Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 16:10 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Philippines

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Philippines, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 93,200,000
Capital: Manila

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: 5

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


It was another tumultuous and tragic year for the trade union movement in the Philippines. Four trade unionists were murdered and one union member was kidnapped and arbitrarily detained. KMU legal counsel, Remigio Saladero, Jr. was once again the target of dubious government criminal charges. Union busting to avoid or destroy unions continued.


The legacy of political corruption continued. Former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested in her hospital room on election fraud charges and later charged with attempting to take kickbacks in awarding telecommunications contracts. Arroyo was also the subject of lawsuits which implicated her in the human rights violations of the Morong 43 who were arrested and tortured in 2010 and another that linked Arroyo to the Amputuan massacre in which 57 people were killed in November 2009.

On 27 March, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) renewed its call for a minimum wage hike amid the ongoing increases in the prices of fuel prices and basic commodities. In a dispute dating back to 1957, a leader of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) asked the justices on the Philippines' Supreme Court how long it would take them to issue a verdict on the Hacienda Luisita land dispute case. The dispute involves a 6,453-hectare sugar estate controlled by the family of President Benigno Aquino III. Human rights abuses continued unabated. Two journalists were murdered. Worker safety remained at the forefront of union concerns as well. On 27 January in Makati City, Metro Manila, ten CE Construction workers were killed, and one critically injured when their overloaded scaffold platform plummeted over 20 floors. On 7 October, six workers were killed and seven more injured when a 42-ton elevated ramp fell on workers at Keppel Subic Shipyard in Olongpo.

Trade union rights in law

While basic trade union rights are guaranteed in the Constitution, they are limited by numerous provisions. Foreign nationals may not form or join a union unless there is a reciprocal agreement between the countries. The conditions for obtaining union recognition are too strict, and the names of all the members the union seeks to organise must be provided. All foreign assistance is also subject to prior permission by the Secretary of Labour. While the right to collective bargaining is secured, a number of categories of workers are not allowed to exercise this right, including prison guards, fire-fighters and managerial employees. Collective bargaining in the public sector is also limited as government employees are not permitted to bargain over the appropriation of funds.

Furthermore, in order to call a lawful strike, all conciliation procedures must have been exhausted and prior notice must be given 30 days in advance in the event of bargaining deadlocks. Both the President and the Secretary of Labour and Employment have broad powers to stop strikes in industries that are "indispensable to the national interest", which seriously limits the right to strike. Strikes are banned in the public sector, and the law prescribes heavy penalties for participation in an illegal strike: Union leaders are liable to imprisonment of up to three years.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Labour inspection abandoned in favour of voluntary compliance: The Labour Standards Enforcement Framework essentially abandons the principle of government labour inspection for workplaces with more than 200 workers. Instead of a formal inspection, the order only requires self-regulation of labour standards among large companies and in companies where there is a union that has registered a collective bargaining agreement.

Terrorist act concern to unionists: The Human Security Act classifies a wide range of crimes as terrorist acts if they are committed to "create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand". Mandatory sentences are set at 40 years without possibility of parole for terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism, and similarly heavy penalties are created for lesser crimes. There are significant concerns among human rights organisations and trade unionists that the overly broad language in the law leaves it open to abuse by local police and judicial authorities. Arrests without warrants are allowed, and indefinite detention is made possible in instances where authorities find there is an "actual or imminent terrorist attack".

Widespread anti-union practices remains unpunished:

Trade union leaders continued to face harassment, arrest, and the loss of their jobs by the filing of false criminal charges. One of the most common tactics used by private employers and government, alike, was to label union leaders and members as terrorists. Faced with a legal system that offers little assistance or due process, trade unions persisted in their efforts.

In 2009, the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (ILCCR) examined the Philippines' violations of Convention No. 87 and "remained concerned at the allegations of a continuing situation of violence against trade unionists and urged the Government once again to ensure that all the necessary measures were taken to restore a climate of complete freedom and security from violence and threats 4 and bring an end to impunity so that workers and employers could fully exercise their freedom of association rights." In September 2009, the ILO conducted a high-level mission, the results of which imply that the government was complicit in violations. The mission's outcome asked the highest level of the government to make a statement "instructing all government actors to make special efforts to ensure that their actions do not infringe upon the basic civil liberties of trade unionists".

Reacting to the ILO missions' findings, the government established the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) on 20 January 2010 as a high-level monitoring body on the application of international labour standards. However, the NTIPC has been criticised as inadequate because it lacks adequate funding and a dedicated secretariat that is staffed by qualified persons. For instance, the Council only recently started looking into cases of trade union killings, harassments, intimidation, torture and enforced disappearances that took place in 2010.


Four trade union leaders murdered:

On 8 March, Celito Baccay, 31, board member of MAGIKWO (Maeno-Giken Workers Organisation) at Maeno Giken, Inc. was shot and killed in Langkaan Village, Dasmarinas, Cavite. Maeno Giken, Inc. is a Japanese-owned manufacturer of steel, iron and stainless steel products at First Cavite Industrial Estate, Dasmarias, Cavite. Baccay was instrumental in the formation of the union at the company in 2009.

On 23 March, Noriel Salazar, Union President of Cocochem or the United Coconut Chem. Inc. in Bauan, Batangas, was shot and killed in the town of Alitagt ag by two unidentified assailants.

On 12 April, Santos V. Manrique 'Ricky', 49, President of the Boringot Small-scale Miners' Cooperative and Chair of the Federation of Miners' Aggrupation in Pantukan (FedMAP) was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant at his home in Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province. Ricky had been active in the campaign against the entry of big-scale mining as a leader of two groups of small-scale miners, Chair of the municipal chapter of the environmentalist alliance Panalipdan, as well as a village councilman. On 25 January FedMAP had filed a petition against the Nationwide Development Corporation (NADECOR) and the Russel Mining Corporation which planned to enter into mining in Boringot.

On 9 May, Elpidio "Jojo" Malinao, 49, was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in the town of Bay, Laguna Province. Malinao, a forest guard, was the Vice-president of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Chapter of the Organisation of Non-Academic Personnel of UP (ONAPUP), and a national council member of ONAPUP in Laguna. Malinao was killed after attending a court hearing on a case against forest law offenders in the Makiling Forest Reserve.

President Aquino supports outsourcing at Philippine Airlines: In a struggle against outsourcing jobs that started in 2010, on 25 March, President Benigno Aquino III affirmed an earlier Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE) ruling allowing Philippine Airlines (PAL) to lay off 2,600 employees represented by the Philippines Airline Employees Association (PALEA), affiliated to the International Transport Federation (ITF), as part of a programme to spin off its ground service operations. Aquino doubled the severance package to the 2,600 PALEA members subject to lay-off from P50,000 to P100,000. The PALEA protested the decision, claiming the mass lay-off was illegal and amounted to union busting. Despite PALEA's best efforts to legally challenge the DoLE's ruling and its strike in late September, PAL contracted out jobs on 1 October. PAL told laid off workers that they could apply for jobs with the outsourcing company on salaries of just 11,000 pesos (USD261) a month for a six-day work week. This amount was at least half their former pay.

Workers picket over retirement ploy to bust the union: On 1 April, about 300 workers represented by the Kahugpungan sa mga Trabahante sa Superstar (KTS) union picketed the Superstar Coconut Products Inc. (SCPI) in Barangay Maa to protest the company's bribery, intimidation, and harassment of union members. The KTS claimed that the company was trying to bust the union by enticing rank-and-file union members to resign by accepting an early retirement scheme. KTS was formed in November 2010 and certified as the workers' representative by DoLE this past March.

Arrest of union member by the police: On 19 April, members of the Philippine National Police, Regional Public Safety Battalion (PNP-RSPB) and the Philippine Army 62nd Infantry Battalion kidnapped and interrogated Elizar Nabas, 34, a member of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Escalante City, Negros Occidental. He was interrogated and his abductors tried to force him to admit that he was a member of the New People's Army (NPA). Nabas is currently in the Bacolod City Provincial jail facing arson charges.

Anti-mining indigenous woman leader assassinated: On 27 April, Florita "Nang Flor" Caya, Vice-President of a rural peasant women's organisation LAKAMBINI, affiliated to the National Movement of Farmers Associations (the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka – PAKISAMA) was shot and killed by unknown assailants. Nang Flor had recently been elected the general manager of Unified Tribal Council of Elders and Leaders (UTCEL), a group of indigenous peoples (Mandaya, Manobo, Mangguangan & Dibabawon) recently able to obtain a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title to more than 30,000 hectares in the Compostela Valley in Mindanao. Ms. Caya is the third national leader of the PAKISAMA murdered in the past three years, all in Mindanao.

Harassment against union's legal advisor continues: On 20 May, Deputy Regional Prosecutor Elnora Largo-Nombrado with the Regional Trial Court in San Pablo, Laguna, issued subpoenas to the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) trade union Remigio Saladero, Jr. and 71 other activists, collectively known as the "Southern Tagalog 72", demanding that they appear in court on 24 June and submit affidavits in connection with charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder. On 5 February 2010, Saladero was released from prison after being held for more than three months in prison on trumped up charges. Six days after his release, Saladero and 60 other individuals, were charged with the murder of Ricardo Garmino who was killed on 29 July 2008 in San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal. On 13 November 2010, the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor dismissed the charge against Saladero and the other individuals. Saladero was first arrested on 23 October 2008 on numerous counts of murder in connection with the 2006 bombings of a telephone relay site in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Saladero was also charged with arson and inciting to rebellion in connection with the bombing of another telephone relay site in Lemery, Batangas.

Abrupt closure leaves 200 union members jobless: Saying it was suffering serious financial losses, on 24 May, Mustad Terminal Tackle Inc. (MTTI) in Novaliches, Manila, abruptly announced the closure of its factory leaving about 200 workers represented by the Mustad Terminal Tackle Workers and Employee's Association (MTTWEA-ADLO), affiliated to the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), jobless. MMTI is a Norwegian-owned multinational company that produces fishing hooks, rigs and flies among other metal fishing equipment. MTTWEA-ADLO filed a case of illegal closure against MTTI with the Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE). MTTWEA-ADLO President Maria Elena Alejandro said that the company is clearly violating the workers' right to job security. She also questioned the legitimacy of the sudden closure of the company. Alejandro said that company officials did not show any proof of the company's "serious financial losses."

Sometimes things do go better with Coke:

On 14 June, in a meeting between Coca-Cola Philippines Bottlers Inc. (CCBPI) management and the Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP), affiliated to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), CCBPI committed to creating 741 new permanent jobs in 2012. This will be the first step in reversing more than a decade of outsourcing and casualisation that destroyed permanent jobs and drastically reduced union membership in 19 bottling plants and distribution centres across the country.

On 1 April, Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE)Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz ruled to affirm her previous decision in favour of the Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philippines (FASAP) in its collective bargaining dispute with Philippines Airline (PAL). Baldoz confirmed her decision of 23 December 2010 that granted salary increases to FASAP members, increased the rice allowance, raised the compulsory retirement age to 60 years old and improved pregnancy and maternity benefits. Baldoz also directed PAL to reinstate the Flight Pursers who were retired while the case was pending.

Dole suspected of union busting as it closes banana plantation: On 17 June, Dole Philippines Inc.-Standard Philippines Fruit Corporation's (Stanfilco) announced the closure of a 140-hectare banana plantation in Guinuyuran, Valencia, Bukidnon, affecting some 400 workers. Most of the terminated workers are rank and file members and officers of the Guinuyuran Labour Union – Alliance of Progressive Labour (GLU-APL). Earlier, Dole Philippines-Stanfilco said it would shut down the Guinuyuran farm due to banana plant diseases and poor harvest. However, Cesarlito Dayata, GLU president, refuted Stanfilco's claims, stating that the Guinuyuran plantation remained highly profitable. An APL spokesman accused Dole Philippines-Stanfilco of engaging in an illegal lockout and union-busting.

Philippines Supreme Court overturns ruling in favour of dismissed union members: On 22 July 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement with full back wages of 1,400 flight attendants represented by the Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philippines (FASAP) who were illegally retrenched by Philippine Airlines (PAL). PAL appealed the decision and filed two motions for reconsiderations. On 7 September, the Supreme Courts 2nd Division ruled in favour of FASAP. However, the high court rescinded its ruling on 14 October saying it had been erroneously issued by the Second Division when the Special Third Division was supposed to handle the case.

Government interference in legitimate picket line: On 20 September, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Sidewalk Clearing Operations Group (SCOG) ordered striking workers represented by Philbless Inc. Workers Union (PBIWU) at Philbless Inc. (PBI) to vacate the picket line and then demolished structures set up by the strikers. The PBI workers had been on strike since 15 April 2010.

Karnation 20 saga continues: On 1 March, Labour Arbitrator Napoleon V. Fernando released his decision concerning the dismissal of 20 Karnation employees in 2007. Fernando ruled that Karnation had illegally dismissed employees and ordered Karnation to reinstate the workers "without loss of seniority rights" and to pay "full back wages" amounting to P1,177,696.00 from March to November 2010. However, on 27 October the judge of the Regional Trial Court in Morong, Rizal, increased bail for the Karnation 20 from P60,000 to P80,000. The Karnation 20 were incarcerated for almost three years. Two of them died due to respiratory ailments inside prison. The 20 Karnation workers were falsely charged, arrested, and imprisoned in 2007 in connection with picketing activity after launching a strike against unfair labor practices committed by the company.

Victory for contract workers: On 14 November, the Philippines Court of Appeals, 7th Division, upheld the right of about 70 ABS-CBN television "talents" to receive the same compensation and benefits as regular network employees. The appellate court said the National Labour Relations Commission (NLRC) committed "grave abuse of discretion" when it twice threw out the petition of a group of "talents" in 2008 and 2009 who sued ABS-CBN for refusing to consider them as regular employees. The court held that the employees were able to adequately establish that they had an employer-employee relationship with ABS-CBN under Article 280 of the Labour Code of the Philippines. The appeals court ruling could benefit hundreds of media workers who have filed similar labour suits against ABS-CBN and other broadcast companies.

Cadiz Trucking lays off workers to avoid union election: On 24 November, Cadiz Trucking Services in Negros Occidental laid off 81 workers when the company suddenly shutdown operations days before a union certification election scheduled for 5 December. The workers are members of the Cadiz Trucking Services Progressive Workers' Union, a union registered and certified by the Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE) on 29 June and affiliated to the affiliated to the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). CTS transports consumer goods in Western Visayas. The company owns other companies in the same business and it is likely that CTS operations will be transferred to the sister companies.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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