Aside from the complainants, the NLRC decision bolstered the rest of the contractual ABS-CBN workers’ demands for regularization.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Contractual workers of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN gain one more reason to look forward to if or when the broadcasting giant reopens with a new franchise.
The employees have been winning labor cases affirming their regularization and rejecting schemes that made them ‘permanent contractuals.’ One of the latest labor cases to finally be closed with an order for regularization and return-to-work is that of Rowena “Wheng” Hidalgo Otida, Jerome “Jay” Manahan and John E. Cuba.
Their case was filed originally in 2003. It went through more than a decade-long series of hearings, decisions and appeals up to the Supreme Court between the complainants and respondent ABS-CBN. There was supposed to be a decision favoring the workers as early as 2014, but the labor arbiter cited various technicalities and did not issue an order until another labor arbiter took over the case.
On March 9 this year, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines cheered this piece of good news for ABS-CBN employees. A month before, on February 6, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) issued a return-to-work order to the said ABS-CBN employees.
On Feb 6, 2020, the NLRC also wrote the lawyers of ABS-CBN stating Labor Arbiter Braza-Oro’s order. It notified ABS-CBN that the order shall be “immediately executory, even pending appeal.” It directed ABS-CBN to submit a report of compliance within ten calendar days from receipt of the order.
However, the NUJP noted that due to the COVID-related lockdown followed by the NTC order to ABS-CBN to shut down operations pending renewal of their franchise, which expired on May 4, the employees’ regularization, and return-to-work, have yet to be executed.
For Wheng Hidalgo, it has been 16 years of repeatedly renewing a fixed-term contract rather than being regularized as stated in the Labor Code when she filed the case with Manahan and Cuba. She is currently a broadcaster working for ‘Radyo Pilipinas,’ with a program for President Rodrigo Duterte’s Presidential Hotline 8888. Asked for comment, she opted to be in “silent mode while waiting for the execution to be facilitated.”
A Bulatlat article containing interviews of Hidalgo Otida and other ABS-CBN contractuals, published in 2010, was inadvertently used recently in some circles as if to justify the franchise renewal problem of the broadcast company. “I don’t understand why a 10 YEAR OLD ARTICLE would be used by some to create a different narrative and relate it to a divisive issue hounding us today. The title was TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT,” Hidalgo Otida told Philippine Entertainment Portal.
The NLRC order also said the ABS-CBN must pay the complainants an award of moral damages in the amount of P50,000 each plus an equivalent of 10 ten percent of it for attorney’s fees.
ABS-CBN has over 11,000 employees, many under employment classifications such as “talents” or employees under “internal job market” (IJM) of ABS-CBN. They work with renewable fixed-term contracts.
Aside from the complainants, the NLRC decision bolstered the rest of the contractual ABS-CBN workers’ demands for regularization. The NLRC decision confirmed that the ABS-CBN’s implementation of the IJM and the issuance of term contracts to Hidalgo Otida, Manahan and Cuba, “is a badge of bad faith as it was obviously a ruse to defeat complainants’ security of tenure.” Even the employees’ entitlement to attorney’s fees was necessary, the NLRC said, for the workers’ having filed the case to be recognized by ABS-CBN as its regular employees.
Editors’ note: Bulatlat is not connected to those who want to use any of its published articles in any move to curtail press freedom or deprive thousands of employees of their right for meaningful, gainful employment, as may happen with forcible ABS-CBN. In fact, Bulatlat and Altermidya are in the forefront of media struggle against censorship and the political leveraging of franchise renewal.