Labor and Employment Secretary, reporting on the major accomplishments of the DOLE under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, yesterday cited the Single-entry Approach, popularly known as SEnA, as a “great equalizer”.“We came in 2010 and found the snail-paced resolution of labor disputes, whether in small money-claims not over P5,000 or in labor standards violations that DOLE regional directors decide and are appealable at the Office of the DOLE Secretary that commonly took a year or more to be decided. In the National Labor Relations Commission, where cases are commonly on illegal dismissal, it took labor arbiters and the Commission to resolve them in at least two years,” said Baldoz.
She added that it took longer if such cases reach the Supreme Court and decisions involved money awards for workers. “The execution of the awards alone posed difficulties, resulting to so-called paper victories. Thus, this gives the perception of corruption in the labor justice system,” she observed.
Baldoz said that when she became DOLE Secretary, one of the things she focused to was the directive of the President, under the 22-point Labor and Employment Agenda, “to ensure 98 percent disposition rate of all pending labor disputes with quality decision”.
One of the major reforms that led to this was the Single-entry Approach, a 30-day conciliation-mediation alternative dispute resolution system that is inexpensive, fair, and fast in resolving labor issues. Baldoz implemented the SEnA in seven agencies of the DOLE, including the NLRC and the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices ((Lebanon, Kuwait, Israel, at Alkhobar), starting in 2010 under D.O. No. 107-10, Series of 2010.
Tripartite-endorsed, the SeNA became a law when Pres. Aquino III signed R.A. 10396 on 14 March 2013.
“Since we implemented the SEnA in October 2010 until June this year, we have handled 123,324 Requests for Assistance (RFAs) 93,740 of which ended up in settlement agreements, or a 76 percent settlement rate. The SEnA disposition rate is 91.9 percent,” said Baldoz.
“These settlement agreements benefited 132,331 workers with P4.025-B in benefits. Overall, it took an average of 17 days to resolve the RFAs. As a result, cases that before were decided by DOLE regional directors decreased by 99 percent. Workers, employers, investors, and the government saved a lot on appeal because the SEnA is fast, fair, and inexpensive,” she explained.
So beneficial and efficient were the impact of the SEnA, Baldoz emphasized, that in 2013, the Civil Service Commission bestowed the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award to the DOLE’s more than 500 designated Single Entry Assistance Desk Officers (SEADOs), saying the SEnA was a “Citizen-Centered System pivotal in the immediate resolution of grievances and de-clogging of labor cases.”
One happy beneficiary of this inclusive labor justice is Mang Silvestre of Region 12. Mang Silvestre, a former employee at a pineapple multinational firm in South Cotabato, has been writing letters to Philippine presidents and government agencies since Ferdinand E. Marcos. He kept copies of his letters and sent copies to President Aquino III through the Secretary of Labor on 12 May 2011.
At that time, the DOLE was already implementing the SEnA. The DOLE addressed his concern and, through the SEnA, he received P5,406.30 from his former employer. It took only the DOLE regional office 26 days to resolve his request for assistance, which has not been addressed for the last 27 years.
“I am happy with what the DOLE has done. My patient waiting was not in vain. The money, small as it was, did not matter anymore. What was important was that I was heard,” Mang Silvestre said.
His former employer was also pleased. Through its human resource manager, it said: “We are happy, too, that we were able to help Mang Silvestre. Our cooperation with the the DOLE, particulalry with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, is now much stronger.”