‘Major, major blunder’: OFWs shouldn’t suffer from police, gov’t lapses in hostage tragedy

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez today said that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong should not be made to bear the brunt for police and government incompetence in yesterday’s Manila hostage tragedy.

“We express our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Alam po namin kung gaano kasakit ang maranasang sinusundo ang isang mahal sa buhay na nakakahon at isang malamig na bangkay na,” Martinez said.

The migrant leader said that they, together with members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong, are in unity with calls of the Hong Kong government and nationals demanding justice for the victims and accountability for lapses of the Manila police and the Philippine government.

“Heads must roll for the deaths and measures should be urgently enacted to heal strained diplomatic relations. For our OFWs, what happened was a ‘major, major blunder’ of the Aquino administration. Our OFWs in Hong Kong and elsewhere should not be in any way obliged to defend what was clearly an unorganized and incompetent handling of the hostage crisis,” Martinez said.

He also called on the Philippine government to “ensure at all costs that the rights and welfare of our OFWs in Hong Kong are not jeopardized.”

Hindi dapat pagbayaran ng ating mga OFWs ang kapalpakan ng gobyerno sa naganap na trahedya. We demand to hear concrete measures by the Philippine government and the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong to prevent untoward incidents from happening to our kababayans. Mangyayari lamang ito kung maagap na mapapanagot ang mga nagkulang.”

Martinez also appealed to the Filipino community in Hong Kong to stay calm and be vigilant.

So far, the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong has reported at least one (1) OFW whose contract was pre-maturely terminated by an employer as a result of the tragedy. He said that he fears that tension and emotions would be more intense once the bodies of the victims arrive in Hong Kong later today.

There are more than 150,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong, most of them domestic workers. ###

OFWs to troop to POEA vs. ‘bawal na Pag-Ibig’; Mandatory contribution legalizes ‘kotong’ from OFWs

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez today said that mandatory Pag-Ibig contribution from overseas Filipino workers is another form of “legalized kotong.

Wala talagang natutuwa sa bawal na Pag-Ibig, lalo na ang ating mga OFW na lagi na lang nakokotongan ng gobyerno.  This added burden is unfair, unreasonable and we question its real intent,” Martinez said.

The POEA recently released Memorandum Circular 06-2010 (MC06-2010) compelling OFWs to pay, upon registration and deployment, an initial membership contribution of P600 for six months as a pre-requisite for the issuance of their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

Martinez announced their plans to hold a picket protest at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) main office next week.

MC06-2010 was effective last August 1 as a result of Republic Act 9679, or the Home Development Mutual Fund Law of 2009, placing informal sectors under mandatory coverage of the Pag-Ibig fund.

Employer, not OFW, should pay

Sec.2 Declaration of Policy of RA9679 clearly states that the fund should come from “mandatory contribution support of the employers.” Furthermore, it states that “failure or refusal of the employer to pay or remit….shall not prejudice the right of the covered employee to the benefits.”

Martinez said, however, that the law “became muddled and misleading” in the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of RA9679.

He cited Rule V, Fund Coverage and Membership, Sec. 1, d. stating that while “coverage under the Fund shall be mandatory for Filipinos employed by foreign-based employees whether deployed here or abroad, or a combination thereof,” their foreign-based employers “shall not be subject to mandatory coverage.”

“These irregularities once again entail the virtual passing on of fees meant for employers to OFWs. Despite what is clearly stated in law, the government unfortunately has no sound-proof mechanism to ensure that employers would pay their share. Saka maaasahan ba natin ang mga employer na magbayad para sa mga OFW kung minsan nga pati sahod hindi nila maibigay?” Martinez said.

“How is this different from the $25 contributions to OWWA which was originally charged to employers but is now another mandatory imposition on OFWs?”

Martinez also said that OFWs are being forced to pay when they are not even ensured of the housing benefits. He cited Sec. 11 of the RA stating that only members who have the “ability to pay” will be granted housing loans.

“How will the Fund’s Boart of Trustees determine if OFWs have the ability to pay? Hindi naman pala lahat ng nagbabayad ay makakakamit ng pabahay. Paano kung isa kang OFW na mababa lang ang sahod, o di kaya’y contractual lang at hindi aabot ang paghuhulog sa required maturity period for loans? Nagbabayad ka lang pala para sa wala. Kotong lang talaga ito,” Martinez said.

Not only OFWs

Lastly, Martinez said that there is a need to forge the broadest unity not only among OFWs but other sectors as well because RA9679 is “a blanket measure that would affect even private employees, the self-employed, informal sector such as cigarette vendors, household helps and the like, and even full-time housewives.

Mandatory na ito para sa lahat. Isa itong malaking kalokohan. Hindi ito makatwiran at lalong dagdag-pahirap sa mamamayan, especially the marginalized sectors,” Martinez said.

He called on the Aquino administration to stop the imposition of RA9679. “If the president has the interests and welfare of OFWs at heart, he should first conduct consultations with OFWs before imposing more questionable and onerous fees. Tanungin niya muna ang mga OFW kung ano ang totoong gusto namin at kung ano ang dagdag-pahirap para sa amin.

Martinez also said that they plan to seek a dialogue with vice president and housing head Jejomar Binay “to bring to his attention OFWs’ vehement opposition to the mandatory imposition.” ###