I was rejected by GMA News three times after graduation. Any other person would have just moved on, but this was my dream. I didn’t see any other option for me but to tell stories with an organization I trusted.
I have always believed that Journalism plays a very crucial role in society. And I believed that GMA had the machinery, and the principles, so Journalists can play that role well.
I bled for the job I have. I should be the last person to risk it over something that’s known to history as a long and draining battle, if not a losing one.
People said I should just wait. They said I will be regularized one day. Some said if I sued the company, my future in Journalism in the entire country would be in peril. No News Organization in their right mind would hire a liability, or someone they knew had the guts to sue.
There is a good chance my career is over. I thought about that long and hard but I had to decide.
To choose between a career and a vocation.
Our fight is simple: we are regular employees, it says so in the Labor Code. The law provides for statutory benefits and security of tenure.
We knew this from the start. Colleagues who have been in GMA for decades knew this from the start.
But to be able to fulfill our dreams of becoming journalists, we had to settle for what GMA was only willing to give us. And years passed without us noticing we have been subjecting ourselves to abuse for so long.
Until the tipping point. Until we were pushed to the wall. We were made to issue receipts to the Bureau of Internal Revenue because we were “self-employed.” They called us service providers, they called us dispensible, and they told us to pay fines, and then larger taxes because we were such.
And they expected us to accept it just as we had accepted everything else.
When we showed teeth, they softened. They offered compromises, to meet us halfway, they offered a lot of things.
But none that could make things right. Media practitioners in and out of GMA have been suffering from unfair labor treatment.
Contractualization is technically allowed by law, but not repeated contractualization, which is what’s happening at GMA.
We are fired and hired every 3 months, or 6 months. 12 months if they like us. 36 months if they really like us so much they wouldn’t want us poached by other organizations, but not enough to regularize us. And this goes on for years.
We at Talents Association of GMA (TAG) also maintain we pass the 4 way test that establishes an employee-employer relationship:
– GMA has the power to hire us
– GMA has the power to dismiss us
– GMA pays us wages
– GMA has the power to control our conduct
GMA argued in court that we signed a contract that cleary stipulates the absence of an employer-employee relationship, but Article 280 of the Labor Code negates the power of any contract if one passes the 4-way test.
We are regular employees. But GMA has been calling us Talents.
As Talents, we don’t have overtime pay, holiday pay, hazard pay or 13th month pay. We are required to work on holidays, and are not entitled to paid leaves. We don’t have SSS, Pag-IBIG, or Philhealth. We don’t have security of tenure. If we retire, we get nothing. If we die, we get nothing, even if we die on duty.
These are palpable violations, but violations they can get away with because corporations know how to skirt the law.
Following the case we filed before the NLRC, GMA implemented a network-wide scheme: the Project Employment Contract (PEC) which gives benefits to an extent, but erases prior years of employment. Workers are now employees of their projects (shows), but not employees of the company.
It is a new way to skirt the law, a new name, a new brand, a new sale — an addition to the many tentacles of contractualization that have clobbered million Filipinos to poverty and desperation.
Contractualization has killed the dreams of many journalists, young and old, and I have seen them leave one by one, along with the stories they could have told for the country.
Contractualization has resulted to a shortage of 130,000 health workers. It has subjected 49,000 teachers to low wages and unjust working conditions. Contractualization has led workers to bend their morals and ethics, just for a shot at a higher income. Contractualization has forced our people to flee the country and leave their families. Contractualization is the reason why even though we are rich agriculturally, our farmers remain the poorest.
What’s confounding is that these aren’t secrets. But as Journalists, we know that even the most well-known facts are ignored, if even reported at all.
Here is a story that is begging to be told. A well-known fact that has long been ignored. A problem that has killed 72 workers in Kentex and a problem that has led Mary Jane Veloso to death row.
There were many considerstions in joining this fight. I will lose my job, and the dream I held for years. And that my career may well be over at 24.
People ask me why I am doing this. The ones who sympathize understand that it is a fair fight, but say that it is too complicated.
It is actually really, very simple.
Journalism plays a very crucial role in society. It is a role for truth, “decency, progress and rights to all.”
This is an unwelcome opportunity to play that role — and I don’t see any other option but to play it well.