Bill seeking to protect interns against exploitation pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   552

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a bill seeking to protect interns against exploitation from companies and promote their professional growth.

The Senate Bill No. 994 or the Interns’ Rights and Welfare bill lists down the responsibilities of host training establishments (HTE) to their interns, with the end view of establishing a proper and relevant experience for them.

“Internship is for students and young people to learn more about the workplace and to deepen their craft. Internship is not an excuse for employers to take advantage of cheap or free labor,” she said in a statement.

“Dahil walang employer-employee relationship, maraming nagiging kaso ng exploitation at kawalan ng professional growth,” she added.

The proposed measure requires any employer who chooses to host interns to come up with a contract and program that details the professional training of interns. It also seeks to strengthen schools vetting process for HTEs.

“Schools have a responsibility to accredit reputable HTEs for their students and to ensure that students do not undergo internship in companies with dubious internship programs,” the senator said. “Hindi pwedeng ipag-intern mo yung mga estudyante sa mga kumpanyang may questionable labor practices na pwedeng maglagay sa kanila sa alanganin.”

The measure also seeks to put a cap on internship hours.

Internship should not exceed 300 hours, nor last for more than 6 months in the government sector while in industry-based internships that are more technical in nature, internship hours are capped at 660 hours per semester, which is equivalent to 15 units per term.

The bill also protects all interns from any form of workplace abuse and harassment.

Senate Bill No. 994 contains the following key provisions:

  • providing basic benefits and remuneration (75% of the prevailing minimum wage in the region for private companies and 75% of Step 1 Salary Grade 1 for interns in the public sector);
  • appropriating funds for government agencies to host interns in order to promote public and civil service among young people; and
  • a grievance mechanism to address any violation of basic interns’ rights.

“Preparing our young people for the workforce includes a viable internship program that centers on their professional growth,” Hontiveros said.

“Our country’s policy on interns reflects how we value humane and decent work. It is time to put a stop to internship horror stories. It is time to stop the abuse and exploitation of interns as part of our education and labor policies,” she concluded.

NBI urged to take down online pages promoting sexual exploitation of children

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to put a stop to social media pages that sexually exploit children following reports of continuing exploitation of children even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an open letter addressed to the NBI, Hontiveros said her office received reports that there are still pages on Facebook and other online sites that are actively posting indecent photos of female children.

“Nakarating sa opisina ko na mayroong mga Facebook pages kung saan naka-post ang napakaraming mahahalay na larawan ng mga babaeng bata. Matagal na ang mga Facebook page na ito ngunit active pa rin daw ang mga posts at groups,” she said.

“Ngayong COVID-19 pandemic, may mga reports na nagsasabing pwedeng mas dadami ang kaso ng online sexual exploitation of children. We need to be more vigilant and make sure that our children are safe and secure, online and offline,” she stressed.

Hontiveros appealed to the bureau to probe and takedown these pages, as well as find and prosecute the people behind these social media accounts.

“Nananawagan ako sa Bureau na imbestigahan at agarang i-take down ang mga Facebook pages na ito. Kailangan malaman din ng NBI kung sino-sino ang mga taong nagpapatakbo nito. Kailangang panagutin at ipakulong ang mga kriminal na nasa likod ng mga Facebook pages at online content na ito,” she stressed.

According to the senator, Facebook also needs to be made accountable for allowing these pages.

“The tech giant, with all its resources, should have technologies and mechanisms in place that prevent these kinds of pages from existing. Sobrang nakakabahala na hanggang ngayon, may mga ganito paring nangyayari sa platform na ito,” she said.

She also called on the public to remain vigilant in ending online sexual exploitation of children by reporting these pages to authorities.

“Kailangan nating protektahan ang online space bilang mga safe spaces. We need to make sure that our children are safe online, lalo na ngayong mas marami ang oras na ginugugol nila sa social media,” she said.

Chinese Embassy slams Hontiveros over reparation claims for damages in West Philippine Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   April 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Embassy did not take kindly Senator Risa Hontiveros’ claims that China owes the Philippines at least P200-B in reparations for the ecological damage it has caused the West Philippines Sea reef system during the past six years of its reclamation activities.

Hontiveros, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, said such amount could be used to help affected families and improve the country’s healthcare system amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Her claims, she said, was based on a study conducted by the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute.

In response, the Chinese Embassy called such remarks by Hontiveros as ‘ridiculously absurd and irresponsible’ and was made “for the sole purpose of catching eyeballs and for selfish political gains.”

The Embassy added that “China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors across the sea” and so the latter commits “to continue to provide our support and assistance” to the Philippines.

Hontiveros, on the other hand, said: “It is more absurd and irresponsible to see that, indeed, in the middle of a global pandemic, China has continued to aggressively violate Philippine sovereignty in the region.”

Hontiveros added that China cannot claim to be a friendly ‘neighbor across the sea’ when it has continued its land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“Friends help each other out, not occupy their islands and destroy their reefs,” the lady senator argued.

READ: DFA files two diplomatic protests against China

On Wednesday (April 22), the Philippines filed two diplomatic protest against China – one for its creation of new districts in the disputed territory in the WPS and for its alleged pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr. MNP (with inputs from Harlene Delgado)

PNP, PCW urged to protect women, children from domestic abuse amid COVID-19 quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) to be vigilant and keep their lines open for women and children who may become victims of domestic abuse amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) being enforced against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, Hontiveros expressed fears over possible surge in domestic abuse cases in the country due to proximity and added stress because of economic hardship brought about by the public health crisis.

“The quarantine is difficult for all of us. But it is a living nightmare for women who are trapped with their abusers behind closed doors,” she said.

“Because of the proximity in the home and added stress due to economic hardship brought by the enhanced community quarantine, Filipino women and children who are living with their abusers become more vulnerable to violence,” she added.

Hontiveros, who also serves as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Gender Equality, and Family Relations, cited global reports on the rising incidence of domestic abuse in cities and countries that have implemented ECQ and other similar measures against COVID-19.

“There is a pattern. For places that have implemented a lockdown, from China to France, there is an increase of domestic violence in cases reported to the authorities,” the senator said.

The quarantine in Luzon has been extended to April 30, and while it is necessary to fight the crisis, Hontiveros said authorities must work doubly-hard and strengthen anti-domestic violence measures to ensure the protection of women and children.

“The lockdown should not allow us to become lax in securing the safety of women and children. The challenge now is to make sure that channels are open and are readily-available to victims of domestic violence,” she said.

“We need the local government units, the PNP, and PCW to remain vigilant. At-risk women and children should know that they can ask for help even during quarantine,” she added.

Aside from setting up helplines in barangays, she also suggested that LGUs consider preparing safe houses for vulnerable women and children.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Hontiveros said that one in four women aged 15 to 49 has experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from a husband or partner.

“Those who are living with domestic abusers are suffering from multiple forms of trauma during this pandemic,” she said.

“During this very difficult time of COVID-19, let us work harder in keeping our women and children safe,” she added.

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