On Labor Day, Duterte tells Congress to pass security of tenure bills

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Labor Day called on Congress to pass laws to protect workers' rights to security of tenure and self-organization.

"I remain optimistic...that my counterparts in Congress will consider passing much needed legislative measures to fully protect our workers' rights, especially to security of tenure and self-organization," Duterte said in his Labor Day 2019 message on Wednesday, May 1.

He mentioned his Executive Order No 51 which ordered government agencies to enforce existing labor laws and regulations. This EO was soundly criticized by labor groups and labor rights advocates for merely reiterating existing measures instead of introducing reforms promised by Duterte when he ran for president. 

President Rodrigo Duterte's message for Labor Day includes call for Congress to pass laws that will 'fully protect our workers' rights, especially to security of tenure and self-organization.' @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/amLIHKka81 — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) May 1, 2019

Labor groups had backed a draft of the EO that stated that direct hiring should be the "general norm in employment relations." But EO 51 did not contain this critical phrase, hence labor groups slammed it for being "employer-backed." 

Though he issued a message for Labor Day, Malacañang had yet to confirm if Duterte would be attending any Labor Day events.

On the eve of Labor Day, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said in a Palace news briefing that the President had earlier agreed to go to the groundbreaking of a hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, on May 1, but added that this was subject to change.

Duterte's former aide Bong Go said the President would just be in his hometown of Davao City on May 1.

'Not tool of capitalists'

In his Labor Day message, Duterte also acknowledged the sacrifices of overseas Filipino workers who leave their families to earn a decent living.

He recognized the contrbution of laborers to the country's development.

"Today, we celebrate the working class not as a tool of employers and capitalists, but as an essential catalyst for our nation's progress," said the President.

At the begining of his presidency, Duterte had endeared himself to Leftist groups for promising to end all forms of contractualization. But the Left have said they had become disillusioned with Duterte and slammed him for failing to deliver on his vow.

Duterte, meanwhile, said banning all forms of contractualization was not within his powers but was up to Congress since only the legislative branch can amend the 45-year-old Labor Code.

In September 2018, he certified as urgent the Security of Tenure bill which seeks to ban hiring workers for fixed-term arrangements or the end of contract (endo) scheme.

Thousands of workers are expected to join Labor Day rallies on May 1. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.