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Philippines: Workers face unemployment and militarist interference in democratic space during COVID-19

The Impact of COVID-19 on Filipino Workers

Update from Monitoring Partner Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR)

...The pandemic has greatly affected the health, jobs and rights of the people. The poor pandemic response of the Duterte government is seen to have aggravated the suffering of the Filipinos instead of mitigating its social and economic impacts. The labour force survey of the government as of February 2021 indicates that the unemployment rate is at 8.8% which is equivalent to 4.2 million people. The highest unemployment rate was registered at 17.6% in April 2020, during the first implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine.

Aside from the massive layoff of workers from companies that closed down, thousands are put under ‘floating status’. Workers are under the “no work-no pay” arrangement during the pandemic. They are technically not included in the number of unemployed, as they wait for the companies to “recover” to return to work. The Department of Labor and Employment allowed extension of the floating status to 1 year from the previously allowed 6 months…

Attacks against unionists, activists and critics have escalated during the pandemic. Several activists, including unionists have been victims of illegal arrest and trumped-up charges. State forces use search warrants to conduct raids and plant firearms and explosives that serve as evidence to arrest them.

One of those arrested in this way is Arnedo Lagunias, a former union officer of Honda Philippines. CTUHR has monitored at least 13 workers and unionists arrested since 2020. Extrajudicial killings continue even amid the pandemic, both under Duterte’s war on drugs and its war against critics. CTUHR has recorded at least four unionists killed during the community quarantine. This includes Emmanuel Asuncion who was killed last March 7 in Cavite as police allegedly served him a search warrant. He was just one of nine activists killed on that day, dubbed as Bloody Sunday. Another unionist was killed on March 28, just a few weeks after Asuncion’s death. Dandy Miguel, President of the workers’ union in Fuji Electric Phils. was shot dead by unknown assailants as he was on his way home from work…

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