PHL lands on ILO shortlist for curbing freedom of association

THE PHILIPPINES is among the 24 countries shortlisted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for labor violations, specifically ILO Convention 87 or the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.

The ILO is set to examine the Philippines’ compliance with Convention 87 on Friday in Geneva for the 112th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC).

Speaking virtually from Geneva, labor leader and President of the Federation of Free Workers Jose G. Matula urged the government to respect workers’ freedom of association.

“Our country is one of the 24 countries shortlisted for not complying with ILO Conventions. Our focus now is the Philippines’ compliance with ILO 87 or the Freedom of Association. Included here is the workers’ right to unionize… most of the time, workers can’t exercise their freedom of association,” he said in a briefing on Thursday.

He cited the so-called red-tagging (alleging Communist links) of union organizers, forced disappearances, the killing of union leaders, and the termination of union members.

Labor groups claim that between 2016 and 2024, 72 workers were killed, 28 detained as political prisoners, 6 abducted, and 53 falsely charged.

Last year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed Executive Order No. 23 or the Reinforcing and Protecting the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers, which Mr. Matula said was issued without consulting workers.

Joanna Bernice S. Coronation, the Workers’ Head Delegate for the Philippines in Geneva, said: “The true test of compliance with freedom of association standards is unionization rates, and they remain stagnant. This is why wages have stagnated and job quality has not improved,” she added.

The Philippines was also shortlisted in 2019 and 2023.

Separately, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez, also in Geneva, said the Philippines is counting on the conference to acknowledge the contributions of Filipino healthcare workers and caregivers.

“For the past decade, Filipino medical professionals, teaching personnel, health carers, health allied services workers, medical technicians, home carers, and carers for the elderly and the young have become part of the care economy in foreign employers’ families, facilities, and communities,” Mr. Benavidez said in a statement on Thursday.

The ILC started on June 3 and will run until June 14.

Cambodia and Laos are the other Southeast Asian countries on the shortlist. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana