By Corina Oliquino
MANILA –The setting up of offices in special economic and Freeport zones by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Luzon to prevent militant labor groups from organizing workers’ union in factories and business establishments has been criticized as red-tagging and a de facto martial law by the Duterte administration according to labor groups last January 24.
In a report by The Philippine Star, Defend Job Philippines in a statement said the implementation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) “will mean nothing but a tool of repression against the Filipino working class, especially on industrial zones across Central Luzon.”
The group has also urged Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III to “do something to end the PNP’s recent attack against labor unions in the country.”
“Instead of promoting and protecting the basic labor rights of every Filipino worker to join and form unions inside their workplaces, the PNP is clearly violating these rights and is blatantly exposing its institution as anti-labor,” Defend Job Philippines spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said.
“Labor and trade unions are beneficial for workers to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, improving safety standards and attaining better wages, benefits and working conditions through increased bargaining power,” Magsoy added, noting Labor Department data showed only 4,689,058 workers are unionized out of the 41,000,000 Philippine labor force.
Kilusang Mayo Uno, on the other hand, described increasing police presence in economic zones as a de facto martial law.
“The so-called industrial peace uttered by the PNP and other government agencies is just an enhancement of stepping up attack on the worker’s rights for job security; a just and living wage; right to organize union. These are basic rights of every worker and all these are indicated in the Philippine Constitution and the Labor Code,” they said.
“This further proved that the Duterte regime is not for the Filipino workers and (has) no plans of easing the lives of the workers and the people, the regime aims to aggravate the miserable plight of the workers by making sure to follow neo-liberal policies of its imperialist masters such as legitimizing labor-only-contracting and maintaining cheap and docile labor,” they added.
The 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights “recognizes and guaranteed the right to form unions, association or societies for purposes not contrary to law” while the Labor Code notes that it is state policy “topromote free trade unionism as an instrument for the enhancement of democracy and the promotion of social justice and development.”
In a report by Rappler, the Police Regional Office in Region III (PRO3) on January 22, led by Director Brigadier Gen. Rhodel Sermonia launched the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office in the Clark Freeport Zone along with presidential adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza.
“With its slogan ‘Together, we drive the force of our country’s global competitiveness and foreign preference as an investment destination’, JIPCO was created for purposes of protecting both labor welfare, labor rights and productive industry gains, without sacrificing industrial peace. It is also a law enforcement mechanism to address industrial crimes like pilferage, hijacking and technical smuggling,” Sermonia said, noting JIPCO is a community relations program of the PNP in partnership with PEZA aimed to be the “first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”
“Central Luzon remains a major flashpoint for communist insurgency and in the white area operation.” Sermonia, who took over the PRO3 leadership in November 5, said, noting a “more intense community engagement is needed to fight insurgency and, through JIPCO, the police can be present in economic and industrial zones to promote the morale and welfare of the labor sector and, of course, protect the interest of every investor doing business in our area of responsibility.”
“Your police will take advantage of the potentials of community engagement to prevent industries from being infiltrated by communist agitators and with the implementation of JIPCO in the different economic zones from Subic to Clark to Mariveles and in areas of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija, where industries are prevalent and labor unions are many, the morale and welfare of the labor sector will be promoted and at the same time industries will be prevented from being infiltrated by communist agitators,” he added.