Senate of the Philippines

The Senate now moved to make sure OFWs receive enough protection and hence, an adequate standard operating procedure is implemented to alter any diplomatic complications every time a distressed OFW is being rescued.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva told the reporters that “there is a need to change the status quo and improve the condition of Filipino workers abroad,” after he presided over the joint hearing with the Committee on Foreign Relations and Economic Affairs. The said joint hearing discussed the reported death and abuse of our fellow Filipino workers abroad.

Villanueva also mentioned the importance of their deliberations on such issues – that it can help them get to the root cause of the issue or problem that OFWs encounter and find solutions for such.

In the beginning, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor also acknowledged that the problem that the committee faces became clearer. Villanueva said: “because of the recent incidents in Kuwait, particularly the brutal death of [OFW] Joanna Demafelis. It was really shocking and saddening beyond words.”

Villanueva also lamented that OFWs still needs to choose between unemployment and abuse. All while citing the reports of OFWs death that reached the committee.  Specifically, the senator mentioned the number of death cases in Kuwait between 2016 and 2017. The number of reported and recorded cases of death is no less than 185.

According to the senator, it was already made clear at the joint hearing that the government should immediately address what the OFWs abroad are going through. He also added that many Filipinos are constantly taking chances on illegal recruiters and choose to pose as tourists to be able to skirt the regulations. This adds on how OFWs become vulnerable to abuse as recruiters transfer them from one recruiter to another. He added: “Clearly, our OFWs need help.”

In the interview after the joint hearing, Villanueva said that there are “several needs” that should be addressed immediately.

In line of that, he said that “We need an intensified training for household workers. We need to give them skills to at least minimize cases of runaways. We even need to check the veracity of NCs [national certification] of our 262,000 NC holders. We need to look at the imposition of exorbitant fees for medical exam, visa stamping, among others. We may need to put up performance bond for employers and require the training of foreign employers. We need to revisit all existing bilateral agreements since many of these agreements are already outdated,”

He added: “We also need to monitor and confirm if Kuwait is deemed fully compliant as required by Republic Act (RA) 10022. We need to ensure that accountability, when our workers are abused, is shared among foreign recruitment agency, local recruitment agency and even foreign employers. We need to ensure that our protocols—especially in rescuing OFWs in distress—are being followed. We also need a database of undocumented or abused Filipino workers and, perhaps; we can tap our centers or Polos [Philippine Overseas Labor Offices] to gather information about undocumented workers. We need information sharing among all agencies, we need to collaborate and convene the interagency group.”

There are related existing laws, particularly the Sec. 20 of Republic Act 8042 that requires the development of an information system for migration. And these, according to Villanueva, need to be implemented

Photo: Senate of the Philippines’ Facebook Page

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