Harassment against Ed Cubelo, President of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers’ Association

Ed Cubelo_Photo Credit: Ed Cubelo

Press note, 18 June 2014:
Toyota Motor did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Business & Human Rights Resource Centre on concerns raised on the harassment of union leader Ed Cubelo in the Philippines

Since March 2014, Defend Job Philippines – a network of labour groups – has been raising the alarm on serious threats against Ed Cubelo, President of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers’ Association (TMPCWA). The recent incident involved four armed men showing up at Cubelo’s home, introducing themselves as members of the National Bureau of Investigation, and asking about his whereabouts. Cubelo says he has been the subject of similar threats, intimidation and harassment in the form of surveillance, military harassment and death threats since 2001. He believes that the harassment is linked to his involvement in a campaign to expose labour rights violations in Toyota Motor Philippines.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the Japan headquarters of Toyota Motor to respond to a report by Defend Job Philippines detailing threats and related labour issues in this case. It is disappointing that Toyota has not responded, especially since the issue involves serious threats against a human rights defender in an environment where defenders are at high risk. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders has stated in a report to the UN Human Rights Council that “[she] remains seriously concerned regarding the persistent challenges faced by human rights defenders in the Philippines.”  A letter from the International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) addressed to Philippine President Benigno Aquino noted that this incident is consistent with a trend of on-going criminalisation and persecution of people who have mobilised to promote and defend human rights in the Philippines.

The Resource Centre invites companies to respond when they are linked to allegations of misconduct raised by civil society. This process gives the company the opportunity to state their own analysis in their own words, unedited; facilitates company-civil society engagement; encourages companies to publicly address human rights concerns; and provides the public and project-affected people with unfiltered allegations and company’s responses in full. To date, about 75% of companies approached worldwide have sent responses through the Resource Centre. While not indicative of compliance with human rights responsibilities, these responses are an important indicator of firms’ openness to engaging with human rights concerns raised by civil society.

“We urge Toyota to respond to civil society groups’ reports of serious threats against its union leader, as a first step. The responsibility to respect human rights, as stated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, requires that companies seek to prevent human rights impacts that are directly linked to their business, even if they have not contributed to those impacts. Communicating with the public on this particular issue will provide a measure of transparency and assurance on Toyota’s commitment to address these concerns, especially on human rights defenders,” said Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Previously, Toyota Motor sent the Resource Centre a response to reports on the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Myanmar. The Resource Centre encourages Toyota to do the same in this case and will publish any response received.

Charts featuring past company responses can be accessed here.

Relevant links:
-  ESCR-Net urges Philippine President Aquino to put an end to all actions that may result in threats against Mr. Cubelo and other human rights defenders. Letter available here.
-  “NY-based human rights network to P-Noy: Stop harassment of Toyota’s union leader in PH”, InterAksyon.com, 12 Jun 2014
- "Justice is what we want, not threat, harassment and criminalization. -Ed Cubelo of TMPCWA", Defend Job Philippines, 24 Mar 2014