Villanueva refiles 'end endo' bill in Senate after Duterte's rejection

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 29) — Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday refiled the measure that seeks to ban labor contracting, three days after President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the bill.

"This is exactly the same measure that was certified as priority and urgent by the President himself," Villanueva said as he presented a copy of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill which he refiled as Senate Bill No. 806.

Villanueva said he filed the exact copy of the original proposal to find out from the Executive what particular provisions are supposedly problematic.

"Endo" or "end of contract" is a highly-contested form of contractualization widely practiced in the country. Under this practice, workers are hired for not more than five months. Employers then don't need to regularize them on the sixth month as mandated by the Labor Code.

Ending "endo" was among Duterte's top campaign promises, which led to him certifying the bill as urgent back in September 2018 to fast-track its approval.

But Duterte blocked the measure on Friday, a day before it was supposed to lapse into law. The proposal prohibits businesses from hiring workers via labor-only contracting, wherein a worker is outsourced even when the job being performed is "directly related" to the principal business operations.

All employees, including project and seasonal employees except those on probationary status, are entitled to benefits received by regular workers. The President said the bill only broadened the scope of labor-only contracting, which will make it more difficult for workers.

Duterte on vetoing 'end endo' bill: Don't make it hard for capitalists

Villanueva, head of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said he is "dismayed" after Duterte's veto.

"Mali ito sapagkat it's the same definition na na-certify ng Pangulo. Mali 'yung sinasabi na mawawakasan na lahat ng uri ng contractualization [This is wrong because it's the same definition certified (as urgent) by the President. It's wrong to say it ends all forms of contractualization, even the valid ones]," the lawmaker said, clarifying that the bill only focuses on illegal hiring schemes and puts penalties for such cases.

"Malaki ang sama ng loob ko sa mga tagapagpayo ng Pangulo, lalo sa NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority [I am exasperated with the President's advisers, especially NEDA]," Villanueva added, pointing out that Duterte was "misinformed" about the latest version of the proposal.

The NEDA earlier submitted to Malacañang their reservations and proposed adjustments to the SOT bill, with Secretary Ernesto Pernia saying that the measure needs "tweaking." Major business groups also requested the President to junk the proposal, saying it could discourage investors from venturing into the country and lead to job losses.

Blanket ban?

The senator went on to refute claims made in Duterte's response to the bill, saying that the proposed law does not seek to ban all forms of job contracting.

Duterte also reasoned out that the bill "destroys the delicate balance" between labor and employer, and will "place capital and management at an impossibly difficult predicament" if implemented.

"I don't think there's such thing as 'delicate balance' because every time the management and the laborers ay mag-uusap sa mga ganito, laging nananalo yung management. Parang lagi namang walang laban yung labor [Management wins every time]," Villanueva added.

Also on Monday, members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno staged a protest at Mendiola in Manila to condemn Duterte's refusal to enact the SOT bill.

The proposal will start from scratch under the 18th Congress, together with all other measures which have not been signed into law. The bill will again be subject to committee-level discussions before the Senate and the House of Representatives and must be approved up to third reading in both chambers.

Villanueva disclosed that Senate President Tito Sotto advised him that this was the "most viable option" for the bill, rather than invoke the right of Congress to vote to overturn a Presidential veto.

The Constitution allows the Legislative to reconsider the veto by a vote of two-thirds from its members.

New bill coming

Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has been instructed to craft a new SOT proposal, which they are eyeing to finish in a week.

Bello said in a media briefing that his agency will be drafting a new bill to be presented before the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting next Monday, where Congress leaders will sit with the President's men from Malacañang to agree on priority legislation. The SOT bill will be on the agenda, which Bello said will help avoid a repeat of the passage of the measure, only to be vetoed by Duterte.

"What is important is he (Duterte) is open to a new version," the Labor chief said, appealing to labor groups that it's "not the end of their cause" just yet.

Key contentions of the President include which firms can resort to labor contracting, although Bello said Duterte wants "fairer" and "more focused" provisions for what jobs can be outsourced or which are directly related to a business.

"What the President is actually saying is that bill is already giving the employees security of tenure. But 'wag naman at the expense of employers, kasi baka mawala na 'yung viability ng business [but not at the expense of employers. because businesses might lose their viability]," Bello said.

He added that the new SOT bill will be drafted in consultation with business and labor leaders, as well as lawmakers.