Tributes pour in for 5 Bulacan rescuers; security of tenure for gov’t workers pushed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) — Senators have paid tribute to five rescuers in Bulacan who died while on duty during the onslaught of Typhoon Karding, calling for security of tenure for government workers.

In separate resolutions filed Tuesday, Senators Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr., Robin Padilla, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, and Joel Villanueva honored the exemplary heroism of the five rescuers, while expressing profound condolences to the bereaved families.

“Whereas, the heroism and bravery shown by these five men, who sacrificed their lives to save their people, is an exemplary act worthy of praise and emulation and more importantly, an embodiment of dedication, courage, devotion to duty, and commitment to public service,” Padilla said.

“Whereas, the five rescuers from Bulacan acted with incredible bravery and self-sacrifice and went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of others at the cost of their own. They were veteran rescuers who have also helped other local governments throughout the country in previous calamities and disasters,” said Villanueva, who was born and raised in Bulacan.

Authorities are still confirming the cause of death of rescuers George Agustin from Calumpit, Troy Justin Agustin from Guiguinto, Marby Bartolome from Malolos City, Jerson Resurreccion from Santa Maria, and Narciso Calayag, who all died amid rescue efforts in San Miguel town on Sunday. 

Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando said all the benefits from the provincial government intended for the victims will be turned over to the mourning families, including his personal financial assistance.

Security of tenure for gov’t workers

Meanwhile, Villanueva urged the Congress and Executive Department to look into the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill, emphasizing that the five rescuers only had casual contracts of service. There are around 630,000 casual workers in the government.

“This is so unfortunate,” Villanueva said. “But this is not just happening in Bulacan, but all over the country."

"In fact, we have been raising this particular issue almost every year, especially during budget season,” he added.

The SOT bill, with Villanueva among its main sponsors in the Senate, was vetoed by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.

Duterte said he rejected the landmark measure because it "unduly broadens the scope and definition of prohibited labor-only contracting, effectively proscribing forms of contractualization that are not particularly unfavorable to employees involved."

READ: Back to square one? Senators eye refiling of anti-endo bill 

Villanueva, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, also said that creating a National Disaster Risk Department would mean having regular employees for a country prone to more than 20 typhoons yearly.

RELATED: House passes Dept. of Disaster Resilience bill on final reading 

The senator said he regretted that it took the deaths of the five rescuers to pique the government's interest in discussing improved policies for the security of tenure and the safety of first responders.

“It’s a matter of policy,” Villanueva said. “It’s really a wake-up call to all our lawmakers, especially to the Executive Department, to look into this because masyadong unfair na (it is too unfair).”

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.