Duterte shelves anti-ENDO bill; bats for OFW dept., tax reform, BARMM

Published July 8, 2021, 2:24 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

A law seeking to give workers security of tenure and stopping the end of contract scheme (ENDO) was no longer part of President Duterte’s priority legislation, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Undersecretary Jacinto Paras said.

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang)

Paras made the statement weeks before Duterte delivers his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26.

In a press briefing on Thursday, July 8, Paras said the anti-ENDO bill, which Duterte had vetoed in 2019, fell out of Duterte’s list of priority legislation because it was not being talked about anymore.

“Because of the controversy when the President vetoed it, all the sectors have not been voicing out their opinions on this even the Department of Labor [and Employment]. So medyo hindi naging priority ito ngayon (So, somehow, it’s not a priority anymore),” he said.

However, he pointed out that there was still hope for the much-awaited measure.

“Maybe, in due time. I think that is still an important proposed legislation,” he said.

President Duterte has called on Congress for a law that will give workers security of tenure to address the issue of contractualization. However, in July 2019, he vetoed the Security of Tenure Bill as it supposedly “unduly broadens the scope and definition of prohibited labor-only contracting, effectively proscribing forms of contractualization that are not particularly unfavorable to the employees involved.”

“Businesses should be allowed to determine whether they should outsource certain activities or not, especially when job-contracting will result in economy and efficiency in their operations, with no detriment to the workers, regardless of whether this is directly related to their business,” he said in his veto message.

He added that the Constitution provides that the State shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare, such constitutional policy is not intended to oppress or destroy capital and management, and a healthy balance between the conflicting interests of labor and management must be observed.

“I believe 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,” Duterte wrote in his letter.

Priority bill #1: DMWOF

Meanwhile, Paras said number one in Duterte’s list of priority legislation is the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) that aims to oversee all policies protecting the welfare of Filipinos abroad.

In May, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte certified the bill as urgent to better serve and promote the welfare of Filipinos abroad.

Senate Bill No. 2234 would turn the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) into the DMWOF. It would also take over the functions of all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices, among others.

It will also supervise the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration as its attached agency. Employees from that office will be absorbed by the new department.

Tax reform

According to Paras, the Executive Branch was still pushing for the fourth package of President Duterte’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) that aims to “resolve certain taxation on certain sectors.”

During the same press briefing, Roque said that Malacañang was confident that the said bill will be passed before President Duterte’s term ends on June 30, 2022.

“I think the Congress defers to bills which have been certified as urgent by the Executive. The reality is we also have support in both houses of Congress for these initiatives,” he said.

Other priority bills

Paras said the President was also looking forward to Congress finding a resolution of the impasse in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“He’s also pushing for the resolution of the BARMM because there are conflicts between certain governors and the transition commission,” he said.

“As far as that is concerned, that is already being considered in the floor by the Senate but sa (at the) House [of Representatives], they’re still conducting a hearing on this,” he added.

The former lawmaker said the Pension Fund was still part of Duterte’s priority legislation and they were still threshing out how will this be applied due to the huge amount involved.

“They’re saying that yung new entrants lang or yun bang ano is totality (They’re saying if it should only cover new entrants or the totality). Then, is it okay to involve the GSIS? And so on and so forth. These are all still issues that need to be resolved,” he said.

Paras said the Public Service Act and the Foreign Investment Act were also still in the pipeline.

“Ito po ang mga important bills ito ng ating Pangulo na talagang (These are the President’s important bills that) we’re trying to push before the election fever heats up by October,” he said.