ITF brings complaint against Philippines over murder of trade unionists

The ITF is joining forces with the National Confederation of Transport Workers’ Unions (NCTU) and the Centre of United and Progressive Workers (SENTRO) to bring a complaint against the government of the Philippines over its failure to adequately investigate the murders and victimisation of a number of trade unionists, including NCTU leader Antonio Petalcorin.

The complaint, to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association, said the lack of independent judicial inquiries into these crimes has created a culture of impunity that reinforces a climate of violence and insecurity that has a damaging effect on the exercise of trade union rights. These actions and omissions constitute violation of the internationally accepted principles of freedom of association set out in ILO convention 87.

In 2012, Antonio Petalcorin, activist and then president of the NCTU, along with two union colleagues, filed a complaint against the director of the Land Transportation Franchising Board of Davao (LTFRB), alleging corruption. Among other things, the petitioners claimed that the director took bribes in exchange for franchise approvals.

Over the subsequent eight months Mr Petalcorin was shot dead, one of his colleagues was killed and another was subjected to threats and violence forcing him and his wife to go into hiding.

The ITF and co-complainants believe these murders are linked to the case against the director and the roles of these men as trade union leaders. A police investigation into the possible involvement of the director and/or LTFRB in the murder of Mr Petalcorin was opened but never concluded and no perpetrators have ever been brought to justice for any of these crimes.

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said: “The steps taken by the government of the Philippines to investigate these crimes clearly fall woefully short of what is expected in instances of such violence and victimisation. We call on the ILO to intervene to make sure justice is done and to put an end to the current approach of the government of the Philippines to the right of workers to freedom of association which is at best apathetic and at worst corrupt.”

General Secretary of SENTRO Josua Mata added: "Workers in the Philippines have been let down by a system and an environment which is allowing anti-worker, anti-union activity to thrive. We can't stand by and let that continue."

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