By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
August 23, 2020
One of my top priorities as head of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is to help push for a law that would set standards on the working conditions of our film and audiovisual workers.
Struggles in working conditions have been plaguing the film and audiovisual industry for the past hundred years. As an actress myself, I have experienced some of the substandard working conditions firsthand; that is why this initiative is very close to my heart.
Occupational safety and health guidelines must be implemented in production sites such as limiting lengthy working hours, mitigating risks, and eliminating hazards. A contract is a must before any work is rendered as well as insurance and access to social welfare benefits.
It was in light of the untimely death of Eddie Garcia that the public, our stakeholders, and the government took a closer look at the industry’s working conditions. The screen legend passed away at the age of 90 on June 20, 2019 after suffering a neck injury while taping for a television program and falling into a coma.
The columnist with the late, great Eddie Garcia
Unfortunately, it had to take the tragic death of an icon for us to take collective action to improve the industry that he loved and served for seven decades. But as a way to honor him and the industry that he so loved, the Eddie Garcia Act has recently been approved at the subcommittee level.
The Eddie Garcia Act is House Bill (HB) No. 181 for the proposed occupational safety and health standards (OSH) act for the film, television, and theater industry. It was filed in July 2019 by House Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero, Ph.D., the son of Garcia’s longtime partner, Lilibeth Romero.
The subcommittee approval comes after six months of hearings led by the House of Representatives Committee on Labor and Employment. The hearings may have been laborious especially during the Covid-19 pandemic but I am honored and grateful to have contributed to them alongside various stakeholders representing the film and television industry.
While the draft bill still has to go through the mother committee, plenary, and the Senate where Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. filed Senate Bill No. 294 or the Eddie Garcia Law, this is a significant stride towards the final approval.
Among the Eddie Garcia Act’s proposed improvements are standard working hours, mandatory personnel and production insurance coverage, identification of workplace hazards, and the creation of standard operating procedures.
There should also be a safety and medical checklist, required presence of safety officers and medical personnel, emergency operational standards and protocol in production sites, and payments for full hospitalization and loss of means of livelihood should a worker get into an accident on the set.
With House Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman Rep.Michael “Mikee” Romero
On behalf of the FDCP, we would like to thank our honorable legislators for their hard work, patience, and steadfast commitment to provide the much-needed empowerment of our film and audiovisual workers.
These are House Labor and Employment Committee Chairman and 1-Pacman Rep. Enrico Pineda; Subcommittee Co-chairs TUCP Rep. Raymond Mendoza and Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia; and authors Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite.
We cannot thank Rep. Romero enough for filing the bill and aligning with the FDCP. We also thank Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas, and other authors such as Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong, Manila 3rd District Rep. John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto, Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo, ACT-CIS Rep. Rowena Niña Taduran, and Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, Jr.
Unknown to many, the FDCP has been engaging with stakeholders and policymakers to better the industry’s working conditions. We facilitated the technical groundwork by holding the Film Workers Summit in 2017 and conducted various consultative meetings with technical crew, creative and technical workers, actors, directors, and producers. The FDCP also consulted with its counterpart agencies in Canada, United States, and South Korea.
Such consultations allowed us to request for Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd to initiate crafting sector-specific guidelines to set minimum standards for the occupational safety and health of workers in the film industry. The request was done since DoLE, by law, is tasked to safeguard the workers relative to their working conditions.
This led to the creation of the DoLE-FDCP Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2020 on the guidelines governing the working conditions and occupational safety and health of workers in the audiovisual production.
While the FDCP began the technical groundwork, industry movers such as Rez Cortez, Leo Martinez, and Bembol Roco have long been fighting for better working conditions. I thank them and other industry members for never giving up on lobbying for this cause.
As we close the celebration of One Hundred Years of Philippine Cinema, the Eddie Garcia Act is the greatest gift that we can give to the industry, especially for our passionate and dedicated workers who, for the longest time, have been needing institutionalized protection from the government.
There is an urgent need to look after the very people that keep the film and audiovisual industry going — workers, unsung heroes, creatives, professionals, luminaries, icons, and legends.
In an industry where it is normal for sectors to go about things in silos, it is high time for us to come together for the next hundred years of Philippine Cinema. The FDCP will patiently wait, consistently hope, and continue to diligently work for change, for this bill to be passed. This is for you, Tito Eddie! This is an additional inclusion to your long-lasting and all-encompassing legacy.
Notes from the Chair is part of the Arts Awake section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.