By Leonel Abasola

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved Executive Order (EO) No. 23 creating an inter-agency committee to strengthen the coordination and facilitate the resolution of labor cases in the country.

EO 23 dated April 30, 2023, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, reinforces and protects and freedom of association and right to organize of workers.

The EO noted concerns of various groups in the Philippines’ implementation of ILO (International Labor Organization) Convention No. 87, “in view of reported incidents of acts of violence, extra-judicial killings, harassment, suppression of trade union rights and red-tagging allegedly perpetrated by State agents, targeting in particular, certain trade unions and workers’ organizations.”

“At the 108th session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) in June 2019, a high-level tripartite mission (HLTM) was created to inquire into the aforementioned reported incidents in the purpose of assisting the Philippine government in taking immediate and effective action on the following specific areas: (i) measures to prevent violence in relation to the exercise of legitimate activities by workers’ organizations; (ii) investigation of allegations of violence against members of workers’ organizations with a view of establishing the facts, determining culpability and punishing the perpetrators; (iii) operationalization of monitoring bodies; and (iv) measures to ensure that all workers, without distinction, are able to form and join organizations of their choosing, in accordance to ILO Convention No. 87,” the EO states.

The EO stipulates that the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers will be chaired by the Executive Secretary while the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment will be its vice chair.

The Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade and Industry, National Security Council and the Philippine National Police will comprise the inter-agency panel.

“When necessary, the Inter-Agency Committee may request the attendance or participation of other relevant agencies, such as the Civil Service Commission and the Commission of Human Rights,” the EO stated.

The functions of the Inter-Agency Committee include the consolidation and evaluation of all comprehensive reports, which contain findings and recommendations by concerned agencies to be submitted to the President; and developing a roadmap containing the priority areas of action, tangible deliverables, clear responsibilities and appropriate timeframes, consistent with the recommendations of the HLTM.

“The roadmap shall be subject to regular review and should consider the consolidated reports and recommendations from the concerned agencies and inputs from other relevant stakeholders,” the EO stated.

The EO also provides that “each of the concerned agencies shall designate a focal unit or office within the agency, to be headed by an official with a rank not lower than that of an Undersecretary, which shall monitor, evaluate and report on the implementation and progress of agency action plans, initiatives relating to freedom of association and rights to organize and to collective bargaining.”

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said they expect a concerted effort by concerned agencies to remedy the issues raised by labor groups.

“Ang layunin po nito ay upang gawan ng mga hakbangin at solusyunan ‘yun pong mga complaints na nakasaad doon po sa report ng (The purpose of this is to take initiatives and solve the complaints stated in the report of) ng ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission,” Laguesma said in a media interview during the 121st Labor Day celebration at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Laguesma also that the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is facilitating the review of wage increase petitions.

“Ang proseso po ay gumugulong, umiikot po ‘yan ngayon at umuusad ang atin po – at pinapabilis ng atin pong mga wage boards ‘yung kanilang deliberations ng sa ganun ‘yun pong mga nakahain na petition ay matugunan (And the process is now ongoing and progressing and our wage boards are speeding up their deliberations so that those filed petitions can be addressed),” Laguesma said.

He emphasized that the Board can do something on the adjustment of the prevailing minimum wage but not those related across-the-board. (PNA)