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Understanding Executive Order 51

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AS WITH every Labor Day presidential pronouncement in the past, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s announcement of his Executive Order (EO) No. 51, regarding contractualization in the workplace, prompted criticism among stakeholders — from the muted to the outright vocal, especially by labor groups.

These stakeholders were already privy to the contents of EO 51, but it wasn’t until May 2, following Mr. Duterte’s announcement, that Malacañang released the order, which continues to stir discussion as to what it really means for contractuals.

Contractualization became a major election issue during Mr. Duterte’s 2016 campaign. After some two years in office with drafts of the EO sitting on his desk, Mr. Duterte finally issued an executive order that, at best, elicited mixed reactions.

But the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has endeavored to tackle the phenomenon of contractualization in line with EO 51’s provision on the agency’s monitoring authority. Meanwhile, the Senate committee on labor and employment has completed the proposed Security of Tenure and End of Endo Act of 2018 for consideration by the plenary.

Sought to explain EO 51, Director Benjo M. Benavidez of DoLE’s Bureau of Labor Relations said the order just “reinforces existing provisions. So if you notice, there are provisions there in the executive order that are already found in the Labor Code of the Philippines.”

“The very nature of an executive order is to execute and implement existing laws, rules, and regulations. It (the EO) cannot amend or supplant existing provisions of law,” he added.

Mr. Benavidez also said EO 51 is still “a reinforcement because we added some provisions,” referring to Section 4 of the order on DoLE’s inspection powers — which, to be sure, is “consistent with Article 128 (Visitorial and Enforcement Power) of the Labor Code.”

He further cited another order which is more comprehensive in defining the working terms under contractualization: Department Order (DO) No. 174, which Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III issued in March last year.

Besides labor-only contracting, “other prohibited contracting practices can be found in Section 6 of DO 174,” Mr. Benavidez said. “Some of the mentioned prohibited activities in the DO are contractors/subcontractors repeatedly hiring employees after the end of a contract of short duration… and employees of contractors/subcontractors doing the same job as the principal’s regular employees.” — Gillian M. Cortez