Francis Tolentino

DOLE must ‘help’ Congress to protect informal sector workers

October 5, 2022 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 412 views

SENATOR Francis Tolentino, a member of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, called out Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Undersecretary Atty. Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio, Jr., on his statements and observations, that the proposed laws to protect the informal sector – freelancers and workers in the informal economy – might be a “challenging” assignment for DOLE.

The labor department said it will require dedicated personnel to comply with the requirements of the proposed laws, which were discussed at a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare, and Rural Development and Finance.

“Meron lang po kaming concern dito, Mr. Chairman, dahil sa panukalang batas na ito, maraming assignment ang binibigay sa Department of Labor and Employment,” Bitonio said as he explained that the additional assignments will require more personnel dedicated for the new requirements of the new laws.

“Ang nakikita namin dito ay ma-eexpand and jurisdiction ng DOLE at papakialaman na rin niya ang pag-enforce and pag-adjudicate ng claims ng independent contracting arrangements. Wala po ito sa current system at kung iyan ay mangyayari, ang DOLE po ay hindi handa. Hindi handa yung current administrative structure ng DOLE po dito,” Bitonio said.

Tolentino reacted by telling Bitonio “not to lecture” the Senate on what is difficult but to review the contentious points and find ways to address them as it is Congress’ job to craft laws to protect workers, whether they are in the formal or informal sector.

“I think the job here of DOLE is to help the Committee finalize the contentious points coming out of the proposed bills and not to lecture us that it is difficult,” he said.

According to Tolentino, “Ang pinaguusapan natin dito – papano natin matutulungan yung manggagawa natin na walang employer-employee relationship. Nakalagay sa saligang batas, trabaho ng Estado na bigyang proteksyon ang manggagawa. Hindi ‘yung iiwas tayo na ‘hindi namin kaya to…’ Help us craft this bill. Help us fine-tune these pieces of legislation. Enable our workers benefit on social legislation that can be provided by the State and Congress.”

For consideration, before the Committee was the legislation on the protection of freelancers covered by Senate Bill (SB) No. 45 introduced by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, SB No. 136 introduced by Sen. Joel Villanueva, and SB No. 945 introduced by Sen. Win Gatchalian, as well as legislation on the Magna Carta of workers in the informal economy covered by SBs No. 42 introduced by Estrada, 96 introduced by Sen. Sonny Angara, 338 introduced by Sen. Grace Poe, and 359 introduced by Villanueva.

Earlier in September of this year, Tolentino filed Senate Bill No. 1275 or the “Delivery Platform Riders Protection Act of 2022.” The bill seeks to establish an employer-employee relationship between delivery riders and digital platform companies.

As such, delivery platform riders rendering services through online or app-based platforms would be entitled to minimum wage, social protection, and more comprehensive work benefits at par with those currently enjoyed by regular employees.