With an overwhelming 252 votes, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill providing for enhanced protection, security and benefits for workers in the media industry.
Speaker Martin Romualdez said the approval of the measure “highlights the importance we in the House give to promoting the welfare of media personnel and ensuring that the press remains free.”
“We regard the Fourth Estate as an essential partner in nation building and in protecting our democracy,” he said.
HB 454 is a consolidation of five related measures authored by scores of House members.
The proposed law “shall apply to all media workers and media entities in the private sector.”
It defines “media entities” as “persons or organizations, including media networks and operators that actively gather information of potential interest to a segment of the public, turn collected information into a distinct work or distribute that work to an audience within the Philippines.”
“Media workers” are “those who are legitimately engaged in news media practice directly or indirectly, whether as a principal occupation or not.”
The term “block timer” refers to “one who buys airtime from radio and television franchise holders.”
The bill provides that the minimum compensation for media workers shall not be less than the applicable minimum wage set by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board.
They shall be entitled to overtime and night shift pay as provided under the Labor Code and related laws.
Media personnel shall be covered by the Social Security System, Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. upon employment. Monthly premiums shall be shared by the worker and the employer in accordance with existing rules.
Personnel required to physically report for work in dangerous places such as embattled and disease-stricken areas shall receive a hazard pay of P500 a day. Employers shall provide them with safety gear like bulletproof vests and protective equipment.
Media workers shall be entitled to P200,000 death benefit, disability benefit of up to P200,000 and medical insurance of up to P100,000.
They shall be deemed as regular employees after six months from the start of employment. An employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause and with the observance of due process.
All labor-related disputes shall be settled by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional office which has jurisdiction over the workplace.
HB No. 454 holds media entities as responsible for all content released in their platforms, including those purveyed by block timers, except when they are able to prove that they exercised due diligence or that the fault, misconduct or violation of law was done solely by the media worker or block timer.
Violations of the proposed law shall be punished with applicable penalties under the Labor Code.
The bill directs the DoLE secretary to initiate the creation of the News Media Tripartite Council which shall serve as a link among various stakeholders, and provide a platform where media workers and employers can agree on mutually beneficial policies and programs, and can settle disputes.
The measure mandates the DoLE secretary, in coordination with stakeholders, to issue implementing rules and regulations within 90 days from the bill’s enactment.
Other authors include House Majority Leader Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, Reps. Patrick Michael D. Vargas, Jeffrey Soriano, Eric G. Yap, Paolo Z. Duterte, Edvic G. Yap, Raul Angelo Bongalon, Luis Raymund Jr., Villafuerte, Miguel Luis Villafuerte, Tsuyoshi Anthony G. Horibata, Nicolas VIII C. Enciso, Alfred C. Delos Santos, France L. Castro, Arlene D. Brosas, Raoul Danniel A. Manuel, Juan Fidel Felipe F. Nograles, Mary Mitzi L. Cajayon-Uy, Charisse Anne C. Hernandez, Keith Micah D.L. Tan, Allan U. Ty, Christopherson M. Yap, Munir Jr. N. Arbison, Christopher V.P. De Venecia, Edcel C. Lagman, Romeo M. Acop, Bonifacio L. Bosita, Carl Nicolas C. Cari, Edwin L. Gardiola, Mark O. Go, Gerville R. Luistro, Khymer Adan T. Olasa, Rodolfo M. Ordanes, Florida P. Robes, Geraldine B. Roman, Roman T. Romulo, Ma. Alana Samantha T. Santos, Leody F. Tarriela, Jocelyn P. Tulfo, Richard Gomez, and Felimon M. Espares.