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Family abandonment cases among OFWs on the rise

First Posted 14:34:00 03/05/2007

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MANILA, Philippines -- More and more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) appear to be abandoning their obligations to their families, the Center for Migrant Advocacy said on Monday as it called for more legal, economic, and social support for these abandoned families.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, CMA legal counsel Henry Rojas said more and more families of OFWs approach his office for advice on family abandonment.

He said that half of the cases handled by another non-government organization, Kanlungan, involve family abandonment.

In an earlier roundtable discussion organized by the CMA, lawyer Arnulfo Maminta made the same observation.

He said on any given week, his office deals with a family member requesting that an OFW?s departure be held in connection with a claim for support, noting this was often the only recourse the families had because they lack resources to file cases against the errant provider.

But Maminta said any hold departure order from the Bureau of Immigration needs a preceding order from the Department of Justice.

Rojas agreed that limited access to legal advice -- especially on how to serve the complaint, how to receive the answers, and how to file similar cases abroad -- is a major problem among families abandoned by OFWs.

?Another problem that most of these families confront is the impossibility of enforcing local court judgments abroad. It?s well and good if the OFW has properties here that can be attached, but most of the time the only income is derived from earnings abroad,? he added.

To help the abandoned families, Maminta suggested that the Philippines finalize bilateral agreements with other countries regarding court judgments.

Rojas said the Declaration for the Protection and Promotion of Migrant Workers? Rights recently signed during the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit is useless in this case because it is just a declaration.

?There are no implementing mechanisms for this and other cases. The problems are stacked up against the abandoned families,? he said.

Rojas suggested that cases of family abandonment be exempt from court fees; that the Public Attorney?s Office expand its scope to include this special category; and that an agency on abandoned families be created.

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