Duterte pushes passage of pro-worker laws
Members of militant groups march on España in Manila toward Mendiola to pay tribute to workers in celebration of Labor Day yesterday.
Ernie Peñaredondo

Duterte pushes passage of pro-worker laws

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is urging Congress to pass more laws aimed at protecting workers’ rights, as he admitted that the plight of workers has not changed much despite the annual observance of Labor Day.

In his Labor Day statement, Duterte said the working class should be honored “not as a tool of employers and capitalists, but as an essential catalyst for our nation’s overall progress.” Duterte did not join any Labor Day activity yesterday.

“It is unfortunate, however, that despite this yearly observance, the plight of our workers, especially those who choose to leave their families so they may earn better compensation abroad, remains the same,” Duterte said.

“This is why my administration has implemented measures within its powers to afford full protection to labor and promote equal work opportunities for all,” he added.

Duterte cited Executive Order No. 51, which prohibited labor contracting “when undertaken to circumvent the workers’ rights to security of tenure, self-organization and collective bargaining and peaceful concerted activities pursuant to the 1987 Constitution.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said more than 400,000 workers have become regular employees through the “voluntary regularization” of some companies.

However, some labor groups are not satisfied with the EO, saying the Labor Code already covers the EO’s provisions on labor-only contracting. Officials have admitted that a law is needed to ban contractualization or end-of-contract (endo).

“I remain optimistic that one year since I issued Executive Order No. 51 implementing existing constitutional and statutory provisions against illegal contracting, my counterparts in Congress will consider passing much needed legislative measures that will fully protect our workers’ rights, especially to security of tenure and self-organization,” Duterte said.

Last September, Duterte certified as urgent the security of tenure bill, which seeks to prohibit what he described as “prevalent” practices of labor contractualization and labor-only contracting.

In a letter addressed to congressional leaders, the President said the practices “continue to immerse our workers in a quagmire of poverty and underemployment.”

Duterte highlighted the role of workers in society, saying the nation’s strength has always depended on the hard work, grit and perseverance of the labor force.

“Every year, we set aside this day to celebrate their valuable contributions not only in the struggle to provide a better life for our people but in building the foundations of a more promising future for succeeding generations of Filipinos,” the President said.

“May this solemn observance inspire all of us to work together in improving the plight of our workers by creating an environment conducive to their personal and professional growth and development,” he added.


As thousands of workers mobilized for Labor Day yesterday, Malacañang accused militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and its allies of engaging in “anti-government” activities that scare away foreign investors.

“The KMU criticizes the government for being anti-poor and anti-worker while blaming the government for the lack of jobs and alleged worsening labor conditions,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

“What seems to escape them is the truth that their anti-government activities could scare away foreign investors in the country, resulting in job losses to the people they are fighting for and vow to protect,” he added.

Panelo said militant groups seem to ignore the “pro-labor” initiatives of President Duterte.

“The Filipino worker is the President’s most valued resource, as labor is one of the engines that will propel the country’s growth and development,” the spokesman said.

“The Duterte administration has been at the forefront in improving the labor conditions of our workers,” he added.

Among the pro-labor laws signed by the President are the strengthening of occupational safety and health standards, making work from home as an alternative work arrangement, increasing female workers’ maternity leave and providing a handbook on the rights and responsibilities of migrant workers.

He said the President has also signed executive orders increasing the employment compensation funeral benefits for employees in the public and private sectors, protecting the right to security of tenure of all workers, increasing employees’ compensation benefits in the private sector and career’s allowance in the public sector and granting of gratuity pay to job order and contract service workers in the government.

Panelo said the administration has also prioritized the welfare and concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

He cited the creation of a one-stop service center for OFWs, a 24/7 OFW Command Center and an Overseas Filipino Bank. Bilateral labor agreements designed to improve the working conditions of OFWs were also signed with Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

“The administration’s resolve is the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers not only in the country but on foreign soil as well. We are committed to creating jobs as we look forward to welcoming more Filipinos in the workforce,” Panelo said.

No public appearance

President Duterte was a “no show” yesterday at all government-initiated activities marking Labor Day.

He was supposed to grace the groundbreaking for the first ever OFW Hospital and Diagnostic Center in San Fernando, Pampanga. He sent Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as his representative.

In Duterte’s absence, Duque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the groundbreaking ceremony.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Hans Cacdac said details concerning the construction of the hospital are still under discussion.

Duterte also skipped his traditional dialogue with various labor groups. Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) spokesman Alan Tanjusay said Malacañang did not invite the workers for the yearly Labor Day dialogue.

Yesterday’s mass actions centered on the Duterte administration’s allegedly reneging on its promise to stop contractualization.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) secretary general Judy Ann Miranda said the Senate should heed the workers’ call for the immediate passage of the proposed Security of Tenure bill.

For not heeding the labor sector’s call, KMU chair Elmer Labog said workers will not vote for the candidates endorsed by Duterte.

“Workers will resist and oppose the worsening attacks against the poor and working people, and one of the ways is to vote against the candidates Duterte supports and endorses, because if they win, they will push for Duterte’s anti-poor legislative agenda,” Labog said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she is hoping for the full implementation of the Expanded Maternity Leave Law with the signing yesterday of the measure’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

Hontiveros said the release of the IRR of Republic Act No. 11210 is one item of good news for all women workers and their families.

“As the principal sponsor and author of the Expanded Maternity Leave Law in the Senate, I am happy that the implementing rules and regulations of the measure were signed and released today. I welcome this development as this ensures the full implementation of the law and that all women will benefit from the measure,” said Hontiveros.

“I would like to thank the Department of Labor and Employment, the Social Security System, the Civil Service Commission, the different legislative offices, labor groups and other relevant agencies for tirelessly working to craft and finalize the law’s IRR,” she said.

Sen. Nancy Binay, also an author of the law, called the signing of the IRR “a very beautiful gift to all working mothers this Labor Day.”

“Let us start creating a work environment where women are not discriminated for wanting to be parents,” she said.

The law provides 105 days of paid maternity leave to all working mothers and an additional 15 days to solo mothers. Mothers will also have the option to extend for an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

Fathers will also be given more time to spend with their love ones as the law includes a provision allowing the allocation of seven maternity leave days to fathers, raising the paternity leave to 14 days from the current seven days.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate committee on labor and employment, expressed hope the chamber would fast-track the passage of Senate Bill 1826 or the proposed “Act Strengthening Workers’ Right to Security of Tenure.” The bill was approved on second reading before the recess last February.

“I am optimistic that the entire Senate will push for the passage of the bill and send it to the bicameral conference when session resumes and heads into the final three weeks of the 17th Congress,” Villanueva told reporters. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Ghio Ong

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