BORACAY ISLAND–As the issue on the imposition of fines over the so-called expired health cards of workers on the island heats up, a former councilor took the cudgels for the labor sector and openly asked for its suspension pending the deliberation at the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay.
Jonathan Cabrera, a councilor from 2010 to 2013, made the appeal in a letter addressed to Malay Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista dated February 25.
“In the last several days there has been tremendous complaints regarding the imposition of a P2,500 fine for workers with expired health card especially those employees who had visited the Municipal Health Office purposely to apply for the renewal of their health certificates as provided for by law,” he said adding, “however, instead of having their health cards renewed, they are charged the said fee which is not in any way the essence of Municipal Ordinance No. 312 series of 2012 otherwise known as “An Ordinance Enacting the Sanitation Code of the Municipality of Malay”.
Cabrera said that when the Ordinance was passed in 2012, the fine which is specified in the penal provision of the Sanitation Code is directed to operators of businesses and not to employees if ever violations had been committed.
He also clarified though that “when we talk of violations on this particular Code, we are referring to those who will be found to have “no health cards” by the Sanitation Inspector while in the conduct of Sanitary Inspection.”
“Definitely, those applying for renewal of their health cards are not covered in the penal provision of this Code. That is not the essence of this Ordinance,” he hinted.
“On behalf, therefore, of the thousands employees working in various resorts and establishments in Boracay Island, I would like to appeal to your office for the temporary suspension in the imposition of this penalty while the current members of the Sanguniang Bayan is revisiting the Sanitation Code due to the prevailing circumstances,” the letter stated.
“I am sure you will see the logic in this request and will implement the much needed suspension until the greater problem of sanitation and health cards renewal can be fairly and properly resolved,” he adds.
In his letter to the mayor, Cabrera, who also worked on various odd jobs on the island in the past years in between his journalistic endeavors, said he knows “how important and valuable this amount to the labor sector who are struggling to make both ends meet every single day amid the high cost of living on the island. So I sincerely hope that you will act sensibly and fairly at this important moment to the best interests of your constituents while this particular legislation is currently under debate.”
“Please, Mayor, let us not add burden to the already burdened labor sector in the Municipality of Malay. Giving them this break is not only legal but morally right or just in these trying times,” he said.
For his part, former councilor Rowen Aguirre, during a recent radio interview, also assailed the imposition of the P2,500 penalty being imposed by the local government unit as he echoed the same concern that “it is not the essence in the passage of the Sanitation Code.”
Aguirre, who chairs the Committee on Laws, was the acting presiding officer at the time when the Ordinance was approved in 2012,
“The penalty is to encourage the employers to comply with all the requirements needed before operating a business and one of these is for their employees to secure health permits to ensure that business frontliners are healthy and had passed the proper hygiene which their jobs demand,” he said, “but this was not promulgated to put additional burden to our workers because the intent of the Ordinance is to penalize the operators not the workers.”
“In this case, however, the imposition of the penalty has become an additional burden to our employees and, to a point, has become oppressive,” he said.
‘NO LONGER BUSINESS FRIENDLY’
Aguirre, in the same interview, assailed the tumultuous process of doing business now prevailing in the municipality. “It appears that Malay is no longer compliant in the Ease of Doing Business. We are not anymore business friendly. The process is so messy. There have been lots of requirements which are not anymore necessary,” he said.
“The requirements should be based in law and not because they have just thought about it,” Aguirre said while apparently referring to the notoriety of the current administration in imposing additional requirements on top of the legal requirements in the application of new permits including permit renewals.
REVISITING THE ORDINANCE
During the recent session of the Municipal Council, Councilor Dante Pagsuguiron has called on his fellow councilors to revisit the Ordinance saying that “what is happening now is, I think, not in compliance with the intent of the Sanitation Code.”
Pagsuguiron is also among the councilors who pushed for the passage of the Sanitation Code under the term of former Mayor John Yap.
Aguirre, meanwhile, said that “If there’s a conflict or controversy in the implementation of the law, the best thing to do is to look back at the intent of its framers. There is really a need for them to revisit it.”
NO SUSPENSION OF IMPLEMENTATION
But in an interview with Todo Komentaryo anchored by Jujet Reyes over Radyo Todo 88.5FM this morning, Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista insisted that there is no need to suspend the implementation of the P2,500 fine against the employees concerned because he claimed that it was what the Ordinance dictates.
“We cannot do anything about it because it was approved by the former members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay and I am just implementing it so they should pay,” he said.
When asked if there is a possibility for him to issue an Executive Order to temporarily suspend the same pending the review of the current Sangguniang Bayan, he said it’s not possible.