The proposal of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas to require police clearances for transactions with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) would infringe the right of workers, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said on Friday, April 23.
TUCP Party-list Representative Raymond Mendoza said the police’s suggestion is an “unwarranted infringement of the Constitutional rights of workers to self-organization.”
Sinas’ proposal was contained in a letter addressed to DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
“On its face, the request of the PNP to require those dealing with the DOLE to submit National Police Clearances superimposes the heavy-handed police state security apparatus on our labor relations system. It will have a ‘chilling effect’ on the free and unfettered exercise of workers’ rights,” he said.
“We therefore urge the leadership of DOLE to categorically reject the proposed requirement that workers who have official business with the DOLE be made to present a National Police Clearance,’’ he stressed.
‘’It is violative of our right to organize and unduly expands the discretion of the State in intervening in the exercise of our Constitutional rights,” he added.
Mendoza also pointed out that requiring workers to present National Police Clearances when they seek to register their unions with DOLE, or when petitioning for certification elections, or when submitting their collective bargaining agreements or seeking peaceful mediation or conciliation ‘’is not a purely ministerial act, but a form of prior restraint, whose intent is clearly to intimidate and scare off workers from exercising their rights.”
“Such a requirement will defeat workers’ rights at a time when workers are being involuntarily compelled to take pay cuts, work longer hours, engage in job-sharing, or go into ‘no work, no pay’ arrangements. It will discourage workers from asserting their rights or from contesting improper or substandard COVID-19 management protocols, or the non-observance of Occupational Safety and Health standards. Clearly, National Police Clearances will be an unconscionable hurdle, and in terms of claiming that ours, is truly, a free and decent society,” he explained.
“It will emasculate the exercise of labor rights and will make a mockery of the labor justice system,” he reiterated.
TUCP Vice President Luis Corral also said: “This proposal has no place in a modern and modernizing economy, like the Philippines, where workers are presumed to be given social partnership status at par with employers.”
“The PNP would have us go back to the bad old days of witch hunts and political persecution. Instead, the PNP, DOLE, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should demonstrate greater political sophistication in dealing with workers since after all, the tariff – free access of many Philippine exports to the United States and Europe is predicated on the respect of our government for core labor standards including the right to organize,’’ Corral pointed out.
The group linked the proposal to the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Coordinating Office (JIPCO) to counter what officials described as “radical unionism”.
“Now we see profiling and ‘red-tagging’ of legitimate, legal, above-ground labor organizing work placing our workers’ lives and that of our organizers at extreme risk. Then this new initiative attempts to transform the DOLE into an adjunct police agency,” Corral said.