Supporters and icons of the Philippine entertainment industry, led by Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, gathered on February 3, Monday, at the Congress Committee Hearing on House Bill (HB) 181 for the proposed occupational safety and health standards (OSHA) act for the film, television, and theater industry of the Philippines. HB 181, called the Eddie Garcia Act, is named after the film and television legend who passed away on June 20, 2019 after suffering a neck injury while taping for a television program and falling into coma.
Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas, veteran actors Bembol Roco and Rez Cortez of Katipunan ng mga Artistang Pilipino sa Pelikula at Telebisyon (KAPPT) or Actors Guild of the Philippines, Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI) Board Members Paolo Villaluna, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, and Sari Dalena, singer-songwriter-actor Ice Seguerra, and Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño were also in attendance at the Speaker de Venecia Hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City.
Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, also known as the Star for All Seasons
Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas speaks at the Congress Committee Hearing
Rez Cortez of Katipunan ng mga Artistang Pilipino sa Pelikula at Telebisyon (KAPPT) makes a statement
The presence of various industry stakeholders shows the importance of the Eddie Garcia Act because it is a must to look after the very people that keep the audiovisual industry going—workers, unsung heroes, creatives, professionals, luminaries, icons, and legends. The audiovisual industry members then spoke of their substandard working conditions, with Seguerra detailing the hardships of bit players or extras who wait under the sun, sit on cardboard boxes instead of chairs, and sometimes do not receive snacks.
The Congress Committee Hearing on the Eddie Garcia Act is considered a milestone as it marks the beginning of having concrete changes in the working conditions of Philippine audiovisual industry members. Among the proposed improvements are mandatory personnel and production insurance coverage, standard working hours, identification of workplace hazards, creation of standard operating procedures plus safety and medical checklist, required presence of safety officers and medical personnel, emergency operational standards and protocol, and payments for full hospitalization and loss of means of livelihood should a worker get into an accident on the set.
Directors' Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI) President Paolo Villaluna and Board Member Carlitos Siguion-Reyna
Bembol Rocco of KAPPT and Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño
Such development was not expected by industry members, including FDCP Chair Diño. “Quite surreal. Quite emotional. I never thought this day would come. But it is finally happening,” she remarked. “I said to myself before: if there is only one thing that I can do for the Philippine film industry as head of FDCP, it would be to push for a law that would set standards on the working conditions of our workers—from working hours to occupational safety and health guidelines on the set, to social benefits, tenure, and a minimum wage table for all sectors.”
More than speaking as the FDCP head, Diño uttered such sentiments as an artist. “As an actress myself, I’ve experienced firsthand these struggles plaguing the industry, which has been around for a hundred years.” Diño, before taking on the position as head of FDCP, was an acclaimed theater, television, and film actress who has done numerous commercial projects and independent works.
FDCP Chair Diño and Congresswoman Santos-Recto
FDCP Chair Diño and Seguerra shed tears during the emotional Congress Committee Hearing
Upon assuming the role of FDCP Chair in August 2016, Diño spearheaded various initiatives to promote growth and expansion in the film industry. “FDCP may have started a lot of programs that address the many needs of our sectors, but the lack of standards in the working conditions was still a glaring issue that we have been trying to address. This proved to be one of the hardest to accomplish,” she admitted.
Three years in the making
Unknown to many, FDCP has been engaging with stakeholders and policymakers to better the working conditions of Filipino audiovisual workers. It began doing the groundwork with the Film Workers Summit in 2017. It then conducted 10 consultative meetings with workers such as technical crew, creative and technical workers, actors, directors, and producers. FDCP also consulted with its counterpart agencies from Canada, United States, and South Korea.
FDCP's Film Workers Summit in 2017
Such consultations greatly helped FDCP propose policies and guidelines to Assistant Secretary Benjo Benavidez and Director Tess Cucueco of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), yielding a draft joint memorandum circular that is in its final stages. DOLE, in partnership with FDCP, will soon have a policy to set standards for the working conditions of audiovisual workers and safety guidelines during production.
This glimmer of hope was brightened in July 2019 by the breakthrough HB 181 filed by House Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero, Ph.D., the son of Garcia’s longtime partner, Lilibeth Romero. During a September 2019 Senate panel, Lilibeth said this powerful statement as quoted by ABS-CBN News: “Kung ang pagkamatay ni Eddie Garcia ang magsisilbing gabay para wala ng peligro o panganib na mangyari sa loob at labas ng produksyon, then ito rin po ang huling kagustuhan ni Eddie Garcia.”
The late, great Eddie Garcia with FDCP Chair Diño
Seguerra consoles Romero
FDCP reached out to Congressman Romero and consultations ensued. At the onset of 2020, FDCP and other industry stakeholders have started attending Congress Committee Hearings for over two weeks. Diño remarked, “Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala. Marami sa ating workers ang nawalan na ng pag-asa. We heard it during our consultations and we felt their frustrations. Some would say nag-aaksaya lang kami ng panahon, marami ng gumawa nito pero wala namang nag-succeed.”
She continued, “This fight for workers’ rights has been clamored for from the time of the great Lino Brocka up to now pero wala pa ring results. But we never lost hope. Despite the challenges, we know in our hearts that we can find ways to make this happen. Basta magkaisa.”
FDCP FilmPhilippines Executive Director David Fabros, Cortez, Roco, FDCP Chair Diño, and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Assistant Secretary Benjo Benavidez with the policy staff from FDCP and DOLE (November 2019)
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, Seguerra, FDCP Chair Diño, TUCP Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, and 1-PACMAN Rep. Eric Pineda (February 2020)
The cooperation of industry figures and legislators
While FDCP began the technical groundwork in 2017, industry movers have long been working and fighting for better working conditions. Diño praised the efforts of such relentless industry members, “To the Actors Guild of the Philippines, Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc., especially Mr. Rez Cortez, former Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) Director General Leo Martinez, and those who have been lobbying for this ever since, salamat at hindi kayo sumuko.” She also thanked all of the film workers who participated in FDCP’s various consultations.
News of the Congress Committee Hearing on the Eddie Garcia Act was cheered on by audiovisual industry members such as Leo Rialp, Elizabeth Oropesa, Dexter Doria, Madeleine Nicolas, Isabel Rivas, Robert Seña, Ogie Alcasid, Teresa Loyzaga, Alvin Anson, Joanna Ampil, Richard Quan, Louie Ignacio, Rahyan Carlos, Marlon Rivera, Jessie Lasaten, Patricia Javier, Andrea del Rosario, Cai Cortez, Missy Maramara, Kevin Piamonte, Derek Ileto, Tey Clamor, Abe Pagtama, Sam Prudente, Ed Murillo, Raul Montesa, Timi Idioma, Raymond Gorospe, Darlene Catly Malimas, Eileen Ong Ante Cabiling, Kenken Nuyad, and Michael Jan Meredores.
“Sana sa ikasandaang taon ng Pelikulang Pilipino, maipasa na ito. Actors, fellow film workers, at lahat ng mayroong pakialam sa industriya, this is the best time to make our presence felt,” remarked Seguerra. Roco, for his part, told ABS-CBN News, “Binibigyan niyo ng importansya ngayon 'yung aming kalagayan. Noon pa man, early '80s, sila Lino Brocka, sila Behn Cervantes have been trying to make this happen. Pero hindi nakakuha ng sapat na suporta.”
The efforts within the industry have been supported by other House Bills for the entertainment industry, which were also part of the Congress Committee Hearings on the Eddie Garcia Act. Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong filed HB 81 on prescribing a mandatory occupational safety, health, and emergency response program for all artists in the film, television, and theater industry of the Philippines while Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed HB 4875 on creating an OSHA for the film, television, and theater industry of the Philippines.
Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo and Manila 3rd District Rep. John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto filed HB 1019 and HB 5596, respectively, on regulating the work schedule and other terms of engagement governing cinema, radio, television, theater, and other media personnel who are covered by a service or talent contract and providing penalties for violations thereof.
ACT-CIS Rep. Rowena Niña Taduran filed HB 2476 on providing enhanced protection, security, and benefits for media workers. Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, Jr. filed HB 1766 on providing for proper working conditions in the movie and television industry. Villafuerte also filed House Resolution 195 for the inquiry into the occupational health and safety of entertainment industry workers in light of Garcia’s death.
“To our lawmakers, other authors, and supporters of this bill, maraming, maraming salamat sa malasakit at pagbibigay halaga sa aming kapakanan. Malaking regalo po ito sa selebrasyon ng ikasandaang taon ng Pelikulang Pilipino,” said the FDCP Chair. She also thanked the members of the House Committee on Labor and Employment such as TUCP Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, and 1-PACMAN Rep. Eric Pineda, who serves as the Labor Committee Chairperson. She also expressed gratitude to Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher "Toff" de Venecia, who will co-chair the subcommittee hearings.
Diño then assured that FDCP will continue to work hand-in-hand with lawmakers and industry members in championing the welfare and rights of all Filipino audiovisual workers even if “it had to take the tragic death of an icon for us to take action.” She then made a plea for unity and cooperation, “To the film industry, kailangan namin ng inyong suporta. In this industry na normal ang kaniya-kaniya, sana magsama-sama tayo. This is for all of us. For our future. For the next hundred years of Philippine Cinema."
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