After Duterte's veto, labor groups vow to continue fight vs endo

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – After President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the security of tenure (SOT) bill he once certified as urgent, labor groups vowed they would continue efforts to abolish all forms of contractualization.

Labor groups Partido Manggagawa (PM) and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) admitted they were stunned over Duterte's flip-flop on the measure, saying the President's actions marked a sad day for workers as the bill "would have started their emancipation from the clutches of abusive contractualization."

"The ‘ifs and buts’ on the anti-endo bill are over. After an overnight flip-flop on whether a presidential veto is coming out or not, the Security of Tenure bill has finally found its death today inside the Palace," PM said on Friday, July 26.

"The death of anti-endo bill, however, won’t stop the struggle of workers against the epidemic of contractualization until the last 3 years of the Duterte administration," they added.

FFW President Sonny Matula echoed this, saying that despite the setback to workers' rights, labor groups remained "undeterred" to fight against contractualization.

"We will continue to lobby a new bill to appropriately address the continuing epidemic of abusive contractualization inflicted among millions of workers," Matula said.

Complete U-turn: Up until the last minute, labor groups had urged Duterte to sign the SOT bill into law, saying that though it was a much watered down version of what they wanted, the measure was still "better than nothing."

Groups said the SOT bill, while it had its weaknesses, could be used to improve working conditions of millions who suffered from contractualization.

But with the President's veto, labor groups hit Duterte for "surrending" to "capitalist blackmail."

The veto was unexpected given how Duterte had certified the bill as urgent in September 2018 and asked Congress to pass it during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that year. In his SONA 2019, however, Duterte made no mention of it and told reporters in a press conference after the speech that he was "still studying" the bill.

“Now that he is three years into his term, he has completely made a U-turn by singing the capitalist chorus that businesses will die if workers are made regular. Duterte’s promise to end endo is dead,” Magtubo said.

For Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino's part, Leody de Guzman said that by vetoing the measure, Duterte listened to employers and businesses instead of workers. In his veto message, Duterte said that while the Constitution protects workers, an anti-endo policy should not “oppress or destroy capital and management” and destroy a “healthy balance” between interests of laborers and management.

"Ibig sabihin nito ay pananatilihin ang garapal na practice ng sistema ng kontraktwalisasyon o baguhin ang panukala at mas bigyan pa ng kaluwagan ang mga kapitalista.... Nasa bulsa rin ng mga kapitalista si Pangulong Duterte. Tinalikuran niya ang kanyang pangako sa mga manggagawa," De Guzman said. 

(This means the abusive system of contractualization remains and that policies should be changed to give more allowance to capitalists.... The capitalists have President Duterte in their pocket. Duterte has turned his back on workers.)

In a statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said workers felt "taken for a ride" after Duterte vetoed the SOT bill and criticized him for giving into pressure from foreign business groups and employers. The group urged the public to stand against all forms of contractualization.

"The flip-flopping decision of Malacañang to veto the SOT bill speaks of the President's treacherous character. He has long exposed himself as anti-worker and pro-foreign capitalists," KMU said.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) slammed business groups and the government's economic managers for their "scare tactics," which they believed "misled" Duterte into rejecting the bill.

"We remind the foreign chambers, the employers, and the economic managers that dirt cheap and exploitative labor policies are no longer come-ons for investments," TUCP said.

"Workers believed in his word that he would never reneged on his promise to end contractualization. But today, Mr Duterte did not only turned his back, he just walked away from them," TUCP President Raymond Mendoza added.

In a statement on Saturday, July 12, Migrante International echoed other labor groups in saying Duterte's decision to veto the SOT bill showed his "true colors" by "deceiving" workers.

"Duterte is now speaking on behalf of third party contractors and this will forever keep principal employers from extending full rights and benefits to their struggling employees," Migrante said.

The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) added it was "no surprise" Duterte vetoed the anti-endo bill considering he signed a "useless" executive order in May 2018 and made no mention of the issue since his third SONA in 2018.

"His slogan of 'change is coming' had resonated with millions of Filipinos who have suffered decades of brutal living and working conditions, and who have been suppressed and excluded from the halls of power since time immemorial. With the veto of the End Endo Bill, it is clear that Duterte's promises are mere hot air," Spark said.

Broken promise: Ending contractualization was a campaign promise of Duterte. The SOT bill that was up for his signature was scheduled to lapse into law by Saturday, July 27, if left unsigned. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte's promise to abolish endo)

Prior to Duterte's veto, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Wednesday, July 24, that the proposal needed some tweaking. Employers and foreign chambers also called for a veto of the bill because, they said, it would make the cost of business more costly and cause job loss.

Despite his veto, Duterte gave assurances of his “firm commitment to protect the workers’ right to security of tenure by eradicating all forms of abusive employment practices.”

However, echoing major business organizations, Duterte said “businesses should be allowed to determine whether they should outsource certain activities or not.” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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