Patience Wearing Thin for
Wage hike legislation
nears 6 years
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
NO QUORUM: Congressmen
exchange pleasantries while waiting for quorum
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
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
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.
Although the wage
bill’s fate is uncertain, Beltran remains optimistic. He said that even in
the interpellation on June 7, most of the points raised pertained to
queries and adjustments.
One point raised came
from Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte who asked if the payment of the
P125 wage increase could be through installments – P75 on the first year
and the remaining P50 on the next year. He also asked if the bill could
consider the wage increases approved recently by various regional wage
Crispin Remulla expressed concern over the agriculture sector. Citing
agriculture as the backbone of the economy, Remulla said that a legislated
wage increase might result in a bigger problem if the agricultural
enterprises could not bear the wage increase for agricultural workers.
that these queries could help in smoothening the debate on the wage
increase, instead of just voting against the bill.
No choice but to
In the opening of the
second regular session on July 25, the House leadership could not refuse
to deliberate on the wage bill since it is now part of the Unfinished
Business from the first regular session, said Beltran, adding that even if
it the bill gets rejected, they will refile it.
At present, there are
57 signatories to the bill. One hundred nineteen out of the 236 members of
the House are needed to approve it.
If ever the bill is
passed in Congress and the President would veto it, Beltran said that
legislators, along with the workers and their families demanding for the
increase, would take the issue to the streets.
“If that’s the case,
it is now the mass movement that would really determine the outcome of the
struggle for the wage increase as well as the President’s fate,” Beltran,
chair emeritus of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May First Movement) said.
For the record
In the past the bill
on the legislated wage increase met rough sailing in the House.
In 1999 during the 11th
Congress, HB 1390 filed by Rep. Oscar Rodriguez and HB 8459 by Rep. Sergio
Apostol embodied the petition of progressive labor organizations to grant
a P125 ($2.26) across-the-board increase in the workers’ daily wages
nationwide. In the Senate, Sen. Juan Flavier filed a similar bill, Senate
The House Committee
on Labor and Employment recommended that the entire House deliberate on
the bill. However, the House leadership failed to calendar the bills.
Beltran, who became a
member of the House in 2001 as Bayan Muna party-list representative, told
Bulatlat that the failure to deliberate was the reflection of the
position of the Estrada government, through the Department of Labor and
Employment, not to grant any wage increase as requested by the employers,
particularly the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).
In the 12th
Congress just five days after their proclamation, Beltran, along with
other Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, revived the bill by
filing HB 2605 and filed HB 2606 seeking a P3,000 ($54.35)
across-the-board salary increase to all public sector employees. It was
followed by four other congressmen who filed HB 2623 with the same
The committee, upon
deliberation of the two bills, came up with a consolidated bill numbered
HB 4188 on June 10, 2002.
It was deliberated
until the second reading through a plenary. However, after sponsorship
speeches, the deliberation of the bill was stopped in favor of finalizing
the General Appropriations Act.
Although the bill was
archived at the end of the 12th Congress, the reelection of
labor workers’ defenders gave a new hope for the long-awaited legislated
wage increase. Bulatlat
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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