Will Duterte sign EO vs contractualization on April 16?

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign an executive order (EO) against contractualization on Monday, April 16. 

But labor groups are "confused" whether the signing will push through or not, as they were informed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that it has been canceled.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod said they were informed by Malacañang through a text message on Saturday, April 14, that the signing will be postponed.

"The schedule with the President and the labor groups tomorrow will be postponed. I still don't know what's the reason behind it. We'll know tomorrow," Maglunsod said in a mix of English and Filipino on Sunday, April 15.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also said in a text message to Rappler on Saturday that he "cannot confirm yet" whether the signing would push through. (READ: Why contractualization is bad for everyone, not just for workers)

But Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said their sources in Malacañang have told them otherwise.

"When we checked with some groups in Malacañang, we were told that it's not postponed: '[The President] has no habit of postponing already scheduled appointments or canceling activities that have very important implications,'" Tanjusay told Rappler in a phone interview on Sunday.

Key provision contested

The 5th version of the draft EO was finalized by Bello and leaders of labor groups last Friday, April 13. This version is set to be signed by the President.

But Maglunsod said another meeting transpired on Friday, when Bello brought the draft to Malacañang, where Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez was also present.

"DTI wants adjustments made to the draft, particularly with some words added by the workers on Friday morning: 'consistent with the policy of this government' and 'direct hiring,'" Maglunsod said.

The sentence in question is part of the EO's Section 2, a key provision of the landmark order:

"SECTION 2. Prohibition Against Contracting or Subcontracting. Consistent with the policy of this government, direct hiring of the employee by the principal employer shall be the general norm in employment relations."

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The provision being contested is what would "free contractual workers from labor slavery," Tanjusay said. (READ: Ending contractualization needs 2 urgent actions from Duterte)

He added that the current draft is already a watered-down version, from the original plea of total prohibition of contractualization.

In a statement, Nagkaisa labor coalition said it would "stick" with the latest draft submitted to DOLE.

"We have gone too far and flexible in drafting a language that is consistent with existing laws yet remaining faithful to the interest of labor and to the pledge of the President to end contractualization. Thus, we will stick with our latest draft which contains this provision," Nagkaisa said.

Dead end?

But DOLE said that if the groups still do not agree on the EO, the signing may not push through as scheduled.

"My take on this is, if there are differences still unsettled, we cannot force the President to sign the EO," Maglunsod told Rappler.

Duterte is set to sign the measure on Monday at 4 pm. If this does not push through and Malacañang offers a dialogue with labor leaders instead, Tanjusay said Nagkaisa and Kilusang Mayo Uno would not attend.

"We urge the President to finally stand up, make a statement, and fulfill his promise to end contractualization. He shouldn't give false hopes to contractual workers. This is long overdue," Tanjusay said.

Duterte was supposed to sign the EO back in February but it was later postponed to March 15. Now, another deadline was set by the President but it seems like no EO would be finalized once again.

Earlier in April, Malacañang admitted it cannot end contractualization by itself as that would require action from Congress.

For now, the 1.3 million contractual employees in the country will have to wait and see if an EO would finally be signed on Monday. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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