'Eddie Garcia Bill' hurdles House

The so-called "Eddie Garcia Bill" has been unanimously approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

The late Eddie Garcia (Wikipedia)

The measure, embodied in House Bill (HB) No. 1270, seeks to protect workers and/or independent contractors in the film, television, and radio entertainment industry.

Deputy Speaker and Davao City 3rd district Rep. Isidro Ungab, who presided over plenary session Monday afternoon, declared the bill as approved on third and final reading after it received 240 affirmative votes during nominal voting.

The proposed law was named after the popular actor who died in June 2019 following an accident while filming a television series.

House Speaker and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez said the measure will cover thousands of people working in the entertainment industry and "ensure that they continue to have gainful employment and protect them against abuse, harassment, dangerous working environment, and exploitation".

“Manong Eddie was a hugely popular actor well-loved by many Filipinos. It was unfortunate that he died in such circumstances. But the accident served as a wake-up call for the industry and for us policymakers in Congress,” Romualdez said.

HB No.1270 is a consolidation of six related measures, including one authored by Garcia’s congressman-stepson, 1-Pacman Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero.

Romero said his stepfather, one of the country’s most awarded actors, “tripped on loose cables” on the film set and “suffered cervical cracks and fractures” that led to his death.

He said the accident and Garcia’s death highlighted the need for a safe workplace for entertainment industry workers, many of whom are self-employed independent actors, actresses and performers.

The full title of HB No.1270 reads, “An Act instituting policies for the protection and promotion of the welfare of workers or independent contractors in the film, television and radio entertainment industry.”

It defines an industry worker or independent contractor as “any person engaged or hired by the employer or principal to render services involving the production, distribution, and exhibition of film, television, and radio entertainment content".

The bill provides that an industry worker or independent contractor “shall be governed by the provisions of the Civil Code on contracts and other applicable laws, but not lower than the standards provided under Presidential Decree No. 442, or the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended".

The worker/contractor shall execute an agreement or employment contract in a language or dialect understood by both parties before he/she is asked to render service.

The employer/principal shall provide him/her a copy of the signed contract, which shall include job position and description, period of employment, details of compensation, salary deductions, if any, work hours, code of conduct, board and lodging, medical care, employer’s policies, and any other lawful condition agreed by both parties.

Normal work shall be for eight hours, which can be extended to a maximum of 12 hours, including waiting time in the set or workplace. Service beyond eight hours shall be paid overtime pay.

Work for minors shall be governed by Republic Act (RA) No. 9231, or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. In no case shall work hours be more than 60 hours in a week, the bill said.

The bill further provides that travel time to and from out-of-town projects shall be compensable working time. The minimum wage of an industry worker/contractor shall not be less than the minimum wage in the region.

The employee/contractor shall be covered by the Social Security System, Home Development Mutual Fund and PhilHealth insurance. Premiums shall be shared by the employer and his/her employer.

The proposed law mandates that the employer/principal “shall not subject or allow the worker or independent contractor to be subjected to any kind of abuse, physical violence of harassment or any act that degrades the dignity of the worker or independent contractor.”

The bill likewise protects the intellectual property rights of a performer, which would consist of his/her performance in a film, radio or TV production. He/she shall be compensated for the subsequent use/broadcast of his/her performance.

Implementing rules and regulations would be issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).