Press Release
March 20, 2015


Senator Sonny Angara has filed a resolution seeking to conduct a broad reexamination, in aid of legislation, of the government's migration policies, including existing labor laws and regulations, amid continuing issues, problems, abuses and exploitations faced and experienced by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

"It has been two decades since the controversial execution of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore for allegedly killing a co-worker and a young boy. This caused a national trauma that compelled both the executive and legislative to enact legislation protecting OFWs worldwide.

"Twenty years after, the resulting public outcry for more protection on the welfare of OFWs seems to be the same public outcry up to this moment," said Angara, acting chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

Angara cited a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showing the number of OFWs facing death penalty cases, most of which are drug-related, has reached a total of 88 as of March this year from a previous total of 80 in 2013.

On the other hand, victims of human trafficking totaled 1,135 in 2013 from 1,029 in 2012, according to DFA.

An average of 1,600 illegal recruitment cases were handled by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) from 2007 to 2011 indicating that each year, thousands of hopeful Filipinos are victimized by illegal recruiters, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) handled an average of more than 50,000 cases on-site annually from 2009 to 2013.

Last month, the Senate labor committee conducted a hearing on various bills seeking to establish an assistance program for OFWs in distress and to put up a P1-billion assistance fund to cover OFWs' repatriation, medical expenses, immigration fees, legal assistance, payment of blood money, reintegration, among others.

The Center for Migrant Advocacy, represented by Executive Director Ellene Sana, pointed out in the hearing that while they appreciate the intent of the bills, most of the benefits under the proposed assistance program are already provided for in existing laws, specifically Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, and what is lacking is the proper implementation of the law.

RA 8042, as amended by RA 10022, seeks to overhaul and manage the overseas employment sector by applying more protective framework that takes into account the plight of Filipino overseas who are in distress, including those who are undocumented.

The law further seeks to rationalize in one comprehensive legislation the government's overseas employment program underscoring the need to protect the well-being of Filipinos abroad as well as reintegrate them into the mainstream of Philippine society.

"Despite the innovative objective of the Migrant Workers Act to consolidate all government efforts that aim to protect the welfare of our OFWs, different government agencies--including the Department of Labor and Employment, DFA, POEA, OWWA, Commission on Overseas Filipino--are performing individual, separate and most of the time uncoordinated functions," the lawmaker said.

Angara's Senate Resolution No. 1242 directs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development to look into existing laws with a view to genuinely advance the interest and protect the welfare of every Filipino migrant workers, the country's modern day heroes.

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