Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang


Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan went to Malacañang hoping to receive assistance from the government. Instead, they were used for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s photo gimmicks, and went home empty handed.

BY ANGIE DE LARA AND RONALYN OLEA
MIGRANT WATCH
Bulatlat

On December 5, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration official Carmelita Dimson accompanied overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were laid off in Taiwan to Malacañang. They were hopeful that President Arroyo would give them financial assistance and would order the proper agencies to act on their case. But they were terribly disappointed.

In a press conference, Dec. 11, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs related, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President [Gloria] Arroyo herself handed checks to four of our representatives.”

De Borja said that the checks worth P50,000 ($1,055.408 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.375) were turned over to the Technological Resource Center after the ceremony. The OFWs were told that the funds were for a livelihood program that the OFWs still have to apply for.

De Borja said, “We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word…”

De Borja, 30, is from Angono, Rizal. Her contract is supposedly for two years but she was laid off after eight months of work due to the crisis.

De Borja said that their creditors have been running after them after seeing on television that Mrs. Arroyo handed to them P50,000 ($1,055) worth of checks. She said that each of them owe P85,000 to P120,000 ($1,794 to $2,532) and the amount increases due to the interest.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘assistance package’ given to the OFWs actually contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “Dismayado kami sa naabutan namin sa OWWA lalo na sa Malacañang. Ang ine-expect po namin ay immediate action na ibibigay nila sa amin at hindi itong laman ng bayong na puro certificate, kasi pag- uwi po namin sa pamilya namin, hindi po ito magta-transform into cold cash para ipambili namin ng pagkain para sa pamilya namin.” (We are dismayed at what happened to us at the OWWA and especially at Malacañang. What we were expecting is immediate action to help us and not this bag, which is full of certificates. Because when we go home to our families, these could not be converted into cash to buy food for our families.)


Assistance package’ inside “Bayong” given by Press. Arroyo at Malacañang during the visit of Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

Ruiz added, “Tinatawag nila kami na bagong bayani, ang katumbas na lang pala ng bagong bayani ay isang bayong ng mga papel.” (They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of paper.)

Ruiz, 23, was an employee of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan. She is the breadwinner of the family.

A mother of another retrenched OFW who is sill in Taiwan, Annie Redelicia, 52, said that her daughter Reggie left for Taiwan on October 6 this year and lost her job as an electronics worker on November 20.

Annie said the company has ceased supplying food to her daughter since November 30. She said she does not know if her daughter has something to eat.

Annie also said that the P80,000 ($1,688) debt they had incurred from the agency continues to gain interest. By November, the money they owe has increased to P100,000 ($2,110) because of the interest. “Baka po idemanda na kami ng agency e wala po talaga kaming ibabayad sa kanila, kasi kakaalis lang po ng anak ko tapos nawalan na kaagad ng trabaho,” (The agency might sue as because we really do not have money to pay them. My daughter has just left and she is already out of work.) she said.

Elvira Dungca, 25, another OFW from Taiwan, said they were offered a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. The company would just call them if their services are needed. She said, “Paano kami habang walang trabaho? Paano kami mabubuhay sa araw-araw?” (How would we survive while we are out of work? How would we survive each day?)

POEA response

After the December 11 press conference, the laid off OFWs, along with some Migrante International officials, went to the POEA and sought a dialogue with POEA officials.

Lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication, talked with the OFWs.

The OFWs told Cacdac their predicament.

Ruiz said that that she was made to pay P85,000 ($1,794) as placement fee to the recruitment agency but the amount written in the receipt was only P25,000 ($527).

Cacdac said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,160) for placement fee.

Ruiz said that some OFWs owed a balance of P7,500 ($158) for their placement fee. When they arrived in Taiwan, the amount was converted to 7,500 NT or P10,771.69 ($227).

She related that when the retrenched OFWs insisted that the company pays the remaining amount stipulated in the contract, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) replied that they just have to follow their employer and abide by the law in Taiwan.

Borja said MECO told them that the government will talk with the lending agencies. When she arrived home, Borja asked OWWA about the matter and the OWWA referred her to the POEA.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, former chairperson of Migrante who also joined the dialogue asked the POEA to punish the agencies collecting more than P55,000 (($1,160) as placement fee.

Regalado also said that the contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for the ticket in case of retrenchment or repatriation. The retrenched OFWs said their employer only gave them P1,500 NT; the air ticket costs 5,500 NT.

Regalado said the employer should also pay the whole amount of the contract.

Nimfa D. de Guzman, officer in charge of the POEA Welfare and Employment Office said they could only offer to facilitate conciliation meetings between the recruitment agencies and the OFWs. She said the POEA will act as mediator.

Cacdac said the POEA could give the OFWs referral letters for possible employment in other countries. The OFWs retorted they would be referred to the same recruitment agencies they have been complaining about.

Cacdac said recruitment agencies that collect beyond the maximum amount allowed for placement fee could face cancellation of licenses.

Demands

De Borja said, “Ang hinihingi lang naman po naming ay ibigay yung rights naming mga OFWs.” (What are we are asking for is for them to give us what is due to us.)

She said the projects offered by the Arroyo government could not provide an immediate solution to their problems.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said the retrenched OFWs need a financial assistance package.

Martinez said, “Sabi ng gobyerno may inilabas na silang P250 million para sa mga na walan ng trabajong OFWs, saan yon napunta?” (The government said they have released P250 million [$5,277,044] for OFWs who would lose their jobs, where did the amount go?)

Martinez said some of the retrenched OFWs have been charged with estafa by lending agencies.


Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan ripped the papers that the government gave them as ‘assistance package’. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

He said that the December 5 incident in Malacañang only shows that the Arroyo government is not ready and not serious in dealing with the crisis. He criticized Malacañang for deceiving the OFWs amid the crisis.

Martinez said the OFWs are demanding for a reimbursement of their plane tickets, financial assistance, payment of the remaining amount of the contract, and the release of the P10 million OWWA ($211,081) funds to help the OFWs.

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One Response to “Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang”

  1. POEA Accredited Agencies Says:

    When OFWs make up most of the GNP. the president is proud of them but when these poor folks loose their job, they get promises instead of help. What’s this all about? Am I missing something here or is it the government that is missing?

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