What does ILO group chairmanship mean for Bello's 2022 plans?

Amid whispers of a possible stab at the senatorial race in the May 2022 national polls, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III appears to be eyeing an active stint as chairman of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Government Group instead.

(File photo/ Screengrab from Zoom meeting)

A statement from DOLE Sudnay, July 18, said Bello was "set to take on the challenge" of heading the group representing both the powerful and the small governments of the world in the ILO.

“I think all previous labor secretaries had wished of getting elected chairman of the ILO group. Our chairmanship this year is unprecedented, the first in the history of the century-old ILO,” Bello said.

“This is why I am inclined to actively assume the role and take on the challenge of leading the ILO body,” added the Cabinet official, who is one of the most active in the Duterte administration.

It was last July 4 when DOLE trumpeted the Philippines' historic designation as ILO Government Group chairman, a position that will be assumed by Bello in his capacity as local labor chief. It underscored that the Philippines was the first non-regular member-country of the ILO to take on such role.

The group chairmanship is a year-long commitment, and that is where it gets interesting for Bello.

The filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for the 2022 polls begins this October; should Bello decide to run for Senate or any elective post for that matter, he will be deemed resigned as DOLE chief.

Bello, a former congressman and justice secretary, has repeatedly said in recent press briefings that the elections were still far away and that his focus was to see to it that DOLE's programs are properly implemented, especially amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ILO is a United Nations (UN) agency mandated to advance social and economic justice through setting international labor standards. Founded in October 1919 under the League of Nations, it is the first and oldest specialized agency of the UN. The ILO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Labor Attaché Cheryl Daytec, who heads the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Switzerland, said the Philippines' designation has put the country as “first among unequals."

“Our new leadership role Chair of the Government Group of the ILO’s Government Body gives us a ‘primus’ position among ILO Member States. For the record, in the 102 years of the ILO existence, this is the first time that an observer country is the Government Group Chair,” Daytec said in a statement.

She explained: “Not all ILO member States are equal. Presently, the ILO has 187 Member States. In the Governing Body, these states are categorized into non-elective titular/regular members, elected titular or regular members, elected deputy members, and observers. The twenty-eight (28) titular/regular Member States have voting and speaking rights. The 28 deputy member States have speaking rights but are devoid of voting rights. The rest, including the Philippines, are observers shrived of voting and speaking rights in the ILO Governing Body.”

“The chairing role will benefit from the rich experience of Secretary Bello’s as a peace negotiator for three decades,” she said, highlighting another key detail of the DOLE chief's resumé.

Daytec said international labor standards and policies are the product of social dialogues between and among the three parties in the ILO tripartite system: the Workers' Group, the Employers' Group, and the Government Group.

“The Government Group acts as the mediator or conciliator of conflicts between the two groups on issues affecting labor standard setting, good governance, and other issues requiring the decisions of the Governing Body and the International Labour Conference. A skilled arbiter of competing interests, like Secretary Bello, can steer the three groups towards achieving consensus on international labor standards and other matters,” she said.