Self-Organization Rights of Employees of International Organizations

A brief look into the nature of international organizations and specialized agencies is in order. The term "international organization" is generally used to describe an organization set up by agreement between two or more states. Under contemporary international law, such organizations are endowed with some degree of international legal personality such that they are capable of exercising specific rights, duties and powers. They are organized mainly as a means for conducting general international business in which the member states have an interest. The United Nations, for instance, is an international organization dedicated to the propagation of world peace.

"Specialized agencies" are international organizations having functions in particular fields. The term appears in Articles 57 and 63 of the Charter of the United Nations:

The Charter, while it invests the United Nations with the general task of promoting progress and international cooperation in economic, social, health, cultural, educational and related matters, contemplates that these tasks will be mainly fulfilled not by organs of the United Nations itself but by autonomous international organizations established by inter-governmental agreements outside the United Nations. There are now many such international agencies having functions in many different fields, e.g. in posts, telecommunications, railways, canals, rivers, sea transport, civil aviation, meteorology, atomic energy, finance, trade, education and culture, health and refugees. Some are virtually world-wide in their membership, some are regional or otherwise limited in their membership. The Charter provides that those agencies which have "wide international responsibilities" are to be brought into relationship with the United Nations by agreements entered into between them and the Economic and Social Council, are then to be known as "specialized agencies."

The rapid growth of international organizations under contemporary international law has paved the way for the development of the concept of international immunities.

It is now usual for the constitutions of international organizations to contain provisions conferring certain immunities on the organizations themselves, representatives of their member states and persons acting on behalf of the organizations. A series of conventions, agreements and protocols defining the immunities of various international organizations in relation to their members generally are now widely in force; . . . 

There are basically three propositions underlying the grant of international immunities to international organizations. These principles, contained in the ILO Memorandum are stated thus: 1) international institutions should have a status which protects them against control or interference by any one government in the performance of functions for the effective discharge of which they are responsible to democratically constituted international bodies in which all the nations concerned are represented; 2) no country should derive any national financial advantage by levying fiscal charges on common international funds; and 3) the international organization should, as a collectivity of States members, be accorded the facilities for the conduct of its official business customarily extended to each other by its individual member States. The theory behind all three propositions is said to be essentially institutional in character. "It is not concerned with the status, dignity or privileges of individuals, but with the elements of functional independence necessary to free international institutions from national control and to enable them to discharge their responsibilities impartially on behalf of all their members. The raison d'etre for these immunities is the assurance of unimpeded performance of their functions by the agencies concerned.

The grant of immunity from local jurisdiction to ICMC and IRRI is clearly necessitated by their international character and respective purposes. The objective is to avoid the danger of partiality and interference by the host country in their internal workings. The exercise of jurisdiction by the Department of Labor in these instances would defeat the very purpose of immunity, which is to shield the affairs of international organizations, in accordance with international practice, from political pressure or control by the host country to the prejudice of member States of the organization, and to ensure the unhampered performance of their functions.

ICMC's and IRRI's immunity from local jurisdiction by no means deprives labor of its basic rights, which are guaranteed by Article II, Section 18, Article III, Section 8, and Article XIII, Section 3 (supra), of the 1987 Constitution; and implemented by Articles 243 and 246 of the Labor Code, relied on by the BLR Director and by Kapisanan.

For, ICMC employees are not without recourse whenever there are disputes to be settled. Section 31 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations provides that "each specialized agency shall make provision for appropriate modes of settlement of: (a) disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of private character to which the specialized agency is a party." Moreover, pursuant to Article IV of the Memorandum of Agreement between ICMC the the Philippine Government, whenever there is any abuse of privilege by ICMC, the Government is free to withdraw the privileges and immunities accorded. Thus:

Art. IV. Cooperation with Government Authorities. — 1. The Commission shall cooperate at all times with the appropriate authorities of the Government to ensure the observance of Philippine laws, rules and regulations, facilitate the proper administration of justice and prevent the occurrences of any abuse of the privileges and immunities granted its officials and alien employees in Article III of this Agreement to the Commission.

In the event that the Government determines that there has been an abuse of the privileges and immunities granted under this Agreement, consultations shall be held between the Government and the Commission to determine whether any such abuse has occurred and, if so, the Government shall withdraw the privileges and immunities granted the Commission and its officials. Neither are the employees of IRRI without remedy in case of dispute with management as, in fact, there had been organized a forum for better management-employee relationship as evidenced by the formation of the Council of IRRI Employees and Management (CIEM) wherein "both management and employees were and still are represented for purposes of maintaining mutual and beneficial cooperation between IRRI and its employees." The existence of this Union factually and tellingly belies the argument that Pres. Decree No. 1620, which grants to IRRI the status, privileges and immunities of an international organization, deprives its employees of the right to self-organization.

The immunity granted being "from every form of legal process except in so far as in any particular case they have expressly waived their immunity," it is inaccurate to state that a certification election is beyond the scope of that immunity for the reason that it is not a suit against ICMC. A certification election cannot be viewed as an independent or isolated process. It could tugger off a series of events in the collective bargaining process together with related incidents and/or concerted activities, which could inevitably involve ICMC in the "legal process," which includes "any penal, civil and administrative proceedings." The eventuality of Court litigation is neither remote and from which international organizations are precisely shielded to safeguard them from the disruption of their functions. Clauses on jurisdictional immunity are said to be standard provisions in the constitutions of international Organizations. "The immunity covers the organization concerned, its property and its assets. It is equally applicable to proceedings in personam and proceedings in rem." (International Catholic Migration Commission v. Calleja; G.R. No. 85750)