With a total of 34 bills proposing for a separate government agency dedicated to Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFWs) protection, one can’t help but ask if a dedicated department is indeed a necessity. While checking, we came across some actual laws that are already in place and are also meant to protect our OFWs while they are working outside the country.
Know Your Rights: Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Worker Protection
Here are some of them:
- Republic Act No. 8042: Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995
Later ammended with the Omnibus Implementing Rules of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, Republic Act 8042 is a law meant to institute policies that will protect and promote well-being among migrant workers or distressed Filipinos overseas. With this law, the state has been given the right to deploy workers only where their rights will be protected. This also allows the state to terminate or impose deployment bans at any time and impose penalties to illegal recruiters and other criminal offenders who try to harm the OFWs.
- Batas Pambansa Bilang 79: An Act Creating the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and for Other Purposes
Since it was made effective in June 1980, the Filipinos have been provided with the ‘Commission’ tasked by the President himself, to provide counsel and assistance regarding policies, formulate and implement welfare programs, provide liaison services, initiate ties with other agencies, and call upon any agency of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations, to render whatever assistance is necessary for the protection of the Filipinos overseas.
- Republic Act No. 9208: Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003
This law is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2444 (Center for the Study of Women and Workplace Policy Act) and House Bill 4432 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act) and is meant to combat, eliminate, and punish those who engage in human trafficking and establish the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons and “ensure their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration into the mainstream of society.”
- Presidential Decree No. 1694: Organization and Administration of the Welfare Fund for Overseas Workers
PD Number 1694 was enacted to create The Welfund – a fund bank meant to be used in providing social and welfare services to Filipino overseas workers, including insurance coverage, legal assistance, placement assistance, and remittance services. The fund preparation was promulgated to prepare for any untoward incidents that may come along as the Filipino overseas labor force keeps growing and the volatile situation in many countries hosting this labor force remain unpredictable.
- EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 797: Re-organizing the Ministry of Labor and Employment, Creating the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and For Other Purposes
Executive Order No. 797 led to the establishment of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in 1982. Since then, the agency has assumed the functions the Overseas Employment Development Board, the National Seamen Board, and the overseas employment functions of the Bureau of Employment Services. Tasked with the promotion and monitoring of the overseas employment of Filipino workers, POEA was given the powers to have the original and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases involving overseas Filipino workers and seamen regarding money claims and employer- employee relations arising out of or by virtue of any law or contract.
The POEA was re-organized in 1987 through Executive Order No. 247 so the agency may adapt to the evolving markets and economic conditions. It was also meant to strengthen components that would protect Filipino workers and the regulatory components of the overseas employment programs already in place.
With these laws and agencies already in place, how much difference would an all-exclusive Department of OFW make?