Ending labor contractualization or “endo” is “somewhat” no longer a legislative priority for President Rodrigo Duterte in his last year in office, one of his advisers said Thursday.
Jacinto Paras, the newly appointed Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs, said the anti-ENDO bill, which Duterte had vetoed in 2019, fell out of the President’s list of priority legislation because it was not being talked about anymore.
“Because of the controversy when the President vetoed it, all the sectors have not been voicing out their opinions on this even the Department of Labor [and Employment]. So, somehow, it’s not a priority anymore,” said Paras, who was undersecretary at the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) before his appointment.
Duterte’s top priority now is the proposed creation of a new government agency that would focus on overseas Filipino workers, he said.
The law seeking to give workers security of tenure and stopping the end of contract scheme also took a backseat to bills on the postponement of the elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the death penalty bill, and the military pension reform bills, Paras added.
“Among the top priority of the President now is the approval by the Senate of the bill that would create a government department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and migrant workers,” he said.
Duterte in 2016 promised to stop “endo” or “end of contract”, a practice in which some employers end contracts on the fifth month and renew it for 5 months at a time to avoid granting workers regular employee status by their sixth month with a company under law.
In 2019, Duterte vetoed an anti-endo bill to achieve a “delicate balance” between the interests of employers and employees.
“If you look at the reason why the President has vetoed it, it does— because it was not able to resolve the conflict between the labor and the management… Maybe in due time, I think, that’s still an important proposed legislation,” he said.
In the lead-up to the 2016 elections, Duterte said he would stop endo because laborers “deserve no less than [a] comfortable life.”
The group Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) expressed dismay over Paras’ statement as it shows the inaction of the government to address contractualization.
“This is sad news for millions of contractual workers. The loss of benefits and job security due to contractualization is a big problem for them,” said EILER Executive Director Rochelle Porras.
EILER also noted that 3 out of 5 workers are contractuals based on 2015 government statistics.
Contractualization deprives workers of the benefits accorded by law and makes them vulnerable to abuse, as they are more prone to experience precarious working conditions, the group said.
Many more workers were affected by labor flexibilization during the pandemic. The number of part-time workers increased by one million while those with full-time work decreased, EILER’s statement added.
“If we look back at Duterte’s veto of the Security of Tenure bill, it just shows who the President is defending – not the workers,” said Porras.
EILER also criticized the government’s prioritization of the Foreign Investments Act, and Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, over the abolition of an unfair labor scheme of hiring and firing workers to avoid regularizing them.
Meanwhile, Paras said: “As far as the number one priority of the President, he is pushing the approval by the Senate of the Department of OFWs.”
Duterte has certified as urgent the bills seeking to create this agency.
Supporters of the measure say it would address the perennial problems of migrant workers, whose remittances boost the economy. But critics say a new department for OFWs balloon the bureaucracy without addressing the social costs of labor migration.
Duterte is “also pushing for the resolution of the BARMM because there are conflicts between certain governors and the transition commission,” said Paras.
Some BARMM leaders have pushed for an extension of its transition authority beyond 2022 when the public would elect new leaders.
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan is among those who oppose the extension, which he said would leave Bangsamoro leaders without a mandate to rule.
Duterte has decided to be “neutral” on the issue and leave it up to Congress, his spokesman said in late June.
Other “important bills” for Duterte include those concerned with the military pension reform, and the amendment of the Public Service Act and the Foreign Investments Act, Paras said.
Duterte on July 26 will deliver his last State of the Nation Address, which would tackle his remaining legislative agenda and accomplishments. Vito Barcelo