June 27, 2010

            Hon. Leila de Lima deliver her speech                         Some of the participants from Southern Tagalog pose with Atty. de Lima

In dismal state was Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila de Lima spoke about the human rights situation in the Philippines during the National Consultation on Organizing Workers in Export Processing Zones and Special Economic Zones on 24th of June 2010.

The Workers Assistance Center, Inc. (WAC), Ecumenical Institute of Labor Education and Research (EILER), and the Crispin B. Beltran Resource Center (CBBRC) through the cooperation and support of the Center for Research on Multinational Corporation (SOMO) based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands were sponsors of the said activity.

Before proceeding to her speech, the commissioner commended individual leaders, members, and groups with special mention to the three sponsoring institutions of the activity - the WAC, EILER, and CBBRC for being advocates of labor rights in
bringing the true state of human rights (HR) in the country to national and international attention.

She stressed that labor rights was part and parcel of human rights thus workers have the right to life, freedom of organization, freedom of association, good working condition, good health,  good or better standard of living  that should be respected.

De Lima held that this might be her last public engagement as the CHR Chairperson before moving to the Department of justice (DoJ) on the 30th of June 2010. She admitted that she never hesitated in accepting the position since she knew that her appointment as DoJ secretary was related to but better than her work in the commission because she’ll have the authority to prosecute the accused and that she could act on the irregularities and HR violations happening in the country.

“Unlike before, many of my critics said that I only do barking and barking, but I can’t bite,” De Lima stated  referring to a  lot of cases being filed at the CHR that they could not do action about as the commission has only recommendatory  power to the judicial court.

Somehow with a relief, she was hoping that once in her new office, she could act upon issues of Human Rights and the Labor Rights violations.  She was also looking forward to basically help change the HR conditions, the Labor condition in particular,  through protecting and developing the workforce in changing the conditions of the workers in EPZ’s and SEZ’s, raise the wages everywhere else and sustain a humane and standard of living.

In the open forum, workers raised their experiences. One was in the Dole Philippines, the National Federation of Workers Union-KMU (NAFLU-KMU) union president asked about the militarization in their company as well as the nearby community. De Lima responded that she will address the issue and also on the killing of the union secretary in Takata Philippines Corporation on June 3, 2010. Except for the issue of the union in Bluestar Corporation in which the management did not face the workers in the Collective Bargaining Negotiation, she said they could no longer get involved because it was already in the legal process after the National Labor Relation Commission approved the workers’ petition.

Before the discussion ended, Rev. Fr. Jose Dizon, executive director of WAC, told Atty. De Lima that he was hoping that even if she will continue her involvement in the labor issues upon occupying her new post. He also reminded her about the cases being filed against the workers.  He pointed out that only a handful lawyers in the country worked on the labor issues and concerns. He further proposed that the labor disputes between the workers and employers should not be criminalized. De Lima responded that she will look on Fr. Dizon’s proposal.