The 4th and last AJG Advocacy Forum for 2006
Shared by: bigmekahlo
The 4th AJG Advocacy Forum for 2006: A Round Table Discussion on Social and Legal Remedies to Address the Needs of Families Abandoned by OFWs was held successfully last Friday, December 15, 2006 at the University Hotel, UP, Diliman, Quezon City. For this last forum for the year, the AJG Advocacy focused on the impact of migration on the families, women and children left behind. The RTD provided a better understanding of the issue of family abandonment vis a vis labor migration; familiarised with approaches to family abandonment as well as the mandates of various government migration-related agencies; identified the gaps in existing laws, policies and practices vis OFW family abandonment and financial support as well as the challenges and recommendations. We had two resource persons to start off the discussions. Attty. Farah G. Decano, Chairperson, Committee on Children, Women and Family Relations, Sangguniang Panlunsod, Dagupan City Atty. Henry S. Rojas, CMA Legal Counsel and Founding Member, Lawyers’ League for Liberty (Libertas)—an association of young lawyers committed to judicial and social reforms Here is our initial report: Atty. Decano, who traveled all the way from Dagupan City to join us, enumerated the relevant laws on family relations, particularly RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, RA8972 or the Solo Parent Act and the Family Code. She also elaborated on the various programs of OWWA that benefit the migrant families. She also mentioned Article 22 of the Labor Code which refers to mandatory remittance. The latter came as a surprise to us, migrant NGOs because we were not aware of this provision in the Labor Code. What we know about was EO 857, as elaborated by Atty. Henry Rojas later on. This EO made it mandatory to remit 50-70% of the OFW earnings. Failure to comply had corresponding stiff penalties including suspension or exclusion from eligibility for overseas employment. The EO was protested against by migrant workers as this was considered a violation of the right of the migrants to dispose of his/her wages. The penalty provision was subsequently removed by EO 935. Article 22 of the Labor Code is still in force but is not complied with by land-based workers as there is no clear mechanism for its implementation. Sea-based workers though seem to observe this provision. Atty. Decano posed the following challenges: How do we acquire jurisdiction over the person of the OFW? How do we enforce the decision of the court? How do we avail legal benefits provided by various laws? If abandoned family cannot afford to file a case, what extra-legal remedies may be employed? Atty. Rojas on the other articulated the following issues and the corresponding recommendations: Almost impossibility of execution of Philippine court judgments abroad/ Policy Recommendation: Study the possibility of including in bilateral agreements the establishment of mechanisms for the enforcement of court judgment or mechanism to implement provision of support to the families left behind; Limitations on access to justice by the families of migrant workers i.e. filing fees and cost of litigation; availability of legal assistance (Public Attorneys' Office) Policy recommendation: Study the feasibility of extending legal assistance to the families of migrant workers and exemption from court fees; legal assistance to those Filipino women abandoned by their foreign spouses Limitations with respect to the procedural aspect of judicial proceedings, i.e. acquisition of jurisdiction and satisfaction of the requirements of due process; enforcement abroad of the judgment of Philippine courts. Policy Recommendation: Study the feasibility of government assistance in this respect Additional Policy Recommendations: More Study of administrative support mechanism for non-judicial mechanisms; expand conciliation and mediation processes; Strengthen socio-cultural values; Responding to the inputs, challenges and recommendations from the two resources persons, were the following members of the RTD: From the Executive: Mr. Mar Dumia, OUMWA Executive Director – who introduced OUMWA's mandate and programs DSWD –they just did a study on the social cost of migration in Region 1; came up with a protection and prevention module to be pilot tested at the barangay levels. Observation: Social cost of migration particularly on the impact on the families left behind is an urgent issue. Yet there is no inter-governmental agency group that addresses the issue Bureau of Immigration (BI) – The Department of Justice Secretary issues the watch list order, subject to the existence of a complaint filed in court. Observation: Focal persons should be identified in various government agencies to address this issue National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) – extra-legal remedies would include counseling From the Legislative: Akbayan Rep. Mayong Aguja – recommended the following: Establishment of a One-stop center for abandoned families—not necessarily physical center but with a clear inter-agency referral system Deployment of more social workers in the post/ abroad Involvement of Local government units Harmonization of the budget to reflect the One-Country-Team Approach policy House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, Secretary – to conduct public hearing on non-implementation of the Article 22 of the Labor Code From Migrant NGOs and Families: Kanlungan – filing of case is tedious and expensive; must be the last resort Mike Bolos, CMA –cited some practical concerns in regard to implementation of Article 22 – particularly for domestic workers who receive low wages, more often than not, at irregular intervals, vis high bank charges for remittances Unlad Kabayan –urged government agencies to be pro-active in addressing the problems migrant workers and their families; Migrant Families – shared their concrete problems – missing/ cannot be located OFW husbands/ existence of more than one (1) allottee CMA and FES organized the 4th AJG Advocacy Forum.