Senators Joel Villanueva and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. stressed the significant role military reservists play in times of calamities and in thwarting terrorism.
Senate Bill Numbers 1147 and 1203 were filed by Villanueva and Revilla, respectively, to strengthen the employment rights of the reservists of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The proposal was filed and passed on third reading at the Senate during the previous congress.
The final copy of the measure was sent to the House of Representatives requesting for its concurrence but failed to act on it.
“Citizen soldiers or reservists play an integral role in defending the Philippines in times of war, armed conflicts and similar occurrences, and in providing assistance during natural disasters, among others,” Villanueva said.
He cited the five-month long Battle of Marawi in Lanao del Sur that starter on May 23, 2017 between the AFP and the militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf jihadist groups.
During those months, the AFP mobilized two battalions of reservists either to be in the frontlines or provide assistance to soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire.
In 2013, hundreds of military reservists were also deployed for search and rescue operations in provinces, mostly in Leyte, devastated by super-typhoon Yolanda.
These citizen soldiers risk their lives to save lives, said Villanueva, and many of them have decent jobs in private firms to catch up after their tour of military duty.
“Unfortunately, reservists often risk losing their civilian careers when they render military service,” the senator said, citing a Harvard Business Review study on the inclination of US companies to hire active military reservists.
The 2017 study found out that American employers find it challenging to hire or invest in military reservists due to the possibility that they might be called regularly, and will, thus, take long leaves from work to render military service.
In the Philippines, there is very little protection for reservists in terms of employment rights, such as payment of compensation and wages while in military service, prohibition against discrimination, rights of reservists upon returning to work, as well as payment of social security-related contributions while on military service, Villanueva said.
“Our reservists should be entitled to their original position without loss of seniority rights or reduction or pay. Likewise, their military service should not be considered a break in the employment for retirement purposes,” Villanueva said.
Revilla, in his SBN 1203, said: “The risk for reservists to lose their civilian careers when they render military service for our State, despite fighting for the country, is unforgiving. The siege created a problem making it difficult for the reservists to reintegrate back to their old jobs, since there is no current law covering that.”
The twin measures, to be called “Reservist Employment Rights Act,” seek to strengthen the employment rights of Reserve Force of the AFP to give recognition to its role in mission areas and in national security.
“It aims to ensure the security of tenure of reservists and entitle them to their original position or substantially equivalent position, without loss of seniority rights and diminution of pay. It also intends to institute programs that will protect current and prospective reservists from discrimination in terms of job hiring, reinstatement, promotion, or any benefit of employment on the basis of rendering military service for our country,” Revilla added.
Both measures are now pending at the Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development Committee./Stacy Ang