Boy Abunda: “We’re not employees of ABS-CBN…

We’re not employees of ABS-CBN, we are talents…”, quipped entertainment host Boy Abunda last week during Showbiz News Ngayon (SNN) over ABS-CBN.

Maybe to some, the statement is something fuzzy if not ridiculous. Only few has enough understanding between an employee and that of a talent in a broadcast station. The latter is referred to as an independent  contractor who usually signed with management a 6-month contract.

Our labor laws had no distinguishing provisions between an employee and a talent until the Supreme Court had made a decision over a case of Jay Sonza vs. ABS-CBN in 2004. The Supreme Court ruled that Sonza was a talent and that he “possess such unique skills, talent and celebrity status” not found in ordinary employees.

In most broadcast networks, there are talents and employees. In Metro Manila stations, talents have bigger take-home pay than the regular employees. This is true because talents can work for several programs as long as their time warrants while employees are tied to their assigned tasks and duties and watched according to their work-hours.

Talents are paid according to the works they’ve done while employees are paid according to the number of actual hours they worked. Talents don’t enjoy the fringe benefits an employee can enjoy. They don’t have paid vacation/sick  leaves. Management is not mandated to register the talents to the SSS, PAG-IBIG, and PHILHEALTH.

The premise of Boy Abunda’s statement is the call of the COMELEC and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting for celebrities to take a leave of absence if the latter are endorsing or work for some political candidates.

ABS-CBN contested this saying the Fair Elections Act only covers the employees. Thus, talents who work for some candidates can not be asked to take a leave of absence or asked them to resign. Henceforth, talents can still perform in their programs as long as they will not use it to endorse their candidates–according to an ABS-CBN’s policy.

Section 6.6 of the Fair Elections Act (RA 9006)

Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned,, or if so required by their employer shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period: Provided, That any media practitioner who is an official of a political party or a member of the campaign staff of a candidate or political party shall not use his/her time or space to favor any candidate or political party.

I think ABS-CBN’s interpretation of the line… if so required by their employer is anchored on the word employer which means the law is referring only to the employees.

Therefore, there is no truth to some comments that talent personalities belonging to news and public affairs should take a leave of absence from their program. There is no separate policy for talents and employees working for news and public affairs programs.

But for some ethical reasons, requiring news and public affairs personalities, whether talent or employee, to take a leave of absence after joining a political group will do good for the organization (stations) as a whole.

On the other hand, talents can still perform their usual skills and talent without discussing about his or her candidate during his/her program.


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