Press Release
September 8, 2020

Sponsorship Speech An Act Providing Protection to Freelancers and for other purposes

Mr. President and distinguished colleagues:

In line with our efforts to support our workers' transition to a new normal, I take honor of respectfully presenting to you Senate Bill No. 1810 or the "Freelance Protection Act" under Committee Report No. 109.

We have our co-authors, Sen. Sonny Angara and Sen. Bong Revilla.

Let me start with a question: What comes to your mind when you hear "freelancing"?

In an informal survey that we conducted, one of our respondents said that, freelancing is "discharging the force of your skills into work you love".

Hindi po nalalayo ang interpretasyong ito sa malimit na impresyon ng marami tungkol sa mga freelancer - mga taong sumusunod sa kanilang "passion" sa buhay kahit na maliit lang o halos walang kinikita; ang mahalaga ay enjoy sila sa kanilang trabaho.

While we were searching for "Tatak TESDA" success stories back in 2014, I heard the story of a freelance computer programmer from Cavite who earned P7.5-million in 2013 or an average of P20,547 per day by creating mobile apps and software programs. He got online clients through Elance-oDesk which is now re-launched as "Upwork", the largest freelance talent marketplace in the world.

This success story made us think how the traditional employee-employer relationship is getting outdated as the contemporary digital technology and society advances.

We have also learned more about freelance jobs, specifically, the kind of services that "freelance creatives" or workers in film and advertising perform, amid ABS-CBN's failure to get a new franchise[2].

Yet freelancing is no longer confined to the creatives, and not merely to jobs requiring physical presence. Indeed, during this COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged imposition of various quarantine measures, we have realized the variety of jobs that can be performed at home using the internet, like tutoring, encoding, blogging, graphic designing, web development, internet research, online fitness coaching, telemedicine, just to name a few[3].

Admittedly, Mr. President, these changes are enormous opportunities for businesses and individuals, and a welcome complication for us, policymakers. The situation urges us to clearly define, regulate, and harness "freelancing", which is a dynamic concept, partly because the kind of work that freelancers perform, and the services they provide continuously evolve.

The proposed Senate Bill No. 1810 seeks to cover "all freelancers, regardless of profession, talent, skills, task, work, or service required or rendered (Section 3)."

As the COVID-19 phenomenon continues to affect jolting and revolutionary changes, we need to supplement the "Telecommuting Law" or "Work from Home Law" with this measure of foresight to freelancing and give protection to freelance workers.

Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, Section 4 of our proposed measure defines a freelancer as "any natural person who offers or renders a task, work or service through his or her freely chosen means or methods, free from any forms of economic dependence, control or supervision by the client, regardless of whether he or she is paid by results, piece, task, hour, day, job or by the nature of the services required (Section 4c)".

For the longest time, a "freelancer" is not defined in any of our laws. In fact, in the Philippine Statistics Authority's Labor Force Survey[4], the term "freelancer" was not specified among the categories of employed individuals. However, the report categorized them variedly as: wage and salary workers, self-employed with no paid employees, employers in own family-operated farm or business, and unpaid family workers.

Even DOLE Secretary Bello admitted that there is no current labor protection accorded to freelancers and self-employed professionals. Freelancers are not at all covered by any of our labor standards[5].

Yet, as a matter of ironic fact, career experts claim that freelancing is the "next big thing" in the Philippines, crucial to our economic development!

Seven years ago, the "Big 5 auditing firm Ernst & Young" issued a forecast that by this year, 2020, almost 1 in 5 workers across the globe will be a freelancer or a contract worker[6].

This forecast back in 2012 may have been too conservative vis-a-vis contemporary facts, taking into account the rise of telecommuting, even notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the entire world.

In 2018, the Global Freelancer Insights Report by PayPal estimated that there are around 1.5 million Filipino freelance workers, equivalent to around 2% of our population[7]. Majority or 75% of Pinoy freelancers are anywhere between the age of 24 to 39.

Paypal also said that this young and digitally adept Philippine freelance market is expected to grow further, with more Filipinos "expecting more work opportunities to come their way[8]", especially, "freelance work from overseas"[9].

Ibig pong sabihin, mas maraming Pilipino ang pwedeng makakuha ng trabaho abroad kahit nandito lang sila sa Pilipinas sa pamamagitan ng "crowdwork". Nababayaran po ang mga freelancer gamit ang Paypal, wire transfer, Facebook credit, at iba pa.

According to the PayPal Global Freelancer Study and cited by the Manila Bulletin, "nine of 10 freelancers in the Philippines are under 40 years old — giving the segment a strong millennial slant[10]".

Indeed, more and more young people are attracted to this work arrangement. The reasons for this is obvious: the younger generations are not only tech-savvy which make them suited for "crowdwork", but they also want flexibility and autonomy. In short, they are schewing the traditional 9AM to 5PM jobs and choosing to be their own "boss".

However, Mr. President, while freelancing is undoubtedly a "millennial thing" or a "Gen Z" phenomenon, we believe that the changing landscape of employment and the global labor market now will also open opportunities for older, more mature workers to participate in the freelancing market. This bill aspires to give assurance to all freelance workers that they also have labor rights under the law.

Unfortunately, the freelance sector is very much prone to abuse. Kaya nga sa New York, USA, nagpasa po sila ng batas noong 2017 na tinawag nilang "Freelance Isn't Free Act" dahil sa dami po ng hindi nababayarang freelancer o independent contractor doon.

Most freelancers are typically underpaid as they are not aware of how much they should charge for a project[11], especially on "work on-demand" which are place-based and geographically limited work like those jobs performed by photographers and make-up artists.

In an online article of South China Morning Post, photojournalist Jilson Tiu shared that some of his previous clients refused to pay him. A Philippine daily newspaper hired him for an advertising shoot, offering 15,000 pesos for the job. Jilson said that "after more than a year, and despite repeated attempts to secure payment, the publication has failed to cough up". [12]

Another freelancer, make-up artist Jill Felix, narrated that it took him more than eight months to get the P5,000 payment for an agency job. It's only because of his insistence to call the agency every week that they paid him. In another instance, Felix was cheated. His client replaced him a few days before the wedding and ended up not getting paid for the pre-nuptial shoot.[13]

Both Jilson and Felix think that the absence of a formal written contract from their clients put them into a situation where they have very little recourse through the law.

For this purpose, SBN 1810 requires the hiring party and the freelance worker to enter into a written contract or "a document, whether electronic file or printed copy, reflecting the mutual consent of the parties to be bound by the terms and conditions of their freelance work engagement and the consideration for the services rendered by the freelancer" (Section 4g).

Kapag naisabatas po ang ating panukala, hindi na aabutin ng siyam-siyam bago mabayaran ang mga freelancer gaya nina Jilson at Jill dahil nakasaad din sa SBN 1810 na dapat bayaran nang buo ng kliyente ang isang freelancer sa loob ng 30 araw pagkatapos makumpleto ang trabaho at serbisyo (Section 14), kung wala silang napagkasunduang takdang araw ng pagbabayad.

Mr. President, this bill also mandates DOLE to "conduct seminars on the legal recourses available to freelancers, and as far as practicable, encourage the parties to a freelancing agreement to avail of alternative dispute mechanisms (Section 13)."

Batay po sa aming mga panayam sa mga freelancers, marami po sa kanila ang hindi alam kung saan sila pupunta kung sakaling hindi sila nabayaran, o kulang ang ibinayad sa kanila. In fact, Mr. President, we heard of stories where the freelancers opted to "credit it to experience" in the end because of their lack of knowledge on the legal remedies available to them.

Mr. President, the bill also ensures the rights of a freelancer, including, but not limited to: Standards for freelance work (Section 7); Right to access their own data and information (Section 8); Right to affordable and adequate financial services (Section 9); Right to education and skills training (Section 10); Right to social protection and social welfare benefits (Section 11); Right to simplified tax registration, filing and payment system (Section 12); and right to redress of grievances, including alternative dispute resolution

processes (Section 13)

Bago pa man po ang COVID-19, halos 2-milyong Pilipino na ang nag-fre-freelance. Dahil sa pandemya, higit na marami pang nagkaroon ng interes sa freelance work. Napapanahon na po para kilalanin natin ang karapatan ng mga Pinoy freelancer.

Thus, Mr. President, I urge this august body to immediately approve the passage of this bill.

Thank you and God bless us all.

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