The latest version of the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers deleted the contentious provision on the execution bond.

“This provision makes no sense. The reason a seafarer is asking for those benefits is because he has nothing to spend anymore. Already deep in medical expenses and about to drown in bond? I don’t think that’s right,” Senate Deputy Minority Leader Hontiveros said after the bicameral committee’s review of the pending bill.

The Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers was not signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last February 26, 2024 and was later withdrawn by the House of Representatives for review.

The Magna Carta seeks to implement the standards set by the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (MLC 2006), also known as the Seafarers’ Bill of Rights and the fourth pillar of international maritime law.

The MLC2006 established minimum working and living standards for all seafarers working on ships flying the flags of ratifying countries. The Philippines was the 30th state that deposited its instrument of ratification on Aug. 20, 2012.

The Magna Carta aimed to ensure protection and welfare of Filipino seafarers by recognizing their rights and instituting mechanisms for enforcement.

The House of Representatives approved on March 6, 2023 its version (House Bill 7325) with 304 affirmative votes against 4 negative votes.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 2221 on second and third reading on September 27, 2023 with 14 affirmative votes, no negative vote, and no abstention.

The bicameral conference committee met to reconcile the provisions of the two versions and to come up with the common bill.

The delay in the signing and the withdrawal is attributed to some contentious issues, including the provisions on disability claims.

The debate on disability claims centered on the proposed provision that aimed to amend the Labor Code will have adverse significant impact on the “immediately final and executory” nature of decisions issued by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).

The House version contains the controversial escrow/ execution bond provision while these were omitted in the Senate version.

The bi-cameral committee omitted the escrow but contained an equally anti-labor and unconstitutional provision on execution bond.

The seafarer may move for the execution of the monetary award pending appeal upon posting of a sufficient bond for the disputed portion of the award. And if the seafarer ultimately prevails in the case, he will be reimbursed with the cost of putting up the bond.

Sweepingly linked with ambulance chasing, proponents stressed that such move is necessary to ensure the restitution of monetary awards in case the appropriate appellate court annuls or partially or totally reverses the monetary judgment award.

Under the Labor Code, the posting of bond is imposed only on the side of employer. Labor is required to pay only a minimal appeal fee.

The proponents of the execution bond erroneously presumed that the seafarer is in the same economic footing as the employer.

A seafarer seeks payment of monetary benefits because of the fact that he is in financial distress due to his medical condition.

Many are jobless, sick, disabled and infirm who incur huge debts to sustain their medication while others die before the decision by the Supreme Court is released.

Instead of saving his earnings for his medication, he will be forced to redirect them to the execution bond, jeopardizing further his economic well-being.

The requirement for an execution bond violates the constitutional guarantee on equal protection, which means that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed.

It will partake of the nature of class legislation because it singles out seafarer claims from other labor claims, both local and overseas. It is discriminatory against seafarers, as there lies no substantial distinction between the claims of a seafarer and any other laborer.

Seafarers will be “penalized” that will downplay their rights guaranteed by the constitution instead of protecting their rights and promoting their welfare.

“This law is for every seafarer regarded as modern heroes because of their contributions to our country and, of course, to their families. Even though what we went through was difficult, in the end, our struggle resulted in victory for our seafarers,” Hontiveros said.

The Senate ratified the bill through a bicameral conference committee report, which Hontiveros signed along with Senators Raffy Tulfo, Joel Villanueva, Imee Marcos, Francis Escudero, and Aquilino Pimentel III for the Upper Chamber.

Conferees on the part of the House of Representatives include Reps. Jude Acidre, Sandro Gonzalez, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Khymer Adan Olaso, and Marissa ‘Del Mar’ Magsino.

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, please email info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)