Senators hit Duterte veto of anti-endo bill: 'Get your act together'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senators on Friday, July 26, hit the Duterte administration after the President vetoed the security of tenure (SOT) bill a day before it was scheduled to lapse into law. 

Senators admitted they were dismayed and confused over President Rodrigo Duterte's veto of the security of tenure bill considering that it was a declared priority measure in the 17th Congress, with the President himself certifying it as urgent in September 2018.  

Senator Joel Villanueva, who had sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said lawmakers since the 12th Congress considered "every implication" illegal forms of contractualization had on workers and ensured "businesses will not be at a disadvantage."

"We knew right from the start that the odds were stacked against the measure.... We are expected to rise above politics to favor the powerless, and do what is just. Most of the time, those in the corridors of power win. Unfortunately, this is one of those times," Villanueva said.

Senators Franklin Drilon and Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, hit the executive for its flip-flop on the measure, saying departments should align on what they want before pushing for a policy that would stop abusive forms of contractualization – a campaign promise of Duterte.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was generally supportive of the SOT bill but Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Wednesday, July 24, that the proposal still needed some tweaking.

"The bill can be refiled but the executive must first get its act together. We have frontline departments (DOLE and NEDA) with opposing views. We are unclear as to what the policy is," Drilon said.

Zubiri added Malacañang should likewise clarify what its priority measures are, as Duterte's veto of the SOT bill put such measures into question.

"I'm totally bewildered on this new development. Does that mean that a certification from the Palace no longer means that it's a priority? .... The Cabinet should get their act together as it would make us legislators look stupid and embarrass the President as well as he mentions these measures during the [State of the Nation Address]," Zubiri said.

Betrayed workers: Labor groups had earlier rejected the SOT bill but later on urged Duterte to sign itsaying that though it was a much watered down version of what they wanted, the measure was still "better than nothing."

Senator Risa Hontiveros said it would have been "acceptable" for Duterte to veto the measure as it was "insufficient" in defending workers, but she noted that his veto message revealed he "thought it was remarkably biased to the workers."

"That President Duterte vetoed a law that would have been weak in protecting workers and would have required too little from management showed his deep prejudice and apathy against the Filipino working class. The President who fashioned himself as the so-called defender of the working class has been fully exposed as their enemy," Hontiveros said.

The veto was unexpected given how Duterte had certified the bill as urgent and asked Congress to pass it during his 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In his 4th SONA last July 22, however, Duterte made no mention of the matter and told reporters in a press conference after the speech that he was "still studying" the bill. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte's promise to abolish endo)

Take two on the measure? Despite the President's veto, Villanueva vowed to continue efforts to pass legislation combating abusive forms of contractualization.

"Make no mistake about it. We will persevere until we see that no worker will involuntarily lose his or her job because of contractualization," Villanueva said. (READ: After Duterte's veto, labor groups vow to continue fight vs endo)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that if the bill would be refiled in the 18th Congress, it would be included in priority measures of the Senate.

"I'm crestfallen but that's how democracy works. And Congress being dynamic, can refile and repass the bill," Sotto said.

In a statement Saturday, July 21, Senator Ralph Recto said that if Malacañang wanted to continue with efforts to end contractualization, it should write its own version of the bill and send it to Congress for review, as Duterte's veto message was "unclear" on which provisions were in question.

Recto said this would only be for the information of lawmakers and that they would not need to pass the proposed measure from the Palace in total.

Recto likewise suggested that Malacañang hold a summit on endo with labor groups, businesses, and government for a "frank exchange of views."

"Hindi p'wedeng kung kailan tapos na ang boxing, doon pa lang mag-iingay ang ibang taga-executive. Hindi pwede 'yung laban-bawi. (It cannot be that those from the executive will only make noise when the fighting match is already over. You cannot be fickle-minded.) This was not an easy bill to write. Joel [Villanueva] made sure that it was a balanced one. It was a tightrope act under stormy conditions," Recto said.

Drilon, however, argued that with Duterte's veto which mirrored Pernia's position, "it seems like the policy direction has been set." Efforts to address contractualization, he said, would fall on DOLE.

He added, "Any attempt to refile the bill could be an exercise in futility without the administration's support. Having said that, I've mentioned in the past that the DOLE can prohibit contractualization even without amending the Labor Code, if indeed, the administration wants to end 'endo'." – 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.

image