SSS ready to aid workers in case of virus-induced firm layoffs, closures

Robie de Guzman   •   March 12, 2020   •   2054

MANILA, Philippines – The Social Security System (SSS) is ready to pay benefits to workers who may lose their jobs due to possible layoffs in, or closures of, private companies triggered by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Thursday.

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the SSS is prepared to pay up to P1.2 billion in unemployment benefits to some 30,000 to 60,000 employees projected to lose their jobs in private companies hit by the economic fallout from the fast-spreading coronavirus disease.

Dominguez said he expects affected workers from tourism, airline and hotel industries, as well as in manufacturing sector to apply for the benefit.

“The estimate of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is that there will be a drop in employment of 30,000 to 60,000 jobs. This is going to affect mainly the tourism industry, the hotels and airlines. The job displacement will probably last six months,” he said during his meeting Wednesday (March 11) with SSS officials.

SSS premium-paying members can avail of unemployment benefits equivalent to a half of their average monthly salary credit (AMSC) for a maximum of two months “if they are displaced because of redundancy, installation of labor-saving devices, retrenchment, closure or cessation of operation, and disease or illness.”

To qualify for the benefit, applicants should have paid the requisite minimum number of monthly contributions for three years, 12 of which should have been made in the last 18 months.

The average unemployment benefit that qualified members may receive is about P11,000, according to SSS senior vice president and chief actuary Edgar Cruz.

The unemployment benefit is one of the landmark provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018.

COMELEC has the power to postpone elections under certain circumstances —election law expert

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Under specific circumstances, the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) has the authority or power to delay or postpone the conduct of an election.

This was clarified by election law expert Atty. George Erwin Garcia amid issues on a possible postponement of the 2022 national elections should the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic persist.

“COMELEC even has the power to postpone the elections or declare failure based on the Omnibus Election Code,” he added citing provisions of the law.

Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code  states: When for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision, the Commission, motu proprio or upon a verified petition by any interested party, and after due notice and hearing, whereby all interested parties are afforded equal opportunity to be heard, shall postpone the election therein to a date which should be reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause for such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.

News of a possible postponement of the 2022 election came after Pampanga Representative Mikey Arroyo asked the poll body if it would consider such a move given that the country is currently facing a health crisis.

“No matter how prepared we are, it will cause a serious dent on our health situation. Would you consider it?,” he asked representatives from COMELEC during Congress’ hearing on the agency’s proposed budget on Thursday (September 24).

“Has the thought that you’ll propose to postpone elections, has that ever triggered in your minds?” the lawmaker further asked.

In response, COMELEC Commissioner Sheriff Abas said the postponement of election is beyond the agency’s responsibility.

“I think  wala sa call namin sa COMELEC iyan (I think that matter is not COMELEC’s call). It’s the call of both the chambers of the House and the president,” Abas said. 

Commenting on the issue, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin claimed that to cancel the election is an act of treason while former COMELEC commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal Sr.  said there is no reason to postpone the elections because other countries have been able to conduct it despite the challenges in the middle of the pandemic.

To clarify the matter, Atty. Garcia explained that the elections can be carried out before or after the second week of May as mandated by the Constitution as long as there is a law passed by the Congress.

“Pwede iyang ilipat sa ibang araw man lang o ibang linggo, pwede ngang ibang buwan ilipat (It can be postponed to a later date or week or even month). Bakit (Why)? Kasi ang nakalagay (because it says) ‘as may be provided by law,'” Garcia said.

“But it needs a constitutional amendment if the elections will be done beyond the elected officials’ term,” he added.

Garcia explained that by conducting an election outside or beyond the deadline or the term of office is therefore extending the term of office of the incumbent.

Such a case is prohibited or is not allowed by law, he said, because of what the law calls as hold-over capacity and fixed term of elected officials.

For now, Garcia said, what is important is for the Comelec to prepare for the elections and this includes voter registration. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Bureau of Customs steps up drive vs rice smuggling

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is ramping up its campaign against rice smuggling even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by conducting raids on warehouses suspected of storing illegally imported grains following reports from concerned citizens, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOF said that Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has assured Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that rice stocks imported by private traders during the pandemic would still be subject to “post-modification and post audit.”

This system will ensure that undervalued shipments are properly assessed and subsequently paid with the correct amount of duties and taxes.

Guerrero also said he had informed the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) that because rice is considered a “critical” commodity, traders were allowed to avail of the Provisional Goods Declaration in processing their shipments at this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FFF earlier questioned the BOC’s assessment and valuation system on the entry of rice imports.

“The BOC has found the valuation of several rice shipments with provisional goods declaration to be quite low compared to the prevailing market prices,” Guerrero said in his report to Dominguez.

“But those are subject to post-modification and post-audit. And in the meantime, we are still conducting the post-modification, verifying the payments of rice because some of them are clearly undervalued. So we will catch up in the post modification and post-audit,” he added.

Under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 07-2020, if the Customs district/sub-port collector accepts a provisional goods declaration, the duty and tax treatment of the goods under provisional declaration will not be different from that of goods with complete declaration.

For the release of shipments under tentative assessment, the importer will be required to post the required security, whether in the form of surety bond or cash bond.

Guerrero said the customs bureau has also responded to reports by concerned citizens regarding warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing letters of authority to enable BOC officers to inspect such warehouses and seize goods without the requisite importation permits.

“We actually raided them and we found out that many of these warehouses were operating legally and their stocks are covered by proper documents,” Guerrero said.

POEA assures support for seafarers affected by pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has assured continued assistance to seafarers affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In Resolution No. 13, series of 2020, the POEA emphasized the provision of assistance and benefits to seafarers stranded ashore or are facing problems in their deployment or repatriation due to pandemic-related reasons.

Under the resolution, a seafarer who already signed an employment contract but cannot be deployed from the point of hire due to the pandemic shall be provided with accommodation and food to be shouldered by their principal or employer, unless provided by the government.

The assistance will be provided until the seafarer is deployed or returned home or until contract cancellation.

A seafarer who was deployed but becomes stranded during his transit shall be paid basic pay, accommodation, food, and medical benefits at the principal or employer’s cost until the seafarer reaches the vessel.

The resolution also directs principals or employers to provide the same assistance and benefits to seafarers who already signed a contract and deployed but unable to join the ship and is repatriated back home, as well as other seafarers who cannot be repatriated due to the pandemic.

Seafarers who completed his period of contractual service onboard, and who is ashore but cannot be repatriated shall also be provided with basic pay, accommodation, food, and medical benefits.

The principal/employers of the seafarer shall also provide all the cost on the accommodation and food of the seafarer during his quarantine period, unless otherwise provided by the government.

“Meanwhile, the principal/employers will be allowed to recover any associated cost on the said provision of assistance and benefits in accordance with the employment contract or the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” the POEA said.

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.