“Wait for us; we will be there,” assured George Agustin as he streamed a Facebook Live video of himself alongside his four colleagues—Troy Justin Agustin, Marby Bartolome, Narciso Calayag Jr., and Jerson Resurreccion—before they proceeded and eventually died in their rescue mission in San Miguel, Bulacan amid the onslaught of the Super Typhoon “Karding.”



The death of these five brave and dedicated yet “contractual” rescuers of the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) should serve as a wake-up call for the Government to finally tackle head-on the pandemic of the over 600,000 contractual and job order workers in Government and the around 177,000 unfilled but fully-budgeted plantilla positions. In an ambush interview, Senator Joel Villanueva revealed that the Bulacan provincial government informed him that these five modern heroes are government “casual employees.”



“That is what genuine public service is: going in harm’s way and putting your life on the line to save the people from the death and destruction brought about by the great storm. Yet, they are also just five of those hundreds of thousands of job orders (JOs), contract of service (COS), and Memorandum Order of Understanding (MOU) personnel who work hard and passionately sacrifice in the frontlines of public service in the absence of an employer-employee relationship despite their performance of vital and essential functions,” lamented Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza (TUCP Party-list).



According to the 2022 data from the Civil Service Commission (CSC), there are around 648, 215 contractuals, with a significant chunk of which in the local government level, and 177, 994 unfilled plantilla positions in government. “Their deaths have placed the spotlight squarely on the unjust and unfair treatment of contractuals under the largest employer of all—the Government. We should not let their deaths be in vain. Rather, the Government should now urgently end this practice of filling our bureaucracy with contractuals, JOs, COS, and MOU. The Government should be the model in promoting decent work and job security. Towards this end, this representation filed House Bill No. 1514 that provides for the civil service eligibility and permanent appointment of longtime government contractual workers at the frontline with at least three years of outstanding government service without the need of passing the civil service exam,” emphasized Deputy Speaker Mendoza.



“These dedicated government workers are the ones doing the ‘legwork’ and heavy lifting in most agencies. While they are the frontliners, they neither have an employer-employee relationship with Government nor security of tenure.  One of the roadblocks towards the realization of efforts to regularize these workers is the seeming disconnect of the government agencies tasked to ensure the welfare of public sector employees. On the one hand, CSC claims that there are not enough funds allocated for additional positions, while the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) counters that there are not enough plantilla positions presented to them for funding. So which is which?”, said Deputy Speaker Mendoza.



“Our concern is that these budgeted vacant plantilla positions should have been filled to be productive in providing quality public service to our people. For example, there are only around 710 labor inspectors while there are around 900,000 workplaces that need to be inspected. Roughly, this translates to a ratio of 1 labor inspector to more than 1,200 workplaces to be inspected. Obviously, it will be impossible for these inspectors to successfully determine the compliance of these workplaces with minimum wages, occupational safety and health standards, and with SSS, PAG-IBIG, and PhilHealth employer contributions. As a consequence, the result is corporate impunity,” explained TUCP Vice President Luis Corral.



“We cannot end ENDO if the government is the biggest ENDO employer of all. The death of these five ‘contractual’ rescuers underscores the fundamental fact that it is inhumane for the Government to treat those who work to save us without providing them any social safety net and without the recognition that they are an essential part of the government workforce. It is unjust that they are not even recognized as regular government employees by the very Government that requires them to perform the most daunting task of public service—saving lives,” emphasized TUCP Vice President Corral.



“The TUCP has long called on the Government, especially the CSC, to pursue the right and just course of action of regularizing all these government contractuals, JOs, COS, MOU, and casual workers who have been working for so many years and decades now and have been rated by their respective supervisors as rendering satisfactory service. The TUCP also calls on the CSC to conduct an annual human resource audit to look into the gaps in our bureaucracy and the need for more frontliners to serve the people. Let us correct the inverted pyramid structure embedded in many of our government agencies wherein there are too many in the top while too few at the ground which are in the frontlines in delivering public goods and services,” argued TUCP Vice President Corral.



“The Government shall pursue all these courses of action in cognizance that it is duty bound to observe social justice, and the sacrosanct Constitutional guarantee on the security of tenure, full protection, and full employment. Our public sector workers have waited for so long. They cannot wait any longer,” urged Deputy Speaker Mendoza.