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Jeers, cheers as Duterte breaks vow to end ‘endo’

Factory worker Geraldine Gomez felt that President Duterte gave her and many other contractual employees false hopes when he promised in his 2016 presidential campaign an end to contractualization in the workforce.

“It is clear that he just let us [down]. [The measure] could have helped provide us with livable wages, a safer workplace. He has forsaken us,” said Gomez, a contractual for three years now in a detergent factory.

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Gomez was referring to President Duterte veto of the security of tenure (SOT) bill on Friday, a day before the much anticipated measure aimed at ending contractualization would have lapsed into law.

“Security of tenure bill vetoed by the President,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a text message on Friday.

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Late Thursday night, Panelo said Mr. Duterte had vetoed the bill, only to backtrack minutes later with a subsequent message saying “the President is still studying the pros and cons. Sorry for the error. We will know tomorrow for sure.”

Certified urgent

Mr. Duterte certified as urgent such a bill in his State of the Nation Address last year, saying in part: “That is why I add mine to their [workers’] voices in asking Congress to pass legislation ending the practice of contractualization once and for all.”

But in his veto message on Friday, Mr. Duterte said the consolidated enrolled Senate Bill No. 1826 or House Bill No. 6908 “unduly broadens the scope and definition of prohibited labor-only contracting (LOC), effectively proscribing forms of contractualization that are not particularly unfavorable to the employees involved.”

“Indeed, while labor-only contracting must be prohibited, legitimate job-contracting should be allowed, provided that the contractor is well capitalized, has sufficient investments and affords its employees all the benefits provided for under the labor laws,” he said, adding:

“I believe the sweeping expansion of the definition of labor-only contracting destroys the delicate balance and will place capital and management at an impossibly difficult predicament with adverse consequences to the Filipino workers in the long term.

“Businesses should be allowed to determine whether they should outsource certain activities or not, especially when job-contracting will result in economy and efficiency in their operations, with no detriment to the workers, regardless of whether this is directly related to their business.”

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“I stand by my firm commitment to protect the workers’ right to security of tenure by eradicating all forms of abusive employment practices. Our goal, however, has always been to target the abuse, while leaving businesses free to engage in those practices beneficial to both management and the workforce,” the President said.

Management prerogative

On July 16,  the country’s leading business groups issued a joint statement urging Mr. Duterte to veto the measure, saying “job contracting as an exercise of management prerogative and business judgment is anchored on two constitutional rights: right and freedom to contract and right to property.”

The Makati Business Club (MBC), one of the signatories, pointed out key features of SB 1826—which the House of Representatives adopted as the final bill endorsed to the President. Among them was the “tightened” definition of LOC as well as the stiffer requirements and penalties for both labor and job contracting.

“At present, LOC happens when a job contractor has no substantial capital/investment and equipment, and when the workers are performing work directly related to the contractee’s business, or when the contractee has direct supervision over the worker,” MBC said.

Glad, thankful

“In the approved version, LOC occurs when any of the three situations mentioned above exists,” MBC added.

Major business organizations welcomed Mr. Duterte’s decision on Friday.

Riza Mantaring, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, said “the President actually outlined the rationale for the veto quite well, and we are glad that he recognized that the bill would have adversely affected workers in the long term.”

Alegria Sibal-Limjoco, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said her group was open to more consultations with both labor and policymakers, “to come up with a more balanced long-term policy on the issue.”

MBC executive director Coco Alcuaz said “the business sector thanks the President for giving  them the flexibility to attract and create jobs in the highly competitive global economy.”

‘Crestfallen,’ losing faith

Dismayed by the veto, Sen. Joel Villanueva, principal author of the Senate bill, said  “we knew right from the start that the odds were stacked against the measure. We pressed on, knowing that many workers are relying on us to finally end illegal forms of contractualization.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said “I’m crestfallen, but that’s how democracy works. And Congress being dynamic, can refile and repass the bill.”

For Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, the President “pandered to the pleasure of business chambers by killing the ‘anti-endo’ bill.”

“Even with the watered-down provisions of the anti-endo bill, Duterte acted in absolute compliance [with] the business sector’s demand not to sign the security of tenure law in utter disregard of his campaign promise. Duterte chose big business over workers and even over himself,” Brosas said.

For Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson for the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), Mr. Duterte “shut the hope of workers” for a better life and opted to listen to his economic managers who “mis[led]” him into not signing the “watered-down” version of the bill.

“The SOT measure, had it been signed into law, would have mandated the creation of tripartite councils per industry which would determine who among the workers are deemed necessary and desirable to the core business and therefore can be regularized by the principal owner,” Tanjusay said.

ALU-TUCP estimates that based on the number of minimum wage earners, as reflected in the Social Security System’s data, contractual workers in the country may be as many as 9 million.

Recent data from the Department of Labor and Employment, however, place the number of contractuals at around 1.3 million, or just a little over 3 percent of the 41.3 million workers in the country.

“What is the democratic process left now that workers can rely on so that they may escape poverty? The President did not fulfill his promise. He turned his back and walked away from his commitment to help ‘endo’ (end of contract) workers out of poverty,” Tanjusay said.

Mr. Duterte may have been too confident with his trust and popularity ratings, he said, and now “there is a possibility that our workers will lose faith (in him).”

TUCP vice president Louie Corral added: “We do not understand how we have moved so far away from what [the President] promised …. Congress has acted on the certification. Why should there now be a veto of something he certified as an urgent national bill?”

Hardline position

Federation of Free Workers vice president Julius Cainglet noted how “workers moved from [their] hardline original position on prohibiting all kinds of contractualization, yet Mr. Duterte vetoed this. (His veto statement) seems to have been lifted from the statement of employers justifying their call for a veto.”

Josua Mata, secretary general of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa said “the President only betrayed his lack of understanding about the nature of contracting when he said that contracting should be allowed where they are not unfavorable to workers.

“There is no such thing. Contracting work is inherently detrimental to workers because they are made to suffer temporary, short term and contingent work,” Mata said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS, MELVIN GASCON AND ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL

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TAGS: duterte, endo, security of tenure
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