What the Freelancers Protection Act Could Mean for Filipino Remote Workers

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Been there, done that -- this is my automatic answer when I hear or read rants about clients not paying right, or at all! If it sucks to be stood up on a date, it sucks more when you’re left hanging waiting to get paid after all your hard work and sleepless nights (well, in a freelancer’s standpoint at least -- I hope you don’t get stood up on dates!).

True enough, being scammed by clients who wouldn’t stay true to their word is part of the freelancing reality. It will, of course, help to be cautious and watch out for red flags. But sometimes, it really just happens despite your own good intentions. In fact, it’s a big issue in the freelancing world, which is why there are videos online like this:

 


 

But what if I tell you there’s a chance that this freelancing reality can finally be thwarted? That finally, the welfare of freelancers will be protected by the government?

That’s what Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino’s Freelancers Protection Act is about.

 

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Image Credit: Yugatech.com


Freelancers Protection Act at a Glance


The Freelancers Protection Act was first filed in the Senate in 2016 as Senate Bill No. 351, but made the rounds in the news once again a few weeks ago. The first few introductory paragraphs read:

 

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Freelancing is no longer just a temporary state while looking for your dream job. For many intelligent and skilled Filipinos with a strong network and marketable services, it is a long-term career choice.

For many people that value mobility, their own time, and freedom from a fixed employer, freelancing is a dream job and fundamental source of livelihood.

With more and more freelancers in the country, we are confronted with an urgent need to protect this new sector and empower them with ease of doing business.

One of the biggest challenges of a freelancer is non-payment, which is why the Freelancer Bill gives freelancers the power to demand from their employer what they are rightfully due as per their signed contract.

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Under this bill, should it be enacted, if an employer refuses to pay a freelancer for his or her services, the freelancer can file a complaint to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The agency will investigate and if the complaint is deemed valid, the employer can be penalized and required to pay up to P250,000 on damages.

The bill also has a chapter on taxation. There will be a specific lane or special assistance desk in every Revenue District Office (RDO) to cater to freelancers. The lane or desk should be manned by an officer to assist in application, registration, and processing of documents, as well as other concerns.

All in all, this bill will make responsible both employers and freelancers. The employer should pay their freelance contractors, while the freelancers should pay their taxes.

Sounds about fair, right?

 

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Image Credit: Unsplash


The Conflicting Views of Filipino Freelancers


While the premise of the bill is actually simple and straightforward, it still wasn’t met without criticisms.

If it isn’t obvious yet based on his surname, Sen. Bam Aquino is part of the opposition. When you look at the comments section of some write-ups about the initiative, you’d see some admin supporters saying it’s just a publicity stunt.

Then, there are the freelancers who are skeptic about the whole thing. As one commenter put it, “Pa’no mo naman hahabulin ang employer kung nasa ibang bansa s’ya? Freelancer nga eh, meaning most of the client is outside the country. Tapos sasabihin nyo ma-e-ensure ang payment? (How could you ensure that a non-paying client pays if they are overseas?)”

This was met with a rebuttal: “Hindi lahat ng freelancer ay outside the country ang clients. Madami ding local. (Not all freelancers have overseas clients. Many have local clients, too.)”

Elaine Marifosque, a writer who has been freelancing since 2004 says, “I agree that freelancers should be protected especially when transacting with clients. But how can they demand payment from overseas clients? I think this will only cover those who are in the Philippines.”

“On a good note, there will be security for freelancers who have clients here in the Philippines,” she adds.

 

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Image Credit: Pexels


The Bottomline: Acceptance and Recognition


If you ask me, all the points raised and quoted were valid and can represent what many or all freelancers think about the bill. Maybe, it’s best if the bill can be amended to clarify the how’s that many concerned freelancers have. Maybe, it’ll help to clearly state that, hey, this bill is only for those who have local clients--at least for now.

But you know what, the silver lining here is that finally, remote working is finally being recognized as a career. That freelancers are not just mere introverted employees, but talented workers and professionals. That freelancing is not just a trend, but a growing industry. That as freelancers, we are also helping the economy grow by inviting remittances to the country.

That as Filipino freelancers, we are making the Philippines known for being home to world-class talents.

So, what’s your take on the Freelancers Protection Act? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

 


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