It’s now time to enact a revised Labor Code
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - August 24, 2018 - 12:00am

The time has finally come to abrogate a law which has become an anachronism in an emerging globalized world of VUCAFID; volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, fast, inter-connected, and digital.


Today, the Labor Code is 44 years old. Drafted in 1974 by a college dropout who was not a lawyer, and signed into law by a president who was a Bar topnotcher, Presidential Decree 442, the Labor Code of the Philippines was promulgated on May 1, 1974 (Labor Day) and took effect on November 1, 1974. It was then Labor Secretary Blas F. Ople, perhaps the greatest DOLE secretary we ever had, who assembled lawyers and non-lawyers whom he considered “young and dynamic” and he was the brains and the moving spirit behind the codification of all labor laws on all terms and incidents from hiring to retiring. Ople was a college dropout but he was so brilliant that he became the first Asian to have been elected as secretary-general of the International Labor Organization. He was a voracious reader, a prolific writer, and a fiery speaker. Marcos, the Bar topnotcher, believed in Ople, and accepted Ople’s “obra maestra,” the Labor Code.

The Labor Code has been a very useful, comprehensive, and durable martial law document. It was not made by Congress but enacted into law under the regime of martial rule by Marcos in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and pursuant to Proclamation 1081, placing the entire nation under martial law. The code has its merits and it served the labor, employers, and government for more than four decades at the most trying times in Philippine history. Its seven books covered employment, human resources development, conditions of employment, health, safety and welfare, labor relations, post-employment and technical issues, and transitory provisions. It was enacted when there were no cell phones, no laptops, no Wi-Fi, and no ATM machines. The year 1974 was an entirely different era, and the world then was still very simple, predictable, structured, and the people were very disciplined.

Today, the code is no longer in synch with contemporary realities. Imagine under Article 130 entitled Night Work Prohibition, women are not allowed to work at night. How can this law continue to exist when we have hundreds of thousands of female Filipino workers who work in call centers and other BPO operations? Under Book Five of this Code, a person convicted of violating the Anti-Subversion Law is disqualified from the right to self-organization. How can this law continue to exist when the Anti-Subversion Law was already abrogated way back in 1989? Besides, Book Four of the Code, provides for death benefits. How can the workers in Book Five then still join, assist and form unions, when in Book Five, these workers already died in Book Four?

Under the Labor Code, the Secretary of Labor is vested with too many delegated judicial and quasi-judicial as well as legislative powers. These were appropriate during martial law. With due respect, the situation in 1974 might have called for these. But today, it has become an anachronism. The current drive of DOLE to inspect and “terrorize” the business sector is driving investors away. Multinationals are transferring to other Asian countries. Vietnam, which is communist, does not drive investors away, like what our government is doing. Today, inflation is too high. Prices are soaring and the incomes of wage earners are below poverty line and below the living wage levels. We have no less than 7 million unemployed and more than 15 million underemployed. We are about to reach a boiling point.

Secretary Blas Ople used to say that unemployment is the worst form of injustice. What the DOLE is doing now is precisely to cause unemployment to worsen. That is why it is time to abrogate the Labor Code, and make the government compel DOLE to play a better game. It is not enough that we change the rules of the game. We need to change the game itself. Let us enact a new Labor Code. I have drafted my own and will submit it to my friends in the House soon. Somebody just has to do it.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with