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JIPCO for wholesale labor rights violation, not industrial peace-iDEFEND

Thursday, 30 January 2020

On January 22, 2020, the PNP Regional Office in Region III together with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) deployed police inside Special Economic and Freeport Zones specifically to prevent militant labor groups from organizing workers’ unions. Disguised as Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Offices (JIPCO) the police deployment implements Executive Order No. 70, establishing a Whole of Nation approach to end local communist insurgency.

OPAPP Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., who was appointed by President Duterte as Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) in region III last May 2019, led a meeting of the security sector in Pampanga, which specifically red-tagged labor groups in the region[1].

The JIPCO will undertake a “scorched earth” policy on labor organizing in violation of the Philippine Constitution’s guarantee of labor rights to “self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law.”

The anti-insurgency program is being meted out in full force in the region. During the campaign period for the election of a teachers’ union in Central Luzon the military launched a massive black propaganda against legitimate teachers’ organizations tagging them as either communists or terrorists, sowing fear among teachers and undermining the election process.

The assassination of Economic Zone labor organizer Dennis Sequena in Cavite demonstrates the deadly consequences of labelling workers as terrorists.

Workers have a legitimate demand for decent wages, safe employment and security of tenure. Far from conflicting with the national interest, workers ensure a profitable future towards regional development especially when they are considered an intrinsic part of national development goals. What conflicts with workers’ legitimate demands are corporate greed for unfettered profit and corporate driven political repression in special economic zones.

The lack of workers organizations to fight for their rights have serious impact on workers’ safety and security. The case of the Hanjin Shipyard workers who suffered numerous human rights violations and accidental deaths while working for the company[2] illustrates the urgent need for self-organizing and collective bargaining.

iDEFEND condemns the continued use of Executive Order 70 to target workers and human rights defenders. Government’s persistent red-tagging threatens the legal work of the most important sectors of Philippine society. It is the government’s responsibility protect and fulfill the rights of the people over the profit agenda of foreign investors and corporate interests.

iDEFEND calls for the immediate revocation of the EO 70, dismantling of the JIPCO and an end to red tagging as well as all threats and intimidation against human rights defenders.