A congressman has hailed Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s pronouncement against the proposed deferment of 13th month pay to Filipino workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo na narinig ni Secretary Bello yung hinaing ng workers natin (We thank Secretary Bello for heeding the cry of our workers),” Ang Probinsyano Party-List Rep. Alfred delos Santos said in a statement Sunday.

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Ang Probinsyano Partylist Representative Alfred Delos Santos (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Lahat po tayo ay talagang tinamaan ng pandemya na ito pero dapat ay bigyan pa rin ang workers natin ng 13th month pay lalo na’t marami talagang gipit dahil sa COVID. Magiging malaking tulong po ito sa kanila na walang-wala ngayon. (Although all of us were hit hard by this pandemic, we should still give workers their 13th month pay especially since a lot of them are under financial stress due to COVID. This will be a huge help to those with no savings),” noted the neophyte solon.

DOLE recently called for a meeting to discuss the possible deferment of the lawfully provided benefit in light of the financial crunch being experienced by companies. Participating in the meeting were Bello, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Sergio Ortiz-Luiz Jr., and trade union leaders, among others.

Initially, Bello, a former House member, proposed two scenarios: (1) the exemption of “distressed” companies in giving the 13th month pay; or (2) the deferment of the benefit.

The general rule provided by law is that the 13th month pay is mandatory. The only exception for it as per the DOLE implementing rules and regulations is when a company is in distress.

But Bello eventually retracted his suggestions and stated during a press briefing that DOLE will not postpone, defer, or give any exemption to the payment of the 13th month pay.

Subsequently issued was Labor Advisory No, 28, Series of 2020, which states that the 13th month pay must be released on or before December 24, 2020.

The difficulties faced by local businesses especially micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) were not lost on De los Santos, however.

“Both sides po talaga ay susubukan nating intindihin at sana po ay makakuha tayo ng compromise soon, para na rin sa ikabubuti ng lahat. Alam po nating madami talagang adjustments pero this is really a time na dapat magtulong tulong tayo at ipakita ang bayanihan nating mga Pilipino (We will try to understand the plight of both sides and hopefully we will reach a compromise soon for everybody’s benefit. We know a lot of adjustments need to be made but this is really a time when we should help each other and show our bayanihan spirit),” Delos Santos said.

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