Press Release
January 19, 2010

Congress adopts bicam report strengthening migrant workers act

Senate adopted Monday night the bicameral conference committee report amending Republic Act 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 to further improve the standard of protection, promotion of welfare and assistance to overseas Filipino workers.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said, "We hope that with the crafting and passage of this new law all in the interest of OFW relief and welfare, we were able to return them the favor of keeping us afloat during the world crisis in economy. We owe it to our OFWs why we are still surviving, and the least we can do is to provide them immediate assistance in times of trouble and institute safeguards to their labor and human rights."

Sen. Estrada, concurrent Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and of the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, added that the consolidated version of Senate Bill 3286 and House Bill 5649 features a combination of preventive measures to eliminate ill-fate of our OFWs and better rescue and assistance mechanisms.

The proposed law explicitly instructs the government to continuously monitor international conventions, become signatory to and ratify those that guarantee protection to our migrant workers and to enter into bilateral agreements with countries currently hosting OFWs.

The bill also bestows accountability to the members of the governing board of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in the deployment of migrant workers. Government official(s) found responsible for the issuance of permit and allowing deployment of OFWs to countries not guaranteeing nor complying with international labor standards shall suffer the penalty of dismissal from service with disqualification to hold appointive public office for five (5) years.

The bicameral report also defined "illegal recruitment" to include reprocessing workers through a job order that pertains to non-existent work, work different from the actual overseas work or work with a different employer whether registered or not with the POEA.

The scheme, more commonly termed as contract substitution, has victimized many OFWs in the past where departing workers sign contract here in the Philippines only to execute and enter into an altogether new employment contract upon reaching their destination.

Granting a loan to an OFW with interest exceeding eight percent (8%) per annum which will be used for payment of legal and allowable placement fees and making the OFW to issue postdated checks and imposing a compulsory and exclusive arrangement to where he is required to avail of a loan only from specifically designated institutions or entities shall also be deemed illegal.

The punishment for any person found guilty of illegal recruitment was also increased to a minimum of twelve years (from six years) but not more than twenty years and a fine of not less than one million pesos.

It can be remembered that 137 Pinoy drivers were duped into a massive recruitment scam by CYM Recruitment Agency who promised high-paying jobs at Dubai government's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) only to find themselves jobless, stranded, scavenging for food at a nearby dumpsite and struggling with huge debts following loans obtained under onerous conditions from CYM's partner financing entity.

The report also includes a five hundred peso-fine and automatic revocation of license of the recruitment agency which recruits and deploys an underage migrant worker.

Moreover, the proposed law introduces compulsory insurance coverage for agency-hired workers which shall be secured at no cost to the worker. The insurance shall cover at the minimum: accidental death (US$ 15,000), natural death (US$ 10,000), permanent total disablement (US$ 7,500) repatriation cost of the worker upon termination of contract without valid cause, subsistence allowance benefit for workers involved in a case or litigation, money claims, compassionate visit (when the OFW is hospitalized), medical evacuation, medical repatriation and return of body remains.

Only reputable private insurance companies duly registered with the Insurance Commission, operational for at least five years, and with net worth of at least five hundred million pesos shall be qualified to provide for the workers' insurance.

For workers recruited by the POEA on a government-to-government arrangement, POEA shall establish a foreign employers gurantee fund which will be answerable to the workers' monetary claims.

Sen. Estrada asserted that with the rising number of cases of illegal recruitment, maltreatment and exploitation and with our embassies (especially in Middle East countries) being congested with stranded or distressed OFWs, it is high time that new measures should be in place and stringent laws be applied.

News Latest News Feed