Bewildered, crestfallen, dismayed — these were the reactions to news that President Duterte has vetoed the security of tenure, or “anti-endo” bill.
The labor sector, which had fought for decades against the system of labor-only contracting that leaves workers in an endless endo, or end-of-contract cycle, has good reason to feel betrayed and sold out.
After all, the simple, direct promise made by the mayor from Davao City during his presidential campaign — “The moment I assume office, I will order contractualization to stop” — was what made him a hero of the working class and arguably notched him the presidency.
In August 2016, candidate Rodrigo Duterte even coupled his promise with a threat against business owners engaged in the practice: “I’m telling this to you. You choose — stop contractualization or I kill you!”
On Labor Day of 2017, almost a year in office and with labor groups becoming restive, Mr. Duterte said he would issue an executive order to expedite the change he wanted.
“I stand firm in my conviction to stop endo,” he assured workers’ groups, whom he also encouraged to submit inputs for the draft executive order.
But the second State of the Nation Address (Sona) of July 2017 passed with nary a word about the promise, and by April 2018, the winds appeared to be shifting in Malacañang; Cabinet members started saying a total ban on contractualization didn’t seem feasible.
Mr. Duterte did sign on Labor Day of 2018, two years into his office, Executive Order No. 51. Labor groups, however, were quick to slam the EO, saying it was not the draft they had submitted, and that it had become an “EO for employers.”
Malacañang then said Congress should instead pass a security of tenure bill to cure defects and loopholes in current laws. In his third Sona in 2018, Mr. Duterte not only formally asked Congress to “pass legislation ending the practice of contractualization once and for all,” he also certified Senate Bill No. 1826 as an urgent administration priority measure.
To their credit, both the Senate and the House dutifully buckled down to work. After nearly eight months, the Senate passed the measure on May 22, 2019, and the House swiftly adopted the version.
The enrolled SB 1826 and House Bill No. 6908 were then sent to the President for his signature on June 27 this year, and the long-awaited promise looked headed for fruition.
But, strangely, days passed without the President signing the measure; if not signed within 30 days, the measure would have automatically lapsed into law — still a preferable outcome to nothing.
Mr. Duterte, however, would send the labor sector reeling in disbelief and outrage when, a few days before the July 27 mark, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that the President had vetoed the anti-endo bill — only to withdraw his statement an hour later, saying the President was “still studying the pros and cons,” and reconfirming the development only a day later. Spell disarray, and in the nation’s highest office at that.
Mr. Duterte’s veto message said the “sweeping expansion of the definition of labor-only contracting destroys the delicate balance and will place capital and management at an impossibly difficult predicament with adverse consequences to the Filipino workers in the long term”—an assessment that, according to Federation of Free Workers vice president Julius Cainglet, sounded lifted straight from a joint statement of employers lobbying for a veto.
The senators who had complied with the President’s urgent push for the bill were left red-faced. “The Cabinet should get their act together,” said Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri. “It makes no sense to me why Malacañang would declare it a priority measure then, just to veto it after its approval … I am totally bewildered on this development.”
The nation is, too — if only because, if there were concerns from big business and the President’s economic team about the impact of the law as it was being written, why were these seemingly not communicated to the lawmakers adequately, enough to have led to a better-crafted measure and spared everyone three years of time, effort and expectations flushed down the drain?
As Sen. Joel Villanueva rightly pointed out: “We wonder why it’s only now that Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) is raising these alleged concerns when the proper time to do so was as early as three years ago when discussions on the bill started.”
Nowhere is the President’s disorganized, slapdash, by-the-seat-of-his-pants style of governance more obvious, or more pernicious, than in the endo fiasco — yet another key campaign promise Mr. Duterte has broken, and one lamentably done at the expense of the hopes of long-despairing Filipino workers.
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