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“Human Rights Protection is the first business of Law Enforcement”, said PCSupt. Prudencio T. Bañas, Chief of PNP Human Rights Affairs Office, in his message during the Area-wide Training on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining for the Military and Police conducted successively by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in a tie-up program with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Manila, Davao and Cebu on 18-21 March, 25-28 March and 1-4 April 2014, respectively, benefiting approximately 300 military and police personnel nationwide.

The uniformed men and women of the AFP and PNP actively participated in the said training specifically designed to orient them of their roles during the exercise of workers’ rights and activities, particularly in labor disputes, as prescribed under the Joint DOLE-PNP-PEZA Guidelines issued on 23 May 2011 and the Guidelines on the Conduct of the DOLE, DILG, DND, DOJ, AFP and PNP Relative to the Exercise of Workers’ Rights and Activities issued on 7 May 2012.

Bgen Roberto Domines, Assistant Division Commander, 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army stated in his message that, “the training is crucial in deepening understanding of the AFP’s actuations towards the workers and labor organizations in the exercise of their rights”. He further enjoined all participants to disseminate information to be acquired in the seminar to their respective offices in the AFP.

Resource speakers in the area-wide activities came from the ILO, DOLE, AFP and PNP, all of whom delineated the roles of each stakeholder in the event of a labor dispute based on existing international conventions and national laws and regulations.

“Labor disputes are under the sole jurisdiction of the DOLE”, National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) Executive Director Reynaldo Ubaldo emphasized in his presentations. He underscored that the AFP and PNP may only intervene in labor disputes under three circumstances: 1) when expressly requested in writing by DOLE; 2) when a criminal act has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed; and 3) in cases of actual  violence.

Serving as the highlight of the training was the case study prepared by the NCMB where the participants were asked to analyze an actual labor dispute scenario and to act the roles of the different stakeholders as prescribed under the two (2) Guidelines.

Significantly, in all three (3) batches, the AFP and PNP clearly and correctly depicted in their role-playing activity the salient provisions of the Guidelines such as the observance of the 50m distance from the picket area, practice of maximum tolerance, intervention only upon request by the DOLE or presence of criminal acts and violence, and engagement of all stakeholders, including the AFP and PNP, in a social dialogue through the Regional Inter-Agency Coordinating and Monitoring Committee (RICMC) for the resolution of the labor dispute.

In recapitulation of the activities, Ms. Diane Respall, ILO Program Manager, stressed that “the Guidelines has clear potential in preventing labor disputes to escalate through the conduct of continuous conciliation-mediation and inclusive social dialogue where all tripartite stakeholders are represented”. Hence, she hoped that the AFP and PNP shall remain active in their engagement with other agencies for the proper observance and implementation of the Guidelines.