Philippine Star, June 12, 2011

House of Representatives has passed a bill which affords women more protection against discrimination in the workplace.

Approved was House Bill 4643 authored by Tarlac Reps. Susan Yap, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, and Akbayan party-list Reps. Walden Bello and Arlene Bag-ao.

The measure expands the list of prohibited acts of discrimination against women on account of gender under the present Articles 135 and 137 of Presidential Decree 442, or the Labor Code as amended by Republic Act 6725.

Yap said it will now be unlawful for any employer to favor a male employee over a female employee with respect to assignments, dismissal or retrenchment of personnel.

It also prohibits companies from specifying gender preference either through job notices or during hiring.

“Under the proposed legislation, we hope to see none of the job advertisements that indicate the phrase ‘preferably male,’” she said.

The bill also prohibits the denial of any employment benefits or other statutory benefits under the country’s laws to a woman by reason of gender.

Under the measure, any employer found guilty of committing or attempting to commit any of the prohibited acts will be asked to pay a fine of no less than P50,000 but not more than P200,000 and suffer imprisonment of no less than two years but not more than four years.

It also provides for the separability of the filing of a civil suit by the aggrieved female employee for the payment of salaries or benefits due her from that of the case arising from violations committed under the proposed legislation.

The proposed law also provides for the similar liability for any employee or person who willfully aids in or abets the acts declared prohibited or who causes the commission of any such acts by another as to that of the employer.

Once passed into law, the bill will level the playing field for women in employment and work opportunities, Yap said.

“It is now up to the Senate to pass HB 4643’s counterpart bill so that this will soon be a reality for women workers and employees in the Philippines,” she said.

The counterpart Senate Bill 429 by Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada is pending on second reading, she said.

Unparalleled record

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed yesterday that the House of Representatives would remain “sensitive to our people’s aspirations” as the 15th Congress adjourned this week with 14 national bills and hundreds of local measures approved.

He described the performance of the House in the first regular session as “unparalleled” and vowed to “hit the ground running” when Congress opens its second regular session in July.

He noted that less than a year ago, lawmakers entered into office “as representatives of a constituency that – although separated into political districts and party-lists – has been unified by an overwhelming yearning to end poverty, accelerate economic and social development, and to restore integrity and efficiency in the public service.”

“Sensitive to the public pulse and conscious of our people’s aspirations, we swiftly organized our chamber, defined our priorities, and immediately commenced work on pieces of legislation that demanded urgent attention,” Belmonte said.

“In the second regular session, we shall therefore proceed with our work, guaranteeing democratic space for all opposing views on any measure, but never losing sight of our obligation to act on legislation crucial to the fate of our nation,” he said.

He vowed that the House would act swiftly in approving bills calendared for plenary debates, including the Anti-Trust Act that promotes competitiveness, Amended Witness Protection Act, Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, Universal Healthcare Act, National Land Use Policy, Land Administration Reform Act, Government Procurement Reform Act, Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure Development Act.

“Our performance a year in office speaks for itself. Despite being the biggest in terms of membership, we continue to register the most robust plenary attendance per session day – which, based on official data, averages 94.25 percent of our membership,” he said.

He said the record, unparalleled in the history of the chamber, was complemented by the frequent meetings of committees or a total of 844 public hearings in 73 session days.

“The hard work of our members has made it possible for us to process – at both the committee and plenary levels – a total of 1,658 measures, or an average of 23 measures per session day,” Belmonte said.

He said 10 months after the 15th Congress opened, the House has approved on third reading 113 national bills and 147 local bills, and adopted 121 regular and 717 resolutions on inquiries in aid of legislation.

“It is therefore no wonder that this Chamber has once more gained the respect it rightfully deserves. Survey after survey shows the rising public trust and approval on this institution and on its membership, a feat that has eluded our predecessors. As of the last survey, our public approval is at an all-time high,” he said.

Belmonte said the well-deserved confidence accorded to lawmakers by the national constituency will prove crucial as the chamber proceeds to its second regular session.

“As I noted at the start of our session, we have been elected to this chamber to preside over a political transition under difficult circumstances. We assumed office keenly aware of the hard decisions that had to be made in reforming our politics and revitalizing our governmental institutions that they may regain the confidence of our people,” he said.