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Labor group lauds Laguesma, Remulla for upholding Pinoy seafarers rights

Labor group lauds Laguesma, Remulla for upholding Pinoy seafarers rights
Aaron Recuenco May 19, 2024

A federation of labor groups advocating for the welfare of seafarers lauded on Sunday, May 19, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for opposing the imposition of an execution bond in awards of disability claims.

In two separate resolutions, the Philippine Trade and General Workers Organization (PTGWO-TUCP) said DOLE Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma and DOJ Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla protected the rights of the Filipino seafarers when they expressed opposition on the execution of bonds in awards of disability claims before worker-seafarers could get the award which they would be entitled to from final judgments of the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC) and the Voluntary Arbitrator under the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB-DOLE).

“Their actions are worth emulating for their commitment, determination and resolve in advocating for the rights and welfare of Filipino workers,” the PTGWO-TUCP said in a statement.

The legal opinion issued by the DOLE and adhered to by the DOJ stemmed from the ongoing discussions on the Magna Carta for Seafarers bill, specifically in 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.

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.

If that provision is included in the enactment of the law, the PTGWO said it would only be the seafarers which will not have their awards received by them immediately.

“This puts them at a disadvantage as compared with all other workers, whether local or OFWs, who have won their cases in the NLRC and Voluntary Arbitrators under the NCMB. The seafarers would have to put up a bond in a sum equivalent to his award to be able to get their hard earned disability benefit,” the group said.

In February this year, President Marcos delayed the signing of the Magna Carta for Seafarers into law, with the Palace saying that it needs further review.

During the continuation of the deliberations on the issue, DOJ Undersecretary Raul Vazquez wrote a letter addressed to Undersecretary Bernardito Sayo, Presidential Assistant for The Senate of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), on its opinion about the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Magna Carta of Seafarers.

The opinion stated that, “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 a number of years in order to receive the award.”.

“Napakaganda ng hangarin ng Magna Carta of Seafarers. Napakalaking kabutihan ang maibibigay nito para sa kapakanan ng ating mga marino (The magna Carta for Seafarers has a good intention. It will certainly benefit our seafarers,” the PTGWO said in a statement.

“Gayunpaman, kami sa PTGWO ay nagpapasalamat sa ating mahal na Pangulong Bong Bong Marcos, dahil hindi niya pinirmahan ang naunang version Magna Carta for Seafarers. Ang bond provision na ito ay tunay na violative ng equal protection clause, anti-labor at anti-OFW, na lubhang pinahihirapan ang pagtanggap ng award na panalo ng seafarers (We in the PTGWO express our gratitude to president Marcos for not signing the first version of the Magna carta for Seafarers. This bond provision violates the equal protection clause, it is anti-labor, and anti-OFW. It would make it difficult for seafarers to get their claims),” it added.

The group explained that if such provision is included in the law that would be enacted, it is the employers who would benefit since it will take time before a seaman would already win the case to receive the claims.

“Nawa ay tuluyan ng tanggalin na ang provision na ito sa syang lamang pumipigil na maipasa ang Magna Carta for Seafarers, isang batas na tutugon sa pagpapabuti ng kapakanan ng ating mga marino (We hope that this provision would be removed because this is the only provision that prevents the signing of the Magna Carta for Seafarers into law, a law that ensures welfare of our seafarers,” the PTGWO said.