Pimentel, Drilon say no to deferring payment of 13th-month bonus
MANILA, Philippines — Saying employees are “more distressed” than their “capital providing” employers, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Friday resisted the idea of deferring the 13th-month payout this year because of the pandemic.
“[The] 13th-month pay is really ‘salary’ under current laws. It is just called 13th-month pay. Hence it must be paid. Employees are ‘more distressed’ compared to their ‘capital providing’ employers,” Pimentel pointed out in a message to reporters when sought for comment on the pronouncements of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III that his agency is looking at allowing “distressed” firms and businesses to defer the payment of their workers’ 13th-month pay this year.
“Hence, the employees’ interests and needs must NOT be sacrificed at all or in any way. Ibang sector ang mag-sacrifice (Another sector should sacrifice),” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon – a former labor secretary – said the enabling law for the release of employees’ 13th-month pay “does not allow any exemption.”
He was referring to Presidential Decree No. 851, which requires companies to give workers a 13th-month pay, which is basically a twelfth of a person’s annual earnings.
This bonus is given before the end of each year, separate from other year-end bonuses.
“It covers all employers, except those already paying its equivalent. It is only in its IRR [implementing rules and regulations] where you find exemptions for compliance for distressed employers,” Drilon said in a separate statement.
“While it is true that the IRR states that distressed employers are exempted from paying 13th-month pay to its employees, this IRR is questionable as going beyond the law. And, the exemption must be per enterprise, and not a general exemption,” he added.
Further, Drilon said that a proposal to defer the payment of 13th-month pay “by agreement of the parties is invalid as well.”
He said compliance with the law “cannot be the subject of an agreement between the employee and employer.”
For his part, Senator Joel Villanueva called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to “convene the tripartite council immediately to discuss the proposal to defer the 13th month pay for our workers.”
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said DOLE should begin consultations with stakeholders to “come up with a clear and reasonable solution.”
“This is a serious concern for both our workers and employers, and there must be sufficient consultation to ensure that any policy to be adopted will be acceptable to all parties,” he said.
“We understand the positions of our employers, especially [Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises], who are trying to keep their operations going, and of our workers who are in dire need of assistance,” he added.
DOLE, the senator said, should also come up with a guideline “that is based on the realities faced by both employers and workers.”
“Gusto po natin makabuo ng win-win solution para sa mga manggagawa at employer sa pamamagitan ng konsultasyon (We want to come up with a win-win solution for workers and employers through consultation),” he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies and businesses to either cease, suspend, or limit operations since the government has imposed restrictions such as lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.
Among the most affected industries are tourism, transportation, leisure activities, and some food and beverage outlets.
To date, the Philippines has recorded 331,869 COVID-19 cases. Of the number 274,318 have already recovered while 6,069 have died.
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