February 15, 2012
PIMENTEL BILL TO CRIMINALIZE WITHHOLDING PASSPORTS OF OFWS
Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has filed a bill imposing criminal sanctions against persons who withhold, retain or confiscate government-issued identification documents like passports, for the purpose of coercing holders of said identification documents to make monetary payments.
Pimentel has observed many Overseas Filipino Workers have fallen prey to recruitment agencies who confiscate and retain their passports until OFWs make payments to these agencies.
"There have been cases where government-issued IDs were confiscated by certain individuals for purposes of payment, compliance, regulation, or punishment," the senator from Mindanao said.
"A number of our Overseas Filipino Workers had their passports or travel documents retained, confiscated, or withheld by some recruitment agencies or employers to coerce them to pay the latter sums of money," he added.
Pimentel said it is imperative to criminalize the illegal retention, confiscation, and/or withholding of government-issued identification cards, passports or travel documents not only to protect our Overseas Filipino Workers but all other possible victims of this form of coercion.
For this purpose, Pimentel seeks to amend Section 288 of the "Revised Penal Code," which penalizes coercion.
Under Pimentel's proposal those found guilty will be meted imprisonment of two years and/or fine of not less than P20,000.
Coercion is defined as a form of compulsion, force, duress, where a man is forced to do an act against his will.
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