Palace says RPN retrenchment to continue

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2012 04:39 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2012 07:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said the retrenchment of some 200 employees of Radio Philippines Network (RPN) will proceed.

The management is citing "continuing financial losses" as reason for the retrenchment at RPN, a government sequestered television station but a majority stake is now owned by private groups.  

"The retrenchment can only be done on the basis of lawful or authorized causes-that is what the Labor Code says. And, according to RPN management, the cause that they are invoking for retrenchment is continuing financial losses," Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma said.

The RPN management has issued notices of retrenchment to its employees, including those in the provinces. 

"We have been informed by RPN management that they have issued letters or notices of retrenchment to some 200 employees of the network. According to the Labor Code, management is given a 30-day period to implement such notice. According to the present collective bargaining agreement between RPN management and employees, the notice period is 45 days so the notices have already been issued. We continue to monitor the developments in RPN to ensure that all the rights of the employees under the Labor Code are adequately protected," Coloma said. 

The PCOO has supervision over RPN but the retrenchment is now out of its hands, with the government only having 20.8 percent stake in the network. 

According to Coloma, the new composition of the RPN Board as of October 2011 reflects the equity structure as follows: 34 percent, Solar Entertainment Group; 32 percent, Far East Managers and Investors Incorporated or the Roberto S. Benedicto Group; 20.8 percent, Government of the Republic of the Philippines; and 14 percent, individual private stockholders.

Earlier, the Supreme Court has ruled that 32 percent of RPN is owned by the Far East Managers and Investors Incorporated (FEMII), an investment group associated with the late Ambassador Roberto S. Benedicto. 

Coloma could only assure RPN employees that management would abide by the processes provided for by the Labor Code. 

"Ang tinitiyak lang po namin sa inyo at sa mga empleyado ay 'yung pagsunod o pagtalima sa probisyon ng Labor Code. Malinaw naman po ang definition doon. It's not for me to define it, it's not for you to define it, the Labor Code defines it. Ang sinasabi ko po dito, kung ano mang hugis o anyo ng kanilang retrenchment program that will have to be fully compliant with the provisions of the Labor Code and that is what we are committed to uphold," Coloma said. 

Asked if RPN is also axing its news program "Newswatch," Coloma said any decision on the programming is out of the government's hand. 

"Kung ano po man ang desisyon nila, 'yun po ay kanilang malayang pwedeng gampanan sapagkat katulad nga ng aking sinalaysay, ang amin pong papel sa RPN ay limitado na lamang doon sa pagmo-monitor ng operations to the extent that the rights and interest of employees are protected and to the extent that the government's remaining 20.8 [percent] equity. So 'yung tinutukoy mo na… mga desisyon, hindi na po saklaw 'yan 'nung aming tuwirang responsibilidad para sa RPN," he said. 

RPN OIC Robert Rivera said in a statement, "We are business as usual here and we continue our dialog with union. We continue to air Newswatch until such time all concerned parties are duly notified, including some sponsors."

Meantime, Coloma said the plan to fully privatize RPN-9 and IBC-13 will also proceed following the approval of the Cabinet's economic development cluster in February 2012. 

"After that last meeting, we were required to prepare and present to the economic cluster a more specific and concrete action plan on the privatization of the two networks. We have already prepared that plan and we are just awaiting notice from the Economic Development Cluster on when we may be able to present it," Coloma said.

"A Cabinet cluster has already approved in principle that the privatization of these two networks will proceed. This will have to be presided over by the privatization council and they will specify the rules for open and competitive bidding for privatization," he added. 

Coloma said the privatization council that will determine the timeline of the privatization.