A proposed law bears Eddie Garcia’s name and legacy

Eddie Garcia
Eddie Garcia —FDCP PHOTO

Five years after his death, the iconic character actor Eddie Garcia is honored with legislation bearing his name and aimed at protecting workers in the film and television industry.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2505, otherwise known as the Eddie Garcia Bill, was unanimously approved by the Senate on Feb. 19. It now awaits a bicameral conference to unite it with the version passed by the House of Representatives in February last year. 

The measure covers all those engaged in movie and TV productions “regardless of function, roles, position or status.” Among its salient provisions is ensuring the health and safety of all industry workers during location shooting.

Garcia died on June 20, 2019, two weeks after he tripped on an electric cable while filming a TV soap opera. The production vans were parked blocks away from the set, and no trained personnel were on hand to properly transport him to the hospital. 

The actor suffered from a fractured cervical spine and was in coma before he expired. It was an accident that could have been avoided had safety precautions been in place.

The bill’s journey

Liza Diño, at that time chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), said she immediately contacted members of Garcia’s family and called for a meeting of some industry people to discuss safety precautions on film and TV sets. Directors Joel Lamangan and Laurice Guillen, along with actor Iza Calzado, attended the initial discussion.

The tragic circumstances of Garcia’s death triggered a strong reaction among industry workers and showed the general public the vulnerability of a perceived glamorous industry. There were loud calls to institute safety standards.   

According to Diño, the FDCP already laid the technical groundwork on safety issues when it called for a Film Workers Summit in 2017.Thereafter, and even prior to Garcia’s death, the agency consulted with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Division of the Department of Labor and Employment. 

Things took a more complicated tone when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines in March 2020.  

Health and safety became a major concern. The Department of Health, through the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, stepped in to ensure that health protocols are in place during filming.

Industry people moved fast not only to assist workers displaced by the pandemic but also to organize themselves to discuss pertinent issues. 

Aktor, the League of Filipino Workers was the first to organize through the initiatives of Dingdong Dantes, Agot Isidro, Iza Calzado and a few others. Soon, other guilds were formed and were mobilized under the banner of the Inter-Guild Alliance (IGA), which was first led by director Paolo Villaluna, indie producer Patti Lapus and assistant director Mara Marasigan. 

The IGA rallied behind the Eddie Garcia Bill and other legislative proposals concerning mass media and the arts. 

In November 2020, the House of Representatives approved House Bill (HB) No. 7762, called the Eddie Garcia Act. However, the counterpart measure filed by Sen. Bong Revilla did not make it to a final reading.

HB1270, a consolidated version of six related measures, was filed in 2022 and was approved by the House in February 2023.  

It took the Senate a year to pass a similar bill, after a series of meetings and consultations with various stakeholders. 

Significant provisions

The measure follows the Labor Code stipulation of an 8-hour workday that can be extended to 14 hours depending on the particularity of a film or tv drama shoot. This provision, however, does not include meal time and is not clear on when the official time starts and ends.  A position paper submitted by the IGA proposes that the time start on the ingress of the first person on the set and end on tail lights when the last person leaves the set.  

Despite this gray area, the issue of defined work hours is a relief for film and TV workers who have had to work for more than 24 hours a day for a shoot.

Likewise, pre-production work such as ocular visits and preparations will be considered work and will be compensated.

The bill also recognizes workers’ rights to self-organization, and to engage in concerted activities that are not contrary to law. 

All workers will be bound to a contract for every project in which the nature of the job, wages and other conditions shall be made clear. Any worker may refuse to perform an act or job if it appears that his or her health and safety will be endangered.  

Provisions concerning discrimination and the creation of a safe space are included in the bill to prevent harassment and bullying on the set. 

There is also a provision on the right to remuneration in accordance with the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, which provides that a creator or worker shall enjoy additional payment for every subsequent use, exhibit, broadcast or screening of a performance or intellectual property. 

The bicameral conference is yet to be scheduled, but with both chambers of Congress unanimously approving their own version of the proposed Eddie Garcia Act, industry leaders and workers are expecting the measure to be passed soon. 

With it, Eddie Garcia’s legacy will live on.

Read more: ‘What film can do more than what film can say’

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