Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday, Oct. 11, reiterated that the proposal to allow distressed companies to defer the payment of 13th month pay is illegal and consenting to such a plan could set a dangerous precedent.
Drilon, a former labor secretary, insisted that the enabling law for the release of employees’ 13th month pay “does not allow any exemption.”
“Hindi po (puwedeng i-defer). Bilang dating kalihim, ang PD 851 na nagbibigay ng 13th month pay, walang exemption. Lahat ng kumpanya maliban na lang doon sa nagbibigay ng Christmas bonus, walang exemption kahit naluulgi ka,” Drilon said in an interview over GMANewsTV.
(It can’t be deferred. As a former secretary, [I know that] the Presidential Decree 851 that provides the 13th month pay, does not have any exemption. All companies, except for those already giving Christmas bonuses, are not entitled to exemption even if you are already going bankrupt.)
Exemptions on the payment of 13th month pay, he explained, are only provided under the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) of the law, but the law itself does not allow any exemption.
“Sa akin, doubtful po iyan at puwedeng kwestyunin. Kung magbibigay ng exemption, ito ay dapat isa-isa. Ang exemption must be per enterprise, hindi buong industriya,” Drilon explained. (That proposal is doubtful and can be questioned. If one would be given an exemption, that would only be for that company. The exemption must be per enterprise not the whole industry.)
Assuming that an employer and employee agree to defer the 13th month pay, Drilon said that agreement cannot be sanctioned by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
“Uulitin ko lang, ang ganoong klaseng agreement ay hindi puwedeng i-sanction ng DOLE dahil iyan ay bawal sa batas. Walang karapatan ang DOLE na palitan ang batas,” he pointed out.
(I repeat, that kind of agreement cannot be sanctioned by the DOLE because that is against the law. DOLE has no right to change the law.)
“Sa PD 851, walang provision na nagsasabi na kapag ikaw ay nalulugi ka ay exempted ka sa pagbibigay ng 13th month pay. Exempted ka lang kung ikaw ay nagbibigay na ng Christmas bonus which is the equivalent of 13th month pay,” he said. “Iyan po ang nakalagay sa batas, hindi nila pwedeng palitan iyan,” Drilon insisted.
(There’s no provision stating you can be exempted from giving 13th month pay because you are going bankrupt. You can only be exempted if you are giving a Christmas bonus, which is the equivalent of the 13th month pay. That is in the law and that can’t be changed.)
Drilon warned the government that allowing the deferment of the 13th month pay due to the pandemic can set a dangerous precedent in the years to come.
“Dahil kung puwede iyan, puwede ring pag-usapan na hindi na muna magbabayad ng minimum wage, wala munang benefits at wala munang sick leave dahilan sa pandemya,” he pointed out.
(Because if that would be allowed, they could also start discussing the possibility of not paying the minimum wage, no more benefits, no more sick leaves because of the pandemic.)
“Such agreement is invalid and contrary to public policy and can be a dangerous precedent,” Drilon emphasized.