Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bungled holidays

This was my column last Wednesday. Sorry for the late post, been under the weather.

Malacañang turned around on a previous announcement and declared Monday, Feb. 25, a non-working day after all.

In another time and under normal circumstances such as a more civil political environment, the announcement by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita last Monday would have been met by delight, if not jubilation.

I have no doubt that many people still heaved a sigh of relief that they have once again been granted a longer weekend. But the announcement was already anti-climactic, as people were already resigned to having work or classes on Feb. 25.

I know, this borders on sala sa init, sala sa lamig and I am sure there are people out there, particularly in Malacanang who are muttering to themselves about how “there’s just no pleasing this people.”

But then again, we all know that these are not normal times for the country. The political environment can hardly be described as “civil” anymore. In fact, the situation now borders on the bastusan and garapalan so many simply considered the sudden change of heart from the Palace as another example of this administration’s predilection to flip-flop on issues when it suits its purposes. And naturally, many also chose to see it as indicative of the administration’s level of desperation, just another lame attempt to be on the good graces of the people.

Speculations as to what caused Malacañang’s sudden change of heart are flying thick ranging from outlandish conspiracy theories to the simple wala lang, naisipan lang nila.

A friend thinks that the Palace probably thought that declaring a holiday on February 25 would mean a cancellation of Senate hearings scheduled on that day, if there were any scheduled. That’s certainly one day of respite from wayward Typhoon Jun.

It is also possible that whatever threat— real, perceived, or imagined—to the President, to the nation, or to whoever has already dissipated and Malacañang has now deemed it okay to relax its guard. After all, less people than expected showed up at the Ayala rally last week, and fewer still showed up at the Mass at Greenhills last Sunday.

It is also entirely possible that the people who have tended to over-react in the last few weeks have finally been given the necessary medication and are now less edgy and prone to making stupid pre-emptive actions that have only made things worse. Perhaps these people can be put on permanent medication then?

Or perhaps, and this is another conspiracy theory that’s floating around, Malacañang finally came to an agreement with the Catholic Church on the correct interpretation of that gobbledygook called “communal action.”

Anyway. In my column last Monday, I wrote about how this administration was making life difficult for industry by inventing terminology that does not only confuse and confound, but also makes the President and Malacañang come across as inept. I wrote that the term “holiday” refers to a day of rest, so the terms “working holiday” and “non-working holiday” are examples of an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms. These terms should not be used in official proclamations.

As if in response to my column, Proclamation 1462—also released last Monday— specified that Feb. 25 will be a “non-working day.” Surprise, surprise, someone in Malacañang decided to take heed and drop the usual term used in past proclamations which was “non-working holiday.”
So far so good? Good heavens, no. This has resulted in even more confusion.

An oxymoron makes for a good laugh and enables us to ridicule certain people, but I guess we can all live with that. It is not as if the world will come to a screeching halt just because someone has been guilty of using an oxymoron. An oxymoron is the least of our problems. I must stress this lest people think that I am simply nitpicking. I am not.

The problem is when the terms—contradictory or not—used result in confusion on the part of industry over implementation issues.

You see, industry pays wages to its employees—including premium on salaries— during official holidays based on what is specified by law (for regular or legal holidays) or based on what is prescribed by the President’s proclamation (in the case of special holidays or special days). If a company has 3,000 employees that need to report for work on a holiday in order to meet urgent production schedules, this translates into millions of pesos in additional payroll costs! This is why it is important that holidays be declared ahead of time to allow industries to manage their production schedules.

The problem now is that nowhere in the President’s proclamation last Monday does it say that Feb. 25 is a holiday or a special day—it simply says Feb. 25 is a non-working day. So what then is the basis for paying employees who go to work on that day a premium on their salaries? Or for that matter, what is the basis for paying employees their wages on that day since it is not a holiday?

Of course it can be argued that Ermita announced that Feb. 25 is a special holiday, or that all our newspapers simply jumped on the proclamation without bothering to read the fine print and concluded that Feb. 25 is a holiday. The proclamation simply says Feb. 25 is a non-working day, it does not say it is a holiday, we all simply assumed it is.

So if there are companies out there who will refuse to pay holiday pay to their employees on Feb. 25, we all know whom to blame.

Also last Monday, the Palace issued Proclamation 1463 “Declaring Regular Holidays and Special (Non-Working) Days for the Year 2008.” It’s a nice attempt to please industry by announcing in advance the rest of the special days for 2008. The proclamation declaring Feb. 25 a non-working day was numbered Proclamation 1462, which means both proclamations were written one after the other and presumably by the same person. That person is either totally clueless about the impact of these proclamations or simply incompetent.

Malacañang cannot declare regular holidays. That power is vested solely on Congress. I will not attempt to read more into this latest snafu except to say that haste not only makes waste, it also reveals incompetence. Not only has this recent proclamation usurped the power of Congress, it even makes a typographical error that is simply unbelievable—the proclamation is dated 3008. Go figure.

In case you don’t know it yet, Proclamation 1463 “rescheduled” some of the regular holidays to the nearest Monday, paving the way for longer weekends. Thus, Araw ng Kagitingan (April 9) will now be observed on April 7. Independence Day (June 12) will be moved to June 9. National Heroes Day (Aug. 31) will be observed on Aug. 25. Bonifacio Day (Nov. 30) will be observed on Dec. 1.

The following have been declared special holidays: Ninoy Aquino Day on Aug. 18 (moved from Aug. 21), All Saints Day on Nov. 1, and Dec. 26, 29, and 31.

The following regular holidays will continue to be observed on their respective original dates: Labor Day, May 1; Maundy Thursday, March 20; Good Friday, March 21; Christmas Day, Dec. 25; Rizal Day, Dec. 30.

1 comment:

Lester Cavestany said...

Speaking of bungles, I heard the government ceremonies in EDSA didn't flow smoothly. The Philippine flag got stuck while it was being raised and the paper for the confetti came out in lumps. I feel sorry for the event organizers. In another world, these so-called bungles could be seen as omens.

Masamang pangitain yang mga yan hehe ;-)