Duterte vetoes anti-endo bill

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In another setback for workers' groups, President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the anti-endo (end of contract) or security of tenure bill.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed this on Friday, July 26.

"Security of tenure bill vetoed by the President," Panelo said on Friday morning. 

The night before, he had also confirmed the veto, only to take it back  saying the President was "still studying the pros and cons" of the bill.

In his veto message dated Friday, July 26, Duterte gave assurances that despite the veto, he continued to stand by his “firm commitment to protect the workers’ right to security of tenure by eradicating all forms of abusive employment practices.”

“Our goal, however, has always been to target the abuse while leaving businesses free to engage in those practices beneficial to both management and the workforce,” he said.

For the President, labor-only contracting should be prohibited but “legitimate job-contracting should be allowed” as long as the contractor is “well capitalized, has sufficient investments, and affords its employees all the benefits” in labor laws.

Echoing the line of major business organizations opposed to the bill, Duterte said “businesses should be allowed to determine whether they should outsource certain activities or not.”

He added that while the Constitution protects workers, such a policy should not “oppress or destroy capital and management” and destroy a “healthy balance” between interests of laborers and management.

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.

He conspicuously made no mention of the bill in his SONA this year, which led labor groups to say Duterte no longer prioritizes labor rights.

A few days before the bill was to lapse into law on Saturday, July 27, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia voiced his own reservations about the bill, saying it needed tweaking so it would safeguard investment as well as protect workers.

A few weeks before that, several big business organizations had made a last-minute plea to Duterte to veto the bill.

These include the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and the Foundation for Economic Freedom.

They claimed the measure would impinge on freedoms of companies to make managerial decisions and would ramp up the cost of doing business which could lead to job losses.

If the bill had been signed into law, it would have been illegal for a job contractor to merely supply and recruit workers to a contractee.

It would have also been illegal for workers supplied to a contractee to perform tasks or activities that are listed by the industry as directly related to the core business of the contractee.

Problematic for labor groups, too. But even some labor groups had problems with the bill submitted to Duterte for his signature.

Groups like Partido Manggagawa; Alliance of General Unions, Institutions, and Labor Associations; and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association rejected the bill.

They claimed it was a watered down version of the bill the House of Representatives had adopted. The House had decided to abandon this bill and adopt the Senate version instead, to expedite its progress in Congress.

They had wanted the following features in the bill:

Back in May 2018, Duterte had signed an executive order on contractualization that labor groups slammed as "useless."

The President had admitted the only way to end labor-only contracting is to amend the Labor Code, which only the legislative branch can do.

With his veto of the anti-endo bill, Duterte is still to keep his campaign promise to end all forms of labor-only contractualization. – 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.

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