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DOJ echoes opposition of DOLE in ‘bond provision’ of stalled seafarer bill

DOJ echoes opposition of DOLE in ‘bond provision’ of stalled seafarer bill
Joel R. San Juan May 21, 2024

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has backed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in opposing the “bond provision” in the proposed Magna Carta For Seafarers bill.

In a statement, the Philippine Trade and General Workers Organization (PTGWO-TUCP), the country’s biggest labor group, commended both the DOJ and the DOLE “for standing firm on the provisions of law and the rights of worker-seafarers.”

The PTGWO-TUCP was referring to the letter-opinion of DOJ Undersecretary Raul Vazquez addressed to Undersecretary Bernardito Sayo, Presidential Assistant for the Senate of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) about the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Magna Carta of Seafarers.

In the said opinion, the PTGWO-TUCP said Vasquez told Sayo that the justice department shared the legal position of DOLE headed by Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma in connection with Section 58 of proposed Magna Carta For Seafarers bill.

The opinion stated: “With regard to Section 58, we defer to the position of DOLE that it is inconsistent with the protection to labor clause should there be a need to post bond for the execution of awards under items [d] and [e], as this would place undue burden on the worker who has no means to put up such bond. In case the seafarer cannot afford the execution bond, then he will wait for such number of years in order to receive the award.”

The enrolled bill of the Magna Carta of Seafarers, a bill certified as urgent, has been withdrawn by both Houses of Congress after President Marcos refused to sign it into law.

The group said that based on latest report the questioned provision has been retained in the revised bicameral conference committee bill.

The Magna Carta for Seafarers bill aims to ensure the protection and welfare of the Filipino Seafarers by recognizing their rights and instituting mechanisms for enforcement, consistent with the standards of the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, the Seafarers’ Bill of Rights and the Fourth Pillar of International Maritime Law.

But the contentious issue on the bill is its Section 58, which disallows the immediate execution or payment to the complainant seafarer of any disputed amount determined to be legally due, including damages and attorney’s fees.

The group said if this is passed into law, it will only be the seafarers which will not have their awards received by them immediately.

This would put them at a disadvantage as compared with all other workers, whether local or overseas, who have won their cases in the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC) and voluntary arbitrators under the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).

The group pointed out that seamen would have to put up a bond in a sum equivalent to his award to be able to get their hard earned disability benefit.

Meanwhile, the PTGWO-TUCP said it has unanimously passed a resolution commending Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla and Laguesma for their stance against the assailed provision.

PTGWO is presently the biggest labor federation, in terms of individual membership, with more than 100 labor unions in various industries, as per the records of the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR).

“This is for a legal opinion, which the DOLE issued, and the DOJ adhered to, against the imposition of execution bond in awards of disability claims, before worker-seafarers will get the award which they have favorably won from final judgments of the National Labor Relation Commission [NLRC] and the Voluntary Arbitrator under the National Conciliation and Mediation Board [NCMB-DOLE],” the group said.