Villanueva scores NEDA for belated comments on the proposed Security of Tenure Law

Published July 24, 2019, 9:11 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday criticized the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for its belated concerns on the proposed Security of Tenure law.

Senator Joel Villanueva at the Senate on Monday, November 14, 2016. Villanueva was ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Photo by Jansen Romero

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee and sponsor of the Security of Tenure bill, questioned the timing of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia saying that the NEDA recommended “some tweaking, adjustments” in the measure’s provisions after its enrollment to the Office of the President.

While he did not specify the agency’s concerns, Pernia said, “We have to be sure that the law not only benefits workers but also employers.”

Almost a month after Congress sent it to the Palace last June 27, Senate Bill No. 1826, or the proposed “Security of Tenure and End of ‘Endo’ Act of 2019”, is still awaiting President Duterte’s action.

The bill, certified as urgent by Duterte, aims to end the abusive practice of contractualization, or “endo”. But there were reports that business groups were lobbying for the veto of the measure.

“We wonder why it’s only now that NEDA is raising these alleged ‘concerns’ when the proper time to do so was as early as three years ago when discussions on this bill started. Are they setting this bill up for the President’s veto?” Villanueva said in a statement.

“The President vowed to put an end into the practice of endo. It was part of his campaign promise that’s why he certified the measure as urgent, mentioned it last 2018 SONA and Congress delivered what needed to be done. The Finance, Trade, and Labor departments see the value in this measure, they participated and they’ve thrown support behind it. Ang NEDA bigla po may ganito (And NEDA has concerns all of a sudden)?” he lamented.

The senator also slammed a newspaper report quoting some business sectors as saying that the implementation of the Security of Tenure bill will cost them up to P52 billion in additional labor spending to pay for employees’ 13th-month pay, incentives, and social protection contributions.

He said the claims were an attempt to influence President Duterte into rejecting the measure.

“Nakakalungkot na kaliwa’t kanan ‘yong paglalason sa ating isip pati ng pangulo para hindi pirmahan ang Security of Tenure law,” he told reporters in an earlier interview Wednesday.

Defending his pet bill, Villanueva also clarified that there was no provision in the proposal compelling companies to absorb and regularize all of their contractual employees. Instead, it provides for licenses for job-contracting firms.

Recalling his talks with economic managers, the labor committee said the issues with the enrolled bill could be addressed through its implementing rules and regulations.

Villanueva said he plans to summon to a Senate inquiry the business groups who claimed that the Security of Tenure bill will be disadvantageous to them if signed into law.

“Not because they are against the measure. We are concerned of their figures because they were saying that they have to pay SSS, PhilHealth, 13th month, Pag-Ibig, etc. when they should be paying for these even without the Security of Tenure law because these are already mandated by law. So it appears they are guilty of practicing endo,” he said.

He added that he wants to know the personalities behind the “irresponsible statements.”

President Duterte, after his State of the Nation Address on Monday, said he is still reviewing the Security of Tenure Bill as he admitted being in “a catch-22” situation between employers and workers.

He said he will consult the stakeholders before acting on the measure. The bill will lapse into law on July 27 if he fails to sign or veto it.

Villanueva, for his part, said he hopes that Duterte will stay true to his promise of ending contractualization and will not be sidetracked by “misplaced statements, even if it comes from NEDA Secretary.”

“Sana tigilan na ang paglalason sa isip ng ating kababayan lalo na sa pag-iisip ng Pangulo,” he also appealed.