by PhilRights Staff

Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…

Labor Groups Reject Duterte’s EO on Contractualization

President Duterte signed Executive Order 51 during a Cebu City Labor Day celebration on May 1. Vera Files reported that the President read part of the EO during the event, commenting in Bisaya “Mao na ni. Mao na ni ang akong pinaka-kaya gyud. Sinagad ko na (This is it. This is the most I can do. I have given my fullest).”

Labor groups, however, were less than pleased. As they correctly note, and as Vera Files has suggested in its reporting, the order merely prohibits “illegal contracting or subcontracting,” which was already covered by a Labor Department order released back in March 2017. This is a far cry from Duterte’s much touted campaign promise to end contractualization from “Day 1” of his presidency.

In a Rappler interview, Nagkaisa labor coalition spokesperson Rene Magtubo called EO 51 as one “for the employers, not for the workers,” adding that they “will continue to fight to give justice to workers affected by the widespread contractualization of labor.”

While, the administration has engaged in negotiations with labor groups for a solution to contractualization, the landmark provisions effectively banning contractualization that were present in the labor-proposed drafts of the Executive Order was not reflected in EO 51.

In a pre-Labor Day interview with ABS-CBN’s DZMM, the public sector union COURAGE (Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees) said that the “permanent contractual” workers in government would not be helped by any EO the president would sign in May 1. The union explained that contractual workers—1 in 3 government workers—are not even covered by the Labor Code.

PH Press Mark World Press Freedom Day

Members of the press and press freedom advocates around the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Here are some Philippine highlights:

Media organizations including the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) expressed their “deep concern” journalists’ lives and safety given the continued attacks against members of the press, particularly from the government. As reported by Davao Today, the media groups cited restraints on the media during the Marawi crisis, the  so-called war on drugs, and in the Boracay closure. Nine journalists were reportedly killed while covering the war on drugs and 16 cases of libel were charged on journalists during Duterte’s 22 months in power. The groups have tallied at least 85 cases of attacks on media in that 22-month period saying that nearly all media platforms have been attacked.

Rappler posted a summary of the UNESCO project 25 Seconds for Press Freedom, featuring journalists from around the world, including Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, all talking about how press freedom is integral to a democratic society and in forwarding the cause of human rights around the world. Several journalists also talked about how journalism is not a crime and that it should not be treated as such, as is the case with the oft-embattled media networks Rappler and Al-Jazeera.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression along with other rights groups meanwhile stressed the role of an independent media in strengthening democracies. They called for the end of attacks and reprisals on journalists and demanded that governments must investigate killings of press workers.

This year’s commemoration was especially urgent given that only a few days before, another Filipino journalist was killed. Dumaguete City radio broadcaster Edmund Sestoso was attacked by gunmen on the morning of April 30. He succumbed to his wounds and died two days later. NUJP decried the attack, saying that it underscored a culture of impunity that silences the press.

Meanwhile, a new planned House of Representatives rule seeks to ban reporters who “besmirch” the reputation of lawmakers. This can easily be construed as a ban on critical journalism for the House. Human Rights Watch denounced the draft rule as an attack on the press, according to an ABS-CBN report.

MUST READ: PCIJ’S Account of PNP’s Opacity with Drug War Data

ABS-CBN published a quick account of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s Vino Lucero on the increasingly opaque ways in which the Philippine National Police has addressed requests for information on their handling of the so-called war on drugs.

As Lucero so aptly puts it, “The PNP has set up all sorts of hoops and obstacles for the media to be able to access and secure information on the drug war. One is wont to ask: What are the police trying to hide?”

The whole piece is a quick read, but a vital one, given that it describes in detail the difficulty journalists face in obtaining data from the police.

Read the story here .

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