|PNP, PEZA announce ecozone militarization. Photo by Rappler|
The Philippine National Police (PNP), including its commander-in-chief, the President, cannot infringe on the right of workers to form unions. Doing so will be a clear violation of the Constitution, the Labor Code and international conventions that guarantee freedom of association (FOA), the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement sent to media.
The reaction came after the PNP regional office in Central Luzon on Friday launched the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) in the Clark Freeport Zone that will serve, according to Central Luzon police chief Brigadier General Rhodel Sermonia, as “the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones.”
The launching had as guest speakers, presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza.
PM, a member of the country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa!, demanded that the PNP, PEZA and OPA withdraw the program and for DOLE to enforce labor laws in ecozones, educate officials of the bureaucracy and security forces on labor rights, and prosecute the violators whether they are state officials or owners of capital.
“These officials were appointed to their offices to promote and defend the Constitution. But the launching of JIPCO is very clear on its purpose – to violate the Constitution. Therefore under the context of ecozones, it is clearly the first line of defense of foreign capital and not of the labor force,” lamented PM chair Renato Magtubo.
He added that “Even before the launching of JIPCO, ecozones in Central Luzon have been militarized. Soldiers and police harassed union leaders, sent threatening letters to labor organizers and held anti-union meeting with workers of the FCF Manufacturing Corp., a factory in the Freeport Area of Bataan that makes high-end leather bags.”
Magtubo reminded the PNP and PEZA that under the law, even employers who own the businesses and exercise direct control over their workforce are considered as mere bystanders, meaning they cannot interfere in labor activities, particularly on the right of workers to form unions as provided under the Bill of Rights and the Social Justice provisions of the Constitution.
“If these officials are ignorant of these basics on labor rights, then this Republic of Endos and cheap labor is really in a deep shit,” declared Magtubo who now sits as a city councilor of Marikina.
“In fact, Central Luzon in recent memory, is no longer a hotbed of insurgents but of ninja cops as shown during the Senate hearings. Contrary to the vicious propaganda peddled by security forces against trade unions, the Filipino workforce, especially in special economic zones or EPZAs, are defenseless not from insurgents but from intransigent anti-union foreign investors. Indeed, the urgent need of workers inside ecozones are incorruptible labor offices or desks and not PNP detachments.” argued Magtubo.
“Militarization of ecozones is an escalation of the union busting efforts of PEZA. In other regions like Calabarzon and Cebu, PEZA has been conniving with foreign investors by temporarily closing down factories where workers have unionized. The most recent incident of this modus operandi is the closure of Sejung Apparel Inc. in the First Cavite Industrial Estate where workers are currently on protest,” Magtubo explained.
JIPCO, the group said, is hiding under the cover of peace building efforts but in reality it is a declaration of war against the trade union movement in the country. “We will not be cowed. We will continue to organize,” concluded Magtubo.
24 January 2020