Does R.A.10022 really help OFW Grievances?
It took five months from Government concerned agencies to craft up the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) covering the Republic Act No. 10022, more particularly known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, As Amended, further Improving the Standard of Protection and Promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers, Their Families and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, and For Other Purposes.
The question is Does R.A.10022 really helps OFW Grievances? The fact that it is still remains to be implemented or in other words remains to be seen; OFWs like me can’t expect the good outcome it would bring to the grievances of OFWs especially in Middle East where rampant contract substitutions are on the rise. Or it would just like as usual “a swinging pendulum that loses its energy once it is set into motion” shall we say.
DOLE said the IRR, published last Wednesday in Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Manila Times will take effect on August 13. At last after tedious discussions from the stakeholders coming from government sides, non-government organizations, OFW sectors, OFW advocates, Insurance companies, health professionals and others. Some of them raised their concerns and apprehensions on the new law. Recruitment agencies themselves even commented that it shields the government and the recruiters from their responsibility to the OFWs.
A visitor from manning agency in this blog even questioned the amended law that seafarers should NOT be covered into the “Migrant Workers Act” as the term “MIGRANT WORKERS” refers to the land base foreign workers where they need to obtain work permits or necessary workers visa. They argue that seafarer’s maximum contract tenure is only one year and has no guarantee that they will be migrated into one country having been aboard a merchant fleet sailing worldwide.
It also covers in the amended law that the employers are responsible for repatriation of stranded OFWs. Does this law have teeth to grind those employers in Middle Eastern countries where employers deliberately escape of their obligations once worker runaway or not anymore in their custody? And those crocodile recruitment agencies “na pag tatawagan at susulatan mo hindi sumasagot at umiiwas sa kanilang responsibilidad”. Let us wait and see guys before we celebrate.
Anyway let us give a benefit of a doubt; after all, it is for the good of OFWs. It depends on how our DOLE and other implementing agencies to handle it in the battlefront and give mandate and power to their Labor Attaches or their representative at site.
DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said “R.A. 10022 will give expanded protection of the country’s “modern-day heroes” in pursuit of the new President’s 22-point agenda for labor and employment.
The rules and regulations salient protective measures of the new law are as follows:
1. Emphasis on stronger bilateral and multilateral relations with receiving countries for protection. Interpreting provision of free skills and livelihood programs as expanding free access to such programs;
2. Criteria for host countries (guaranteeing protection), subject to concurrence to “take positive and concrete measures” to protect the rights of migrant workers; and clarifying a three-step process that involves a) DFA certifications on compliance by host countries; b) POEA resolution allowing deployment to complying host countries; and c) POEA processing of workers’ documents to countries identified in POEA resolutions.
3. Inclusion of amendments to prohibited acts that may constitute illegal recruitment by licensed and unlicensed agencies, as well as other prohibited acts, such as loans, decking practice in OFW medical examinations; and recruitment by suspended agencies;
4. Anti-illegal recruitment programs that include institutionalizing the role of LGUs; added capability of POEA lawyers; prosecution; and operation and surveillance to apprehend illegal recruiters;
5. Money claims. Inclusion of voluntary arbitration;
6. Repatriation and mechanism for repatriation. Responsibility for repatriation with principal/employer and licensed recruitment agency; 48-hour notice rule and 15-day period for countries with exit visa requirements; provisions on repatriation of underage workers and asserting penalties and liabilities for recruiters who recruit underage migrant workers;
7. Overseas Filipino Resource Centers will now have additional required personnel, such as psychologists, etc. and be under direct POLO supervision;
8. Institutionalizing the National Reintegration Center for OFWs;
9. Protection from abusive medical clinics;
10. Ensuring the use of the legal assistance fund for foreign lawyers and attorneys’ fees and for filing of cases against erring or abusive employers;
11. Compulsory insurance to cover agency-hired workers for accidental death, natural death, permanent total disablement, repatriation costs, subsistence allowance benefit, money claims, compassionate visit, medical evaluation, and medical repatriation.