QUEZON CITY — House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) wants to amend Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the Migrants Act of 1995 that is the government benchmark for the protection of our overseas Filipino workers.
“Our OFWs keep our national economy afloat. Filipino migrant workers and immigrants have consistently sent remittances to the homeland that reached US$14.45 billion in 2007, with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) forecasting yearend remittances to hit more than US$16 billion for 2008. I find it only fair that government reciprocate these contributions in many ways such as immediately expanding the legal assistance it extends to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, in distressful situations abroad,” Ocampo said.
The militant solon filed House Bill 5657 (An Act Expanding Government Legal Services to Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 8042 or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995”) to expand the scope and upgrade the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) program to provide full legal assistance to our migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in distress.
“Republic Act 8042 was enacted to protect and promote the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress. But more than a decade after its passage into law, R.A. 8042 urgently needs major improvements if it even were to uplift the 10 million Filipinos working and/or residing overseas,” Ocampo said.
House Bill 5657 also aims to establish a Legal Attaché Office in each country in the Middle East region under the direct supervision of the DFA. The office will be in charge of providing full and appropriate legal assistance to migrant workers and migrants in distress in the respective areas of responsibility of the post.
“The current law is riddled with loopholes that need to be plugged. Our bill aims to streamline and expand legal services to cover all documented and undocumented OFWs in distress facing any type of case on-site and in the pursuit of civil, administrative, criminal, labor and welfare cases against foreign and local recruitment principals and responsible government officials among others,” Ocampo said.
The OFW group Migrante International reports that more than 5,000 overseas Filipinos are languishing in jails worldwide while the DFA cites the particularly distressing situation of Filipinos incarcerated in the Middle East owing to their lack of access to Shariah lawyers among many other specific legal concerns. # Vincent Michael L. Borneo