An Open Letter to Rep. Maria Theresa Bonoan-David
Dear Congresswoman Bonoan-David,
Greetings from the Blas F. Ople Center!
The Ople Center is a non-profit organization that has been assisting distressed Filipino workers since its inception in 2004. One of our roles as a policy center is to speak up whenever an individual such as yourself comes up with a proposal that may be inimical to the welfare and rights of our OFWs.
House Bill 6159 which you filed recently is an example of a proposal so bereft of logic that it begs us to ask this question: Did you even discuss this proposal with your OFW constituents prior to filing the bill?
Because if you did, you would have discovered that:
1. OFWs are sick and tired of being charged with all kinds of mandatory fees and contributions prior to leaving and every time they need to get an OEC.
2. Everyone in a position of power assumes that it is the foreign employer that pays for the OWWA membership dues and other fees of newly-hired OFWs. This isn’t the case anymore, and whenever an OFW needs to acquire an OEC either as a balik-manggagawa or to transfer to a new job, more often than not all these government-mandated payments come from the worker’s pocket.
3. OWWA is a trust fund composed of workers’ contributions. One does not legislate any increase for whatever reason without consulting the workers. Otherwise that is tantamount to a financial ambush via legislation. Lagi na lang ganoon. Para lumago ang pera ng PhilHealth at Pag-IBIG gawin mandatory ang membership ng OFWs. Nagugulat na lang sila. Di kasi tinatanong at kinokonsulta ng maayos. Charge more, explain later. 🙁
4. Your bill contradicts an existing law. Section 4 of RA 10022 states: “All fees for services being charged by any government agency on migrant workers prevailing at the time of the effectivity of this Rule shall not be increased.” Why pass a law that violates an existing law?
5. The same law also stipulates what OWWA and other agencies should do when the need for emergency repatriation arises. RA 10022 identifies the foreign employer and licensed recruitment agency as having the joint liability in ensuring the repatriation of workers.This obligation was in fact the reason why recruitment agencies were pushing for the mandatory insurance provision in RA 10022 so that they can obtain insurance for this purpose. Read the provision below:
“Sec. 5. Emergency Repatriation.The OWWA, in coordination with DFA, and in appropriate situations, with international agencies, shall undertake the repatriation of workers in cases of war, epidemic, disasters or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events, without prejudice to reimbursement by the responsible principal or agency within sixty (60) days from notice. In such case, the POEA shall simultaneously identify and give notice to the agencies concerned.” (underscoring supplied) Emergency situations do not leave foreign employers and agencies off the hook.
6. Once again, the obligation of employers and licensed agencies is underscored in relation to the Emergency Repatriation Fund under RA 10022.
“Sec. 8. Emergency Repatriation Fund. When repatriation becomes immediate and necessary, the OWWA shall advance the needed costs from the Emergency Repatriation Fund without prejudice to reimbursement by the deploying agency and/or principal, or the worker in appropriate cases. Simultaneously, the POEA shall ask the concerned agency to work towards reimbursement of costs advanced by the OWWA. In cases where the cost of repatriation shall exceed One Hundred Million Pesos (Php100,000,000.00), the OWWA shall make representation with the Office of the President for immediate funding in excess of said amount.” (underscoring supplied)
At the height of the conflict in Libya, emergency repatriation of workers was initiated by the companies and employers themselves. It helped that many of our workers at that time were employed by big companies and hospitals that undertook their own contingency plans. In Syria, 90% of Filipino workers are women employed as domestic workers. Even then, repatriation efforts continue even without having to raise OWWA membership fees.The DFA has its own repatriation funds with help from the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management.
Madam Congresswoman, your bill has caused an uproar in OFW communities across the globe. This is not an exaggeration. It touches a sensitive nerve because of its gross insensitivity to the heavily burdened life of an OFW.
Withdraw your bill because clearly it is not in the interest of the OFWs you wish to help. If you wish to stand your ground, then at least come out in the open and let our OFW brothers and sisters understand the intellectual process that led you to formulate this measure, word for word. I, for one, would like to hear your side.
US$50 may seem small to you. But it is a big deal to our OFWs especially those who are supposed to be paid more than they get based on approved contracts honored in breach once they step outside our shores. If we can’t impose our model contracts on foreign employers to protect our workers, why charge them more? Why charge them twice as much each time they leave for emergencies that are confined to one or two countries at best?
You filed the bill. So please tell us, do you really have the intention of pursuing its approval? If yes, then for whom? Because frankly, no one seems to be cheering you on. Based on the number of online petitions against HB 6195, I think it’s safe to say that the OFWs hate your bill – to the max, and beyond.
Reach out to us, please. Let’s talk. So here’s my number – 8335337. Call me, maybe? 🙂
Blas F. Ople Center