Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of Senate Bill 1026 that seeks to ensure equal employment opportunities to members of indigenous communities

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of Senate Bill 1026 that seeks to ensure equal employment opportunities to members of indigenous communities

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) encourages the approval of the Senate Bill No. 1026 (SB 1026), which aims to address the issues of poverty and inequalities affecting members of indigenous communities by providing them with access to equal employment opportunities and prohibiting discriminatory acts in their hiring and dismissal from work.

Introduced by Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, the “Equal Employment Opportunities to Members of Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) Act” focuses on measures, which guarantee that indigenous peoples (IPs) rights are respected. Under the bill, the government is mandated to reserve at least 10 percent of the rank-and-file positions in government services to IPs in areas where indigenous cultural communities’ presence is dominant. Additionally, private enterprises that operate in areas where ICC exist and which receive assistance, loans, or grants from the government, shall be required to give preferential employment to members of ICC by assuring them a 10% slot in their workforce.

Indigenous communities and indigenous peoples continue to be one the Philippines’ most vulnerable groups. From discrimination to displacements and even killings, IPs are oftentimes victims of numerous human rights violations and social inequalities, which prevent them from fully thriving in our society. The deprivation of their basic human rights manifest in their economic marginalization. In a 2020 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) sounded the alarm on the extreme poverty and inequality that beset IPs. Their report revealed that “IPs are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty as their non-indigenous counterparts.” [1] In the Philippines, IPs are considered to be among the poorest sectors of our country and experience the highest rates of unemployment, underemployment, and illiteracy. [2]

An important feature of SB 1026 is the prohibition against discrimination of IP members in the hiring and dismissal on the basis of their ethnic group. This provides additional protection for IP workers while also helping create a safe space for them considering their vulnerability to discrimination. The guaranteed slots for ICCs in areas where they are dominant is also notable for it enables ICC members to be mainstreamed in the society while also giving them employment opportunities that will allow them to enhance their potentials and will also help improve their economic state.

CHR applauds the proposed measure as it seeks to concretize the social justice clause under Article XIII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, which states, “The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities (emphasis added) by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.” The Constitution also underscores that it is the State’s obligation to recognize, respect, and promote the rights of IPs within the framework of national development. Further, the proposed bill adheres to the Philippine commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which protects their community from “any discriminatory conditions of labour and… employment or salary.”[3]

The IPs right to secure equal employment opportunities and right to be free from discrimination are their gateway to freely determine economic and social development while ensuring their cultural well-being. As such, the CHR urges the swift progress and eventual passage of this measure, which is most certainly a step to a more inclusive society for IPs in the Philippines. ###

[1] Urgent action needed to tackle poverty and inequalities facing indigenous peoples http://ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_735575/lang–en/index.htm

[2] ILO in Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in the Philippines https://www.ilo.org/manila/areasofwork/WCMS_402361/lang–en/index.htm

[3] United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf