DOLE Statement on BPO Organizer’s Death Irresponsible

June 11, 2024

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) condemns the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) statement to the International Labour Conference (ILC) about call center employees organizer Alex Dolorosa’s murder in April 24, 2023 as irresponsible, distorting facts and avoiding accountability.

The DOLE cannot paint a positive picture of the labor and human rights situation in the country before the ILC, dubbed “the international parliament of labor,” by portraying Dolorosa as not belonging to the labor sector and his murder as non-political. The least that it should do is acknowledge labor and human rights violations cases and exert all efforts to address these.

Dolorosa, a 38-year old member and paralegal officer of the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) and an LGBT activist of BE GLAD, was found dead near a chicken coop on April 25, 2023 in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. His body sustained 23 stab wounds.

While BIEN is registered as a workers’ organization and not a trade union, it seeks to contribute to the trade union movement and should be considered part of the labor sector. Its statement shows that the DOLE is woefully divorced from the state of the labor movement at present, which demands flexibility and creativity in the forms of organizations that are made available to workers.

CTUHR and other labor rights advocates in the country uphold labor’s autonomy from the government, and we see no reason why Dolorosa’s name should be reflected in the documents submitted by BIEN to the DOLE for the government agency to recognize him as a labor organizer. BIEN’s claim that Dolorosa is its organizer, and other evidence supporting this claim, should be enough for the DOLE to recognize Dolorosa as part of the labor sector.

While the accused for Dolorosa’s murder is a private individual, his trial is still ongoing, and may still ferret out his connections with state agents. The DOLE should be responsible proactive in upholding labor and human rights, and must consider Dolorosa’s murder an attack on the labor sector unless and until it is proven otherwise.

After all, Dolorosa’s case did not happen out of the blue. Dolorosa reported to BIEN cases of harassment and surveillance: on January 25, 2021, in the Bayan Muna office in Bacolod City; on January 4, 2022, in the Gabriela office in Bacolod City; and on May 4, 2022, again in said Gabriela office. He also reported that he saw suspicious men surveilling his residence in Bata Subdivision.

One day after Dolorosa’s murder, the Philippine government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) red-tagged BIEN, alongside labor education NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research or EILER, as if to justify his killing.

In short, circumstantial evidence point to state agents’ responsibility for Dolorosa’s murder – and the DOLE should not simply brush these aside by distorting facts in an effort to avoid accountability.###