Senator urges better protection for gig workers after death of delivery rider


MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday called anew for the passage of the bill granting stronger protection to delivery riders after one of them was found lifeless while resting on his motorcycle.

This comes after delivery Noel Escote was found dead on his motorcycle in Pasig City over the weekend. A police report quoted in an Inquirer report pointed out that "no external injury was noted" in a cursory examination. 

“Let his death be a wake up call to our colleagues in the legislature to immediately act on pending bills that will make sure that the rights and welfare of the increasing number of gig economy workers are upheld,” Hontiveros said in a statement sent to reporters Monday. 

Hontiveros also asked Lalamove, Escote's company, to assist the rider's family, pointing out that the latter "died while fulfilling his duty as a delivery rider."

She also disclosed that her office received a letter from Escote's family requesting assistance in conveying their grievance to the company. 

“Noel is an example of a Filipino who is trying to deliver to meet the needs of his family. So I am calling on Lalamove, together with Noel's family, to extend help to his orphan so that he can at least be given a decent burial,” Hontiveros said in mixed Filipino and English.

The senator last month filed Senate Bill No. 1373 or the Protektadong Online Workers, Entrepreneurs, Riders at Raketera or POWERR Act seeking to protect the rights and welfare of gig economy workers, including delivery riders and freelancers facing low pay and precarious conditions at work.

Under the measure, qualified workers are enrolled in government social protection programs such as PhilHealth, SSS, Pag-ibig, among others. Online platforms under the bill will also be held liable for injuries sustained by the workers in the performance of their duty, especially delivery riders. 

"Currently, delivery riders are categorized as 'independent contractors' as opposed to employees. Therefore, they are not qualified to receive social protections under our labor laws. There is also no clear policy for accident and health insurance, so it is good to pass the law to fill in the said gaps," Hontiveros said in Filipino.

"Let there be no more lives sacrificed before their grievances are met. Immediate action is needed to prevent such incidents, especially since more and more people are entering this type of occupation."

In July, Rep. Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list) in the House of Representatives refiled the proposed “Magna Carta of E-Commerce Delivery Personel" seeking to protect delivery riders from cancelled orders and joy buyers.

Earlier still in the enhanced community quarantine, accounts of delivery riders ticketed by law enforcers at checkpoints for delivering "non-essential" goods went viral on social media, along with another video of a man arrested outside his home when he picked up food from a delivery rider.

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