Congress welcomes overseas employment industry’s proposals for new DOFW

Congress welcomes overseas employment industry’s proposals for new DOFW
ABROAD’s triumvirate (from left) Noel Litan, Raquel Bracero, and Nora Braganza represent the interests of overseas Filipino workers and job placement agencies before the congressional consultations for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers or DOFW at the Batasan Pambansa, Quezon City on Wednesday, October 2. (Photo and logo contributed by ABROAD to THEPHILBIZNEWS)

By Nate C. Barretto

A coalition of job placement agency organizations brought before Congress this week, its legislative proposals highlighted by its lobbying for the creation of a quasi-judicial tripartite body that would handle labor cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad.

The Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFWs’ Advancement and Development or ABROAD pushed for the establishment of such a body as part of the bills creating the new Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW).

ABROAD Secretary General Ivan Lilles told THEPHILBIZNEWS on Friday, October 4, that the congressional hearing at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City last Wednesday, October 2, welcomed their group’s proposals.

Lilles said ABROAD co-convenor and Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI) President Raquel Bracero, together with ABROAD co-convenors Nora Braganza and Noel Litan, were made an active part of the discussions of the Technical Working Group (TWG) for the proposed DOFW.

At the meeting, Bracero underscored the need for an overseas counterpart of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) that will hear cases of employment contract violations against OFWs.

She told lawmakers that the NLRC organizational structure may be used as a model for the quasi-judicial tripartite body which will be integrated in the DOWF. However, its arbitral function will take into consideration the laws of the host country in order to gain a better position in handling labor cases of OFWs abroad, she said.

 “The creation of this arm is aimed at halting the vicious cycle of abuses against OFWs, especially vulnerable home service workers, or HSWs,” said Bracero.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Clemente “Joey” Salceda, who chairs the TWG, welcomed ABROAD’s various proposals and said that such recommendations would make life easier for legislators working on the measure.

Salceda noted that such moves would have a tremendous impact on the lives of Filipino migrant workers and their families.

For his part, 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Enrico “Eric” Pineda who is Salceda’s co-chair suggested that the PRAs look into establishing its own insurance fund, much like the OWWA Fund, for the payment of OFWs’ claims against agencies.

Pineda enjoined ABROAD to participate actively in future committee meetings as members of the House “like to talk to people who make sense.”

“Among the other points stressed by ABROAD at the TWG meeting was the necessity of hiring lawyers from the host country to ensure that OFWs with legitimate complaints have a greater chance at obtaining justice while working abroad,” Lilles said in a statement sent to THEPHILBIZNEWS.

He said their group is pushing for the expansion of OFW mandatory insurance coverage to include a “Foreign Employment Practice Liability Insurance” that would cover the money claims of OFWs.

Another proposal being lobbied for by ABROAD is a recommendation to professionalize Overseas Labor Officers/Attaches by requiring them to take competitive pre-admission tests and to undergo rigorous training before they can assume posts to ensure they are ready and capable to assist OFWs in foreign lands.

Bracero lamented that under the present system, many violators and erring employers go unpunished, which leads to the vicious cycle of abuses committed by foreign employers. The situation is made even worse owing to the Joint and Solidary Liability (JSL) built into the POEA-standard employment contracts and recruiting agreements between Philippine overseas employment providers and foreign employers.

“In many cases, victims of employment contract violations and abuses are repatriated and the local PRAs are left to answer the legal complaints and money claims of OFWs, while the real culprits go scot free. Of course, we are always willing and ready to honor our obligations, but until the root causes of abuse are not addressed and there are no effective deterrents against abuses, our OFWs will always be vulnerable,” explained Bracero.

Co-convenor Litan also pointed out that PRAs must expressly be given due recognition for their role and contribution to national development in the crafting of the law creating the DOFW.

Rep. Salceda acknowledged the contribution of the overseas employment sector, which currently registers a net foreign exchange inflow of US$32 billion US dollars. Salceda said he would propose that PRAs be given some degree of regulatory authority via a Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) status. The Albay lawmaker added that in the DOFW measure he would propose that certain governmental processes be left to the PRAs to allow them to regulate their own ranks, in a fashion similar to the manner in which the stock market is allowed self-regulating latitude by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Bracero said that ABROAD was amenable to such a proposal, saying that “in fact, our proposed draft bill has a provision that implements the SRO status of PRA organizations.”

Lilles expressed hope their well-meaning proposals get to be part of the bills that make up the creation and function of the DOFW for it to be more responsive to the needs of OFWs. He added that the progress of their group’s proposals before Congress is closely monitored by millions of OFWs around the world that follow ABROAD online.

A coalition of job placement agency organizations brought before Congress this week, a proposal to create of a quasi-judicial tripartite body that would handle labor cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad.

The Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFWs’ Advancement and Development or ABROAD pushed for the establishment of such a body as part of the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW).

ABROAD Secretary General Ivan Lilles told THEPHILBIZNEWS on Friday, October 4, that the congressional hearing at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City last Wednesday, October 2, welcomed their group’s proposals.

Lilles said ABROAD co-convenor and Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI) President Raquel Bracero, together with ABROAD co-convenors Nora Braganza and Noel Litan, were made an active part of the discussions of the Technical Working Group (TWG) for the proposed DOFW.

At the meeting, Bracero underscored the need for an overseas counterpart of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) that will hear cases of employment contract violations against OFWs.

She told lawmakers that the NLRC organizational structure may be used as a model for the quasi-judicial tripartite body which will be integrated in the DOWF. However, its arbitral function will take into consideration the laws of the host country in order to gain a better position in handling labor cases of OFWs abroad, she said.

 “The creation of this arm is aimed at halting the vicious cycle of abuses against OFWs, especially vulnerable home service workers, or HSWs,” said Bracero.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Clemente “Joey” Salceda, who chairs the TWG, welcomed ABROAD’s various proposals and said that such recommendations would make life easier for legislators working on the measure.

Salceda noted that such moves would have a tremendous impact on the lives of Filipino migrant workers and their families.

For his part, 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Enrico “Eric” Pineda who is Salceda’s co-chair suggested that the PRAs look into establishing its own insurance fund, much like the OWWA Fund, for the payment of OFWs’ claims against agencies.

Pineda enjoined ABROAD to participate actively in future committee meetings as members of the House “like to talk to people who make sense.”

“Among the other points stressed by ABROAD at the TWG meeting was the necessity of hiring lawyers from the host country to ensure that OFWs with legitimate complaints have a greater chance at obtaining justice while working abroad,” Lilles said in a statement sent to THEPHILBIZNEWS.

He said their group is pushing for the expansion of OFW mandatory insurance coverage to include a “Foreign Employment Practice Liability Insurance” that would cover the money claims of OFWs.

Another proposal being lobbied for by ABROAD is a recommendation to professionalize Overseas Labor Officers/Attaches by requiring them to take competitive pre-admission tests and to undergo rigorous training before they can assume posts to ensure they are ready and capable to assist OFWs in foreign lands.

Bracero lamented that under the present system, many violators and erring employers go unpunished, which leads to the vicious cycle of abuses committed by foreign employers. The situation is made even worse owing to the Joint and Solidary Liability (JSL) built into the POEA-standard employment contracts and recruiting agreements between Philippine overseas employment providers and foreign employers.

“In many cases, victims of employment contract violations and abuses are repatriated and the local PRAs are left to answer the legal complaints and money claims of OFWs, while the real culprits go scot free. Of course, we are always willing and ready to honor our obligations, but until the root causes of abuse are not addressed and there are no effective deterrents against abuses, our OFWs will always be vulnerable,” explained Bracero.

Co-convenor Litan also pointed out that PRAs must expressly be given due recognition for their role and contribution to national development in the crafting of the law creating the DOFW.

Rep. Salceda acknowledged the contribution of the overseas employment sector, which currently registers a net foreign exchange inflow of US$32 billion US dollars. Salceda said he would propose that PRAs be given some degree of regulatory authority via a Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) status. The Albay lawmaker added that in the DOFW measure he would propose that certain governmental processes be left to the PRAs to allow them to regulate their own ranks, in a fashion similar to the manner in which the stock market is allowed self-regulating latitude by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Bracero said that ABROAD was amenable to such a proposal, saying that “in fact, our proposed draft bill has a provision that implements the SRO status of PRA organizations.”

Lilles expressed hope their well-meaning proposals get to be part of the bills that make up the creation and function of the DOFW for it to be more responsive to the needs of OFWs.

He added that the progress of their group’s proposals before Congress is closely monitored by millions of OFWs around the world that follow ABROAD online.

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