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 More abuses feared with revisions in OFW law

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Registration date : 2008-01-06

PostSubject: More abuses feared with revisions in OFW law   Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:02 pm

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Tuesday warned that some of the amendments to the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 that lawmakers are proposing could only lead to the continued abuse and neglect of Filipino migrants all over the globe.

Migrante – Middle East assailed the consolidated bills in the Senate (SB 3286) and House of Representatives (HB 5649) for being anti-OFW by continuing to promote labor as a “cheap" export while institutionalizing government-imposed fees and recruitment charges.

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In reality it only promotes exportation of cheap human labor and institutionalizes exactions of government-imposed fees
– John Leonard Monterona, Migrante
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According to Migrante-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, contrary to the obligations and responsibilities of the government set out in the Migrant Workers Act, OFWs witness the government’s neglect on a daily basis.

“Six OFWs were already beheaded under the Arroyo administration, 59 more are awaiting their execution. Six to 10 bodies of OFWs are arriving at different Philippine airports daily; while the numbers of sexual and physical abuses, labor malpractices are increasing in an alarming proportion, in the Middle East alone averaging 5-8 cases everyday," Monterona said.

The House of Representatives has already approved on third and final reading the amendments to Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 or Republic Act 8042.

HB 5649, titled "An Act Improving the Standards of Protection and Assistance for Migrant Workers," seeks to amend RA 8042 and impose stiffer penalty on officials and employees of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) who unlawfully allow the deployment of Filipinos to countries without any guaranteed protection.

Rep. Edgar Chatto (1st District, Bohol), one of the authors of HB 5649, said those who willfully and grossly violate the act shall be removed or dismissed from the service, and disqualified to hold any appointive public office for five years.

"If amply protected, they will continue to remit the needed income for the support of their families as well as contribute to the fiscal growth of the government," Chatto said.

Jackson Gan, vice president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, supported the bill’s passage.

Should the bill become law, any OFW processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) or any licensed recruitment agency would be covered by a compulsory employment liability insurance equivalent to three months of the worker's salary for every year of his contract.

According to Gan, the liability insurance plan for OFWs will also relieve the agencies of being burdened with money claims or damages sought by workers in case it has not been settled at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). [See: Recruiters group urges Congress to pass OFW liability insurance bill]

Contradictions

Monterona cited Sec. 2 (c) of the consolidated bill that affirms “the State shall continue to create local employment opportunity and promote equitable distribution of wealth."

According to Monterona, this contradicts an earlier Administrative Order No. 247 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that ordered the aggressive marketing for OFWs abroad.

Monterona further said that while the consolidated bill affirms the state principle recognizing and encouraging “OFWs to participate in the decision-making process and to be represented in institutions," the appointing authority is still vested in the President.

Monterona also raised concern over the provision in the proposed consolidated bill, Sec 2 (i), which states that government fees and cost of recruitment is “free."

“This is vague as in Section 34 of the consolidated proposed bill, where it states that ‘fees shall remain at their present level,’ which we believe the government could increase anytime if they wanted to," Monterona added.

Another disturbing provision of the proposed consolidated bill, Monterona said, is the creation of an “Emergency Repatriation Fund," which would be sourced from the placement and recruitment agency contribution between US$50 and US$100.

“Just like the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership fee of US$25 supposed to be paid by the employer for the OFW, in reality it is being passed on and shouldered by the OFWs," Monterona said. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV
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