Duterte seeks 'compromise' on contractualization: 'I can't force capitalists'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he cannot force businessmen into ending contractualization, a promise he made during the presidential campaign.

Duterte said stakeholders should reach a "compromise" instead. 

"I don't think that I can really give them all kasi hindi naman natin mapilit 'yung mga kapitalista na – kung walang pera o ayaw nila o tamad (We cannot force the capitalists – if there's no money, or if they don't want to, or if [workers are] lazy)," Duterte said Monday during the inauguration of a shooting range in Davao City.

"Don't make it hard for them to run the business the way they like it because that's their money. So something of a compromise must be – maybe acceptable to everybody," Duterte added.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said this does not mean the President is giving up on delivering his promise to end contractualization.

"I don't think he has retreated. He has asked for more time to study the matter," Roque said during the Malacañang press briefing.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said the President is studying an executive order (EO) banning illegal forms of contractualization, and eyes signing it by March.

READ: Bello: Duterte promised to sign EO on contractualization by March  

The labor groups that submitted the draft EO to Bello said the proposal recognizes "the need to balance the interest of labor and capital."

This gives the the President, through the Labor Secretary, the authority "to exempt jobs, activities and functions from prohibition" upon consultation with laborers' and employers' sectors.

"The President obviously has been misled or misinformed about the demands of the workers," said Michael Mendoza, National President of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Chairman of labor coalition Nagkaisa.

The groups called on Duterte to fulfill his campaign promise. Then candidate Rodrigo Duterte vowed to end contractualization within a week.

Almost a year after, in March 2017, the Labor Department issued Department Order No. 174, which bans labor-only contracting, outsourcing work due to a strike, and the so-called "555" or "endo." "Endo" is the practice of repeated hiring of workers on five-month contracts so employers don't need to regularize them on the sixth month.

Some labor groups have criticized the government's move and demanded an end to all forms of contractualization.

For them, the DO 174 actually favors employers and allows manpower agencies to reabsorb workers if employers do not regularize them. This leaves employees stuck between abusive companies and middlemen, without any assurance of fair pay or benefits.

In July 2017, Bello clarified that what Duterte meant by terminating contractualization was banning "unlawful, illegitimate contractualization."

He said there are legal forms of contractualization like project-based hiring and seasonal hiring.