By Corina Oliquino
FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III on October 27 rejected House Bill 4802, filed in September by Rep. Jose ‘Bonito’ Singson Jr. (Probinsyano Ako party-list) which seeks to amend the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The Bill, filed in the House of Representatives and currently pending with the Committee on Labor and Employment, will extend the probationary employment period from the current six months to 24 months, allowing employers to “avoid the automatic regularization” of employees.

“(A) period of six months under the present set up is not sufficient a period in order for the employer to determine if the probationary employee is qualified for regular employment, especially in positions which require specialized skills and talents,” the Bill’s explanatory note said.

“Because of the maximum six-month period prescribed by law, employers are inclined to terminate the probationary employees before the expiration of the six-month period, rather than risk oppression by being stuck with a substandard employee.”

In a report by The Philippine Star, a briefer on termination of employment by the Bureau of Labor Relations notes employers can fire regular employees for just cause, which includes: “serious misconduct or willful disobedience to lawful and work-related orders, gross and habitual neglect of duties, fraud or willful breach of employers’ trust and commission of a crime or offense against an employer or their family.”

The provision also stated that probationary employee may also be terminated “for a just cause or when he or she does not meet standards set and made known by the employer, according to the provision.”

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Bello described the legislation as anti-worker as it violates the right to security of tenure.

“I don’t support it. It’s too long,” Bello said.

“That is no longer in keeping with our policy of security of tenure,” he added.

In a separate radio interview, Bello said many employees are not regularized automatically after the six-month probationary period in violation of the Labor Code.

“The DOLE has taken a different position on the proposed measure because such extension is too long. Kawawa naman ang ating mga manggagawa,” he said.

“There are employers who terminate their workers before they reach six months at work. The employees will be re-hired after one or two months to avoid the six-month probation period,” he added.

In another report by The Philippine Star, Bello is hoping the Congress will not pass the legislation.

“Assuming that it will be approved by Congress, if the President will ask the labor department, we will recommend a veto because this can be abused by employers,” he said.

“Dead on arrival” in the Senate
In a report by the Manila Bulletin, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Bill would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate should it hurdle over to the Lower Chamber.

“I will oppose its passage. If the House passes it, consider it DOA in the Senate. Hindi ito makatarungan. Hindi makatwiran,” Drilon said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, said the Bill will go against efforts to end the practice of contractualization by companies in a text message.

Moreover, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said prolonging the probationary period would be unconstitutional as it would violate the right of workers to security of tenure.

“That may open the floodgates to even greater abuse. Security of tenure of labor is a right recognized and protected by our Constitution. Lengthening the probationary period three fold prevents the worker from enjoying such a right under our charter,” he said.

Pangilinan also echoed Sen. Joel Villanueva’s (chair of the Senate committee on labor) concern that the Bill would violate workers’ right to security of tenure and called on DOLE “to fast-track the drafting of their version of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill so the Senate could discuss the measure.