MANILA — Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to support the National Police Clearance System (NPCS) and require national police clearances “for various transactions” in a bid to “gain broader information” on an individual in a March 10 letter.

“In using the NPCS, the DOLE will have a much broader information as to the character of an individual because of its much larger scope, coverage, and databases relied upon, and at the same time, will be able to further contribute to our endeavor of attaining a safer place for the Filipino people and do business,” Sinas wrote, noting that officers arrested 55 individuals with outstanding warrants of arrest after applying for the clearance.

Sinas, however, did not specify what DOLE transactions would require the national police clearance.

According to Rappler’s report, DOLE said in September 2020 that due to centralization, the NPCS “crosses out the likelihood that a person with a criminal record in one place will be able to obtain a police clearance in another area.”

DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III said the department will study and conduct consultations before deciding to adopt the system.

“We will wait for the inputs from the Bureau of Labor Relations, Social Protection, and other stakeholders,” he added, with the department having until May 4 to submit comments on the PNP’s proposal according to a memorandum.

Chilling effect on workers, industrial peace

In a report by GMA News, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza said the proposal to require a police clearance on various transactions with DOLE will have a “chilling effect on the free and unfettered exercise of workers’ rights.”

Mendoza described the PNP’s proposal as “unwarranted infringement of the constitutional rights of workers to self-organization.”

“On its face, the request of the PNP to require those dealing with the DOLE to submit national police clearances superimposes the heavy-handed police state security apparatus on our labor relations system,” Mendoza said.

“It is violative of our right to organize and unduly expands the discretion of the State in intervening in the exercise of our constitutional rights,” he added.

Mendoza is also urging DOLE to reject the proposal.

“It will emasculate the exercise of labor rights and will make a mockery of the labor justice system,” he said.

The Associated Labor Unions -Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) also condemned the proposal as an added burden to workers and a threat to the industrial peace in the country.

“From the looks of it, the proposed police clearance in DOLE transactions would drive away those seeking redress in DOLE’s conciliation, mediation and dispute resolution and workplace inspection processes and many other services of DOLE and its attached agencies,” according to ALU National Executive Vice-president Gerard Seno.

In another report by Rappler, ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said, “If we have this PNP proposed layer in the existing process, it would only lengthen the process. Employer-employee relationship will be further strained, and most importantly, the current industrial peace setting will be disturbed – worker unrests will hurt businesses operation and the economy will be paralyzed,” Tanjusay said.

“In short, it dangerously creates more harm than good,” he added.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, on the other hand, called for the urgent rejection of the PNP proposal.

“Right to privacy, self-organization, and freedom of association are basic worker’s rights. The mere proposal is a slap to these rights,” KMU chairperson Bong Labog said.

“Why must we ask for permits from the PNP? What are those ‘transactions’? It is vague like any other fascist scroll such as the Anti-Terror Law. Tool for harassment at intimidation ‘yan sa manggagawa,” Labog added.

Nagkaisa said DOLE should protect workers by not being “made an extension of PNP’s security and anti-insurgency work.”

“Requiring police or military clearance in the registration of unions or in the exercise of workers’ right is not only a red tape burden but also a manifestation of an unstable government afraid of its own shadow,” Nagkaisa chairperson Sonny Matula said.

Harebrained, additional red tape

In another report by GMA News, Sen. Joel Villanueva described the proposal requiring police clearance when transacting with DOLE as “harebrained” and an additional burden to workers.

Villanueva, also the chair of the Senate Labor committee, says the proposal counters President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to cut red tape in government offices.

“What the President has ordered and what the people want is less red tape and not more of it. What the PNP is proposing goes against this,” Villanueva said, noting he does not see any sense in requiring a jobless OFW to make a detour to a police station while seeking financial help from DOLE.

“(DOLE offices are) not an apprehension place for the police where they can set up a dragnet for people who have unfinished business with authorities,” he added.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Sec. Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, questioned the proposal.

“Although it’s not illegal per se to require a police clearance for certain public transactions, the question is, is it necessary for a particular type of transaction with DOLE? What purpose will it serve? Does it add to red tape? These are policy, not legal, questions,” Guevarra told reporters in a Viber message.