any similar means by the DOLE, through its Regional Offices; and if a criminal act has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed through overt acts in accordance with Rule 113 of the Revised Criminal Procedures whether or not it arises out of the labor dispute, and in cases of actual violence arising out of a labor dispute.
"The Guidelines reiterates that the rights of workers relative to the exercise of freedom of association shall be respected and protected at all times," Baldoz noted. She enumerated these as follows:
1) the right to establish and join organizations without discrimination, to include the right of trade unions/workers’ organizations or their leaders or members not to be prejudiced by reason of their actual or potential membership in a political party that is in opposition to a political party in power;
2) the right to life and personal safety shall include the right of trade unions and workers’ associations to carry out their activities in full freedom in accordance with labor and other related laws and to be protected from threats of or actual violence committed by persons or organizations opposed to their trade union activities;
3) the right to freedom and security from arbitrary arrest and detention shall include the right of persons and properties of trade unions and workers’ associations to be secured from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures and the right to due process of law;
4) the right to freedom of opinion and expression shall include the right of every worker/trade unionist to freely and publicly express his/her personal opinions, orally or in writing, on matters affecting his/her rights; and
5) the right to freedom of assembly shall include the right of workers and trade unions to engage in peaceful concerted actions in accordance with law and International Labour Standards.
"At all times, local chief executives or their authorized representatives may assist in settling any labor dispute in their respective local government units, but they shall always coordinate with the DOLE and/or its Regional Offices. This is a must," Baldoz emphasized.
Finally, Baldoz explained that under the Guidelines, the AFP and PNP personnel and units in a workplace where a strike, picketing, or lockout has been declared and in progress should be based on a security situation, and only for the purpose of extending support to the PNP, or in the extreme situation when no other law enforcement agency in the area is available.