Labor advocates sound alarm on Charter change

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Labor advocates sound alarm on Charter change
Workers are seen constructing Marikina’s flood control projects on May 30, 2023, ahead of the rainy season.
Photos by Walter Bollozos / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) expressed its opposition to Congress' attempts to amend the 1987 Constitution, fearing that it could lead to the removal of provisions protecting laborers in favor of attracting investors.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri recently filed Resolution of Both Houses 6, seeking to amend various economic provisions in the Constitution to allow the 100% foreign ownership and investment on certain protected sectors and industries in the name of "development" — a controversial move opposed to by patriots.

"We fear that [Charter Change] will remove not only limits to foreign ownership of land and other essential sectors of the economy. We also fear that it will remove the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that guarantee labor rights," said CTUHR in a statement on Friday.

"These are the provisions that Marcos Jr’s Cha-cha, with its thrust of further opening up the country to foreign investors, currently endangers. Previous Cha-cha campaigns floated the possibility of removing these provisions."

Among the provisions enshrined in Article XIII, Section III of the said charter are the following rights:

  • self-organization
  • collective bargaining and negotiations
  • peaceful concerted activities
  • right to strike in accordance with law
  • security of tenure
  • humane conditions of work
  • living wage

Article II, Section IX of the same Constitution also states the following:

The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

"Further opening to foreign investors means more intense participation in the global race to the bottom, in which developing countries race among each other to offer labor that is cheapest, most repressed and therefore most denied of rights to big foreign employers," the CTUHR said.

"[R]emoving labor rights provisions in the 1987 Constitution, will mean deeper suffering and greater exploitation for Filipino workers. Marcos Jr’s Cha-cha will make the country’s Constitution even worse," it added.

'Focus on creating decent domestic jobs'

Sen. Sonny Angara, who currently chairs the Senate finance committee, earlier voiced his support for Zubiri's resolution by signing RBH 6 stating that they would focus on trying to amend the abovementioned economic provisions and steer clear from political changes.

Prior to filing the resolution, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. earlier asked the Senate to lead the review of the said economic provisions enshrined in the Constitution. However, Zubiri said that the president was not too keen on giving foreigners the right to own lands.

While there's a renewed push for Charter change, Zubiri stated that Marcos Jr. expressed disdain for the signature campaign (People's Initiative) to change the charter as he deemed it "too divisive."

"What the country needs in order to create decent jobs for Filipinos and uphold labor rights is to create industries in the country. The country has been opening up to foreign investors since time immemorial, and it has not achieved any development," the CTUHR said.

"Countries who have attained development, and provided decent jobs to their people, are those that created industries. We should follow their lessons, not the dictates of big foreign employers," it added.

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