Police dispersal of Congress workers protest should be probed — labor NGO

February 29, 2024

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), an NGO working for the empowerment of workers in the country’s formal and informal sector, calls on authorities to investigate the February 28 police dispersal of a protest held by workers in front of the House of Representatives.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) of Batasan, Quezon City, led by station commander Lt Col. Jerry Castillo, Jr., should be investigated for dispersing a legitimate workers’ protest and injuring workers attending the protest. Indications show that police forces under Castillo’s leadership violated workers’ rights to freedom of expression and of assembly that are guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

In the workers’ affidavits collected by CTUHR, and as shown by footages taken by the media, the police used their shield to push back the protesting workers at both the start and the middle of the protest. In a video taken by ABS-CBN, Castillo was seen arguing with labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) secretary-general Jerome Adonis, asserting that he has given the workers 45 minutes to hold their protests.

One of the workers who was badly hurt says that the police used their shield to push him down to the ground and to continue to push him down even when he was already lying on the ground. He also stated that when he was trying to stand up, the police kept pulling his napsack, which he wore in front of him and caused him to choke. The police stopped assaulting him only when fellow workers told them to stop and when media cameras began shooting.

The workers protesting outside the Batasang Pambansa had every reason to be there. Proposed laws for a wage hike were being deliberated by Congress after the Senate approved a P100 wage hike, which is a step forward for their right to  a living wage. Workers also wanted to protest the Ferdinand Marcos Jr government’s Charter Change plan, which threatens their labor rights.

The PNP, the Quezon City government, the House of Representatives, and even the Commission on Human Rights should investigate this incident. Proposals to increase workers’ minimum wages and to push through with Cha-cha are gaining ground, and workers’ protest actions should be expected to continue and increase.

The government has the obligation to protect workers’ rights to express their opinion and to hold protests even if workers take stands that are different from, or even critical to, those taken by the government.###