‘Eddie Garcia Bill’: Striking a ‘reasonable compromise’ among industry stakeholders

(INQUIRER) No to “karoshi,” or death by overwork as the Japanese call it.

This, in essence, is what Senate Bill No. 2505, or the proposed “Eddie Garcia Law” seeks to address, as well as other “abusive” work conditions in the entertainment industry.

“This [bill] is a welcome development for the sector,” said actor Dingdong Dantes, who is the chair of the League of Filipino Actors (Aktor), in a statement sent to this writer on Dec. 6. “After going through hearings in both the House and the Senate and considering the perspectives of stakeholders, we believe it’s a reasonable compromise for achieving a decent work output.”

Noting the proposed law’s importance to the lives of an estimated 20,000 industry workers, the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI) called for its immediate passage.

“We, DGPI members, welcome and pray that the Eddie Garcia Bill becomes a law soon. This cannot be delayed as it affects an entire industry,” DGPI president Mark Meily said in a separate statement given this writer on the same day.

“The passage of the Eddie Garcia Bill is long overdue,” Anne Monzon, president of the Lupon ng Pilipinong Sinematograpo (LPS), told this writer on Dec. 7. “The fact that current labor laws do not meet the specific needs of workers in these industries leaves much to be desired.”

It’s been four years since the death of screen legend Eddie Garcia following an accident while filming a teleserye. This prompted the filing of several measures in both Senate and the House (including one authored by his congressman-stepson 1-Pacman party list Rep. Mikee Romero) to protect workers in the entertainment industry.

The bill endorsed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada for plenary consideration this week is a consolidation of similar measures filed by him and other actor-lawmakers Lito Lapid, Robin Padilla and Bong Revilla.

Estrada, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor, said in his sponsorship speech that Sen. Grace Poe, daughter of the late “King of Philippine Movies” Fernando Poe Jr., would also like to be a cosponsor of the bill. With five sure votes from them, the proposed “Eddie Garcia Law” is expected to breeze through the Senate.

Contentious issue

The House version of the bill (House Bill No. 1270), which was passed on third reading last February, mandates a normal eight-hour workday that can extend to 12 hours, while SB 2505, still up for deliberations, allows a longer 8-14 hours of work per day, “or a total of 60 hours in a week.”

“While we favor the side of workers, DGPI has to consider the plight of the producers, so we do not agree to the content of the proposed [House] bill in terms of working hours of up to 12 hours only,” Meily said.

Although initially, the different stakeholders had opposing views on the issue, their latest stand tends to be open to the 8-14-hour workday “exclusive of meal periods” provided by the Senate version. However, some still appear to have reservations regarding this because they prefer that the said work hours be “inclusive” of meal time.

Health, vitality prioritized

“Our goal has always been to strike a harmonious balance between creative output and performers’ well-being,” Dantes said. “By capping working hours, we aim to consistently operate at our best, enriching the artistic and cultural landscape, while prioritizing health and vitality.”

Monzon added: “Coming from the pandemic, film, TV and advertising workers were able to prove that healthy and sustainable working hours are completely doable. LPS—with our 62 cinematographer-members and our teams of gaffers, assistant cameramen and women, key grips, camera operators and technical crew—stands with the IGA in advocating for a hard stop at 16 hours for a shoot day to ensure the health, well-being and safety of our workers.”

IGA, or Inter-Guild Alliance, is the umbrella organization of the guilds (actors, directors, editors, production designers, writers, stuntmen, producers and assistant directors).

Aside from regulating extended work hours, the proposed “Eddie Garcia Law” has provisions that ensure movie and TV workers of decent income, and protection from abuse, harassment, hazardous working conditions and economic exploitation.

“It is high time that we regulate this longstanding practice (prolonged work hours) and we need to institute measures to impose standards and bring about change,” Estrada said. “We cannot allow ‘karoshi’ … to continue in our film and TV industry.”

He continued: “We really owe the success of every film or TV production to these workers. This is our tribute not just to ‘Manoy,’ but also to the hardworking staff. Let us immortalize the legacy of ‘Manoy’ Eddie Garcia through this bill.”

Crucial role

“It is important to realize that film and television production has been a contributor to the country’s economy and one of the first in Asia, and yet, a bill like this came about only recently,” Meily said.

“It is lamenting that oftentimes, the excuse of ‘walang budget and gastos lang yan, kailangan magtipid’ has had more weight in lieu of safety standards and the welfare of media workers. We, at DGPI, recognize that a media worker that thrives in a happy and safe working environment contributes to the success of any project.”

Monzon further pointed out that the film, TV and advertising industries not only “provide significant income for Filipinos, but are important means of preserving and developing national culture.”

“Our roles as partners in production are crucial to the entertainment industry’s success,” Dantes added. “We understand the importance of delivering captivating performances that breathe life into the stories that we tell.”

Grateful and honored for the opportunity to be heard in the bill development process, he pledged Aktor’s commitment and assistance to ensure that HB 1270 and SB 2505 become the “Eddie Garcia Law.”