Southern Tagalog massacre abominable — labor safety NGO

March 12, 2021

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development  (IOHSAD) condemns the massacre of nine activists, the arrest of four more, and the raids of their households. These are further proof of the blatant disregard of Filipinos’ right to life and to live in freedom and in safety under the Duterte government.

Everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law, and should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but uniformed personnel took it upon themselves to deliver their own verdict. Everyone has the right to ask for legal help when their rights are not respected, but these same men withheld the victims’ families access to legal aide. No one should be subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, but these men used excessive force on unarmed civilians resting in their homes in the guise of following orders from higher-ups.

It is the government’s responsibility to uphold human rights for all and it should be made accountable for its actions. We support workers’ unions, pro-worker institutions and people’s organizations in general who are waging a struggle until justice for those massacred is served.

Unionists, labor leaders, union organizers, activists and labor rights defenders in general are the backbone of the fight for healthy and safe workplaces in the country. If workplace health and safety in the Philippines leave much to be desired, it is because these people have been under attack for years. Instead of ensuring the strict implementation of occupational health and safety standards to save the lives of workers, either in the short-term or the long-term, the Duterte government is busy in its killing spree of those people dedicated to fighting for workers’ right to a healthy and safe workplace and other labor rights. Indeed, the picture is that the government is killing these labor rights advocates so the big greedy corporations can go on killing workers in the workplace. Impunity in government upholds impunity in the workplace.

One Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his order to kill communist rebels. Just two days after, a synchronized police operation was carried out against unionists and activists in Southern Tagalog region. His regime has long created an environment of danger for labor and human rights defenders and activists, claiming 318 lives from July 2016 to June 2020. With the International Criminal Court already having reasonable basis for trying crimes against humanity for the 20,000 lives lost from Duterte’s drug war, we amplify our call to the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an investigation on the human rights situation in Philippines.

For three years now, the Philippines has been listed by the International Trade Union Confederation or ITUC in its Global Rights Index as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers. This is not surprising as according to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR),  53 workers and labor rights defenders have been victims of state-sponsored killings, 30 remain detained over trumped-up charges, 45 instances of union-busting have been recorded from June 30 to December 2018, and 14 violent picketline dispersals by the combined forces of the police, the military, goons, and company guards have been carried out by 2020.

These attacks on workers and labor rights defenders should stop. With these occurring on top of continued surveillance, harassment and intimidation of labor leaders, organizers and unions, IOHSAD challenges the government to accept the High-Level Mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to investigate the trade union and human rights violations against workers and labor rights defenders.

We are calling on fellow labor advocates and rights defenders to stand with our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us because of the Duterte regime’s policy of extra-judicial killings. They were taken too soon to become a statistic in this administration’s fight against the insurgency, one that fails to protect the very people it should be serving. Activism is not terrorism, but service to workers and the people. Through the rose-colored lenses of a man who wants to stay in power, however, everyone, except the COVID-19 virus, is a target.

Stop the Attacks! Stop the Killings!

Hands off Unionists!

Hands off Labor Rights Defenders!

Unionism is not Terrorism!

Junk Terror Law!

Defend Trade Union and Human Rights!

Justice for all Victims of Extrajudicial Killings!

Buan, L. (2020). Echanis case sparks new scrutiny of PH government probes into killings.Rappler. Retrieved from

Flores, H. (2020). ICC sees crimes against humanity in Philippines drug war.Philippine Star. Retrieved from

International Trade Union Confederations Global Rights Index (2016-2020)

Center for Trade Union, Inc (2020). Statement on Bloody Sunday Massacre.