OFWs ask SC to stop mandatory SSS contributions for them
MANILA, Philippines — Some Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to nullify the provision in the Social Security Act of 2018 (Republic Act No. 11199) that makes it mandatory for them to give contributions to the Social Security System (SSS).
In a 36-page petition, nine OFWs — led by Feliza Benitez, who chairs the Filipino Migrant Workers Union; Migrante International; and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares — urged the high court to issue a restraining order against the implementation of the provision while the case is pending.
Under the law, land-based OFWs are classified as “self-employed workers” and are therefore mandated to shell out the monthly SSS contribution.
Petitioners say the law is unconstitutional because of its discriminatory nature.
“Land-based OFWs are being required to be compulsory members to the SSS with the status of a self-employed person paying both the employee and employer shares,” the petitioners said.
Under the law, without a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the host country, land-based OFWs classified as self-employed will be required to pay both the employer and the employee contribution of to P 2,400 a month, while sea-based OFWs have to pay up to P 800 a month. For seafarers, it is the local manning agency that is regarded as the employer.
Even with a bilateral agreement, petitioners said, there would be no guarantee that the employers outside Philippine jurisdiction could be compelled to shell out for the SSS contribution of their employees.
They also called the implementing rules and regulations “oppressive” and a violation of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act because, instead of exempting OFWs from paying additional fees, the new law provides additional financial burden to OFWs.
“This is especially oppressive to simple and struggling OFWs who usually had to borrow money and be already buried in debt in order to pay for the many requirements for OFW employment even prior to commencing employment abroad,” the petitioners added.
Named respondents in the petition are the SSS, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
According to the SSS, less than 600,000 of the three million OFWs are currently registered as SSS members.
Malacañang previously said the Social Security Act would give compulsory SSS coverage to land and sea-based OFWs. With this, it is expected that the number of OFWs covered by SSS would increase to around 2.5 million.
It will also give the SSS Commission more authority to decide on the monthly contribution of members, allowing the Commission to increase it after an actuarial survey.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Social Security Act last February.
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