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Unhappy, solons want migrants better protected

/ 09:31 AM June 02, 2014
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Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello: Committee not satisfied. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Disappointed at the way labor officials handled the complaints of sexual exploitation of Filipino workers by government embassy personnel, lawmakers want to amend the Migrant Workers Act to allow for the forcible repatriation of Filipino nationals who commit crimes against fellow Filipinos abroad.

The House committee on overseas workers affairs recommended the strengthening of the Migrant Workers Act to put in place measures that would allow the government to repatriate overseas nationals in order to curb abuses against overseas Filipino workers.

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Committee chair and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said the committee was not satisfied with the way the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) handled their investigations into the issue, charging that the agencies gave the officials concerned mere “slaps on the wrist” or moved to ensure that they would not be held accountable for their actions.

One recommendation is for the DFA and the DOLE to ensure there would be treaties or agreements between the Philippines and other countries to enable the Philippine government to forcibly repatriate Filipino nationals alleged to have committed crimes abroad against fellow Filipinos. The agreements should also cover those who are not public officials and employees.

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Another committee recommendation is to amend the Migrant Workers Act so that illegal recruitment would also include the inducement, persuasion, encouragement or recruitment of an OFW to commit prostitution or any sexual or immoral act in exchange for money, airfare or any other favor or special treatment.

The government must also provide free legal assistance to OFWs for the filing and prosecution of cases in foreign courts against their abusers, the report said.

And to reduce the risk of distressed OFWs being exploited, the government must establish a time limit for their repatriation, starting from the date the worker expresses his or her desire to be repatriated under reasonable conditions to be provided by law. A first-in first-out rule must be observed, it added.

The Bahay Kalinga centers abroad should also sponsor regular seminars to inform OFWs about the process of government-sponsored repatriation so that they would not fall prey to blackmail, illegal exaction of fees and other illegal activities.

Another recommendation is for the DOLE and the DFA to see to it that all persons hired by Philippine government offices abroad undergo a very strict selection process to avoid the hiring of those who may commit offenses against Filipinos abroad. There should be an especially designed psychological examination and character background check.

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TAGS: Congress, Migrant Workers Act, migrants, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Sexual Exploitation
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