Wage hike legislation nears 6 years
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo faces a punishment worse than impeachment if she continues to ignore the demand of workers for a legislated wage increase in the minimum daily wage by P125 ($2.26). A party-list legislator argued that she faces the people’s wrath if workers are left with no other choice but to take the issue to the streets.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Progressive labor has called for a P125 ($2.26, based on an exchange rate of P55.20 per U.S. dollar) increase in the minimum daily wage since August 1999. Almost six years have passed and concerned legislators have taken the cudgels for workers in this regard. However, the bill is caught in the bureaucratic maze of the House.
In the current 13th Congress, Anakpawis Party-list, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) filed House Bill (HB) No. 1063 while Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Roseller Barinaga who is also chair of the House Committee on Labor and Employment sponsored HB 162. Both called for the P125 ($2.26) increase in the daily wage of private sector employees.
Since the major points of contention had been discussed in the previous Congress, Barinaga’s committee prioritized this measure and consolidated the two bills into HB 345. Last Oct. 26, the committee approved the bills for reporting to the House in an executive session.
After the committee report was registered and numbered by the Bills and Index Service, it was included in the Order of Business and referred to the House Committee on Rules. The latter schedules the bill for consideration on second reading.
However, Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles, the House Majority leader who chairs the Committee on Rules, is one of those who blocked the deliberations on the P125 bill, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran said. The majority congressman argued that HB 345 is not a priority because it was not certified as urgent by the President.
Beltran also said that the authors of the bill filed a motion to refer the committee report to the plenary for second reading and in the Order of Business. In the latter, priority bills are first to be discussed, followed by Unfinished Business and then the Business of the Day.
Last April 13, Beltran and Partido ng Manggagawa Party-list Rep. Renato Magtubo delivered their sponsorship speeches. Beltran also proposed to transfer the bill from Business for the Day to Unfinished Business.
Due to the strengthening mass movement and the consistent follow-up and bargaining with the opposing block, the House majority promised to calendar the second reading of HB 345 after the bill on the increase in the value-added tax (VAT).
Last April 26, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño told the plenary that Nograles made this promise on Feb. 28. But there were no signs that this promise would be fulfilled. During that session, Casiño’s inquiry on the status of the bill was answered with the session’s suspension from 5:09 p.m. to 6:38 p.m.
When the session resumed, there was already no quorum. The latter also happened in the sessions last May 3 and 4 which resulted in suspension. The May 2 session, meanwhile, was similarly suspended after the President declared it a special non-working day.
Beltran said that the House leadership’s refusal to deliberate on the bill was “a grave insult and attack against workers all over the country. It’s an outrage that the House rolls out the red carpet and extends itself to welcome visiting foreign dignitaries, but ignores the pleas of Filipino workers and even bans them from expressing their sentiments within the halls of Congress.”
Last May 9, Beltran reminded his colleagues that the authors of HB 345 agreed that plenary deliberations will start on May 11. On that day, however, House worked on the VAT bill until the wee hours of the night and passed it.
On June 7, Beltran and Barinaga objected to the deliberation of bills certified as urgent by the President. They asserted that HB 345 should already be put on second reading. Beltran argued that even if it was not a priority bill, it was in the Order of Business for five months already, considering that the bill has been up for second reading since January 17.