Wednesday, May 29, 2013


March 2013
For almost four decades, the Philippines has witnessed the migration of hundreds of thousands of women and men overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to take up work in other countries and onboard international ocean-going vessels. While there are economic benefits from overseas employment, there are attendant social costs such as the abuse, maltreatment, and discrimination of Filipino migrant workers, seafarers and fishers, the psycho-social impacts of the prolonged separation of family members as well as the social costs on the community and society.

In view of President Noynoy Aquino's commitment to decrease poverty by eradicating corruption and promoting good governance, we, the members of the Philippine Migrants’ Rights Watch (PMRW), call on the Aquino administration to define its policy and outline its programs to promote the protection and empowerment of the migrant workers, seafarers, fishers and members of their families. Towards this end, we strongly recommend to this Administration to consider the following areas for action:

Republic Act 10022, an act amending Republic Act 8042, affirms that: “…the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development.” However, overseas employment continues, with more than a million workers deployed annually. We deplore the government’s reliance on overseas employment as an approach to economic development. In this regard, we therefore urge the government to commit itself to the policy and plan of action for national development and to integrate migration concerns in the new Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), particularly pertaining to the generation of domestic employment, human resources development and a sustainable reintegration program for returning OFWs. If the government is indeed committed to veer away from overseas employment as a development strategy, we would like to see more concrete policies and steps toward more alternatives.

Consistent with this principle, we urge the new government to revoke Administrative Order 247 issued on December 4, 2008 which ordered “the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to execute a paradigm shift by refocusing its functions from regulation to full-blast markets development efforts, the exploration of frontiers and fertile job markets” for OFWs. AO247, which was in response to the global economic crisis, mirrors the State's continued dependence on labor migration despite its dire consequences to the migrants as the world goes through a deep financial and economic crisis, where migrants become scapegoats of receiving countries for their economic problems. Moreover, the AO runs counter to RA 9422, an amendatory law of RA8042, enacted in 2007 for the purpose of repealing Sections 29 and 30 and strengthening the regulatory powers of POEA.


Republic Act 8042 and its two amendatory laws RA 9422 (2007) and RA10022 (2010) are meant to “ the policies of overseas employment and establish a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress and for other purposes.” We urge the government to implement policies that would indeed establish a higher standard of protection and promote the empowerment of migrants and their families. Government regulation of the migrant industry is critical to protect migrant workers from abuse and exploitation. There is also a need to review the continued deployment of workers to countries which are high- and medium-risk areas, as well the continued deployment of workers in high-risk occupations. Moreover, the government should muster the political will to implement existing laws that will better protect OFWs before they leave, on-site and upon return for those who are returning in the country and reintegrating into the Philippine society.

Migrants’ remittances have saved our economy from further decline as our economy moved from one crisis to the next, and yet services and resources allotted for the migrant sector have not been very responsive to their needs. We therefore call on government to improve the delivery of programs and services and increase its budget and resource allocations for the migrant sector. The government should allocate resources for the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of OFWs on top of the OWWA funds which should be retained for the exclusive benefits of migrant workers, the seafarers and their families. Among areas in need of improved services and resources are prompt and thorough investigation of abuses against migrants, and assistance for abused and/or detained migrants abroad and victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking. In particular we call on the OWWA to stick to the law for the collection of contributions, to be more judicious in its use of funds and to be committed to address the needs of the OFWs and their families through an improvement of its education and training programs, seafarers’ upgrading program, credit/loaning program, self insurance coverage program, which includes life insurance, burial benefit and disability and dismemberment benefits, and reintegration program. Periodic performance and financial audits should be conducted, and the results shared to the public, to ensure that government personnel overseas and in the home offices in the country are performing their duties as public servants.


Republic Act 10022 Section 1h, recognizes “...non-governmental organizations, trade unions, workers associations, stakeholders and other similar entities duly recognized as legitimate partners of the State in the protection of Filipino migrant workers and in the promotion of their welfare... The State shall cooperate with them in a spirit of trust and mutual respect.” The implementation of this particular provision has been limited and selective. We urge the government to involve civil society and migrants themselves in developing, implementing and reviewing policies and programs related to the migrant sector. We encourage the government to be transparent and consult the stakeholders of any projects they have that will impact on the migrant workers, seafarers, fishers and their families. We urge this new government to institutionalise the Consultative Council on Overseas Filipino Workers (CCOFW) as the platform for dialogue and consultations between migrant rights groups and government. The new government should also ensure that migrants are duly represented in governance structures on labor migration such as the POEA Governing Board, OWWA Board of Directors, Philhealth Board and the like. Migrant representatives should be selected in a transparent and consultative manner. The law on Overseas Absentee Voting or Republic Act 9189 and its anticipated amendatory law under the 15th Congress should strengthen and improve the conditions for the political empowerment of Filipinos overseas and enable them to participate fully in the political and electoral exercises of the country.


In recognition of the contribution of overseas migrant women workers and their particular vulnerabilities, Republic Act 8042, Section 2d states that: “the State shall apply gender-sensitive criteria in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs affecting migrant workers, and the composition of bodies tasked for the welfare of migrants.” Thus far, the operationalization of this provision has been very limited. Considering that (a) women migrants comprise at least 50% of the annual deployment, (b) they are concentrated in vulnerable occupations (domestic work and entertainment), and (c) they present greater vulnerability to being trafficked, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of gender sensitivity in policies and programs concerning migrant workers. There should also be more conscious efforts to assign gender-sensitive personnel in Philippine embassies and consulates. We welcome RA9710 or the Magna Carta of Women which provides for the deployment of a Gender Focal Point Officer (GFPO), within 3 years, to destinations where there is a huge concentration of Filipino women migrants. We also welcome the Philippine government’s ratification of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and the passage of RA10361 or the Kasambahay Act of 2013 and look forward to significant improvement in the situation of migrant domestic workers. We also look forward to the results of the impact assessment conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on the Household Service Workers' Policy Reform Package.


The Philippines is the world’s manning capital, being the source of 20 percent of the world’s seafarers. Recently, the country has been included in the “White List” of the International Maritime Organization. However, some policies and practices have eroded and threaten to erode the protection of Filipino seafarers. The government must address policy decisions and measures which work against the general interests of Filipino seafarers - e.g., the new standard employment contract, the application of local wages to Filipino seafarers working for international-bound Filipino flagships, registration of seafarers, blacklisting and watch listing, protection of seafarers in case of abandonment or bankruptcy of principals, among others. While we recognize the need for seafarers to be globally competitive hence the need to continuously upgrade their skills, we ask this government to review the various training requirements, as they cost so much to the seafarers and also take them away from their families even if they are on vacation. The review should include the accreditation system for training agencies and institutions. At the same time, we welcome the Philippine ratification of the International Maritime Convention and look forward to the enactment of a magna carta for seafarers as its accompanying local legislation as soon as possible.


The Philippines has signed some 34 bilateral labor agreements and MOUs with 22 countries to date on employment, welfare and general labor cooperation; nevertheless, not all of them seem to pursue the interests of OFWs. The government should continue to pursue bilateral arrangements and MOUs with destination countries. Moreover, bilateral arrangements should also include the portability and enjoyment of social security benefits of migrant Filipinos. These diplomatic arrangements must ensure that Filipinos’ welfare and rights are protected and upheld. The government should continue its leadership role in the ASEAN in the crafting of an ASEAN legal instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrants in ASEAN and ensuring its adoption as soon as possible. It should continue to explore, engage and forge regional cooperation to promote and protect the OFWs and their families and to observe caution in pursuing trade agreements and cooperation.

Programs for OFWs should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of the families of migrant workers. Presently, policies and programs assume that migrants are the only ones who act in and are affected by overseas employment. As a State Party to the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, there should be more conscious attempts on the part of government to provide assistance and to enable programs in support of the families left behind.


Re-integration is the weakest area in the country’s overseas employment program. Although socio-economic re-integration policies and programs are in place, their reach and effectiveness have been limited. The government needs to address the challenges of re-integration considering that return migration is a given. There should be a facilitation of re-integration of returning OFWs by favorable terms of investment, tax incentives, access to government financial institutions and other benefits that are offered to foreign investors. Moreover, reintegration should have a holistic approach which considers the social, economic and psychological aspects. We welcome the establishment of the National Reintegration Center for Overseas Filipino Workers (NRCO) under RA10022 Section 17. The NRCO under DOLE “shall provide a mechanism for the migrants reintegration into the Philippine society, serve as a promotion house for their local employment and tap their skills and potential for national development.”

Related to the issue of reintegration are social security programs for migrants. OFWs contribute significantly to our economy while they are abroad, but they can not avail of assistance and benefits upon their return. The government should explore social security schemes, provident funds and pension plans that take into account the special needs and conditions of OFWs and their families.


We urge the Aquino administration to prioritize the following legislative measures:
a. Amendment on money claims of RA 10022, Section 7 paragraph 5 which states that “In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, or any unauthorized deduction from the migrant worker's salary, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee and the deductions made with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less,” in order to harmonize it with the Labor Code provision as affirmed by the Supreme Court decision on March 24, 2009 on the case of Antonio M. Serrano vs. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc and Marlow Navigation Co., Inc. (GR167614) which states that “...the subject clause “or for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less” in the 5th paragraph of section 10 of RA8042 is DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL;..”
b. Legislated Charter for OWWA to replace the Omnibus Policies
c. We also urge the Philippine government to ratify ILO Convention 181 (C181 Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997).
Finally, at the executive level, it would be in order to instruct the DOLE to conduct a review and assessment of the measures acted upon by the previous government in relation to the global financial crisis: AO 247 (we recommend its revocation); AO248 which created the Overseas Filipino Expatriates Livelihood Support Fund and the TESDA distribution of millions-worth of P5000 training vouchers from 2008-2009; we recommend a thorough financial audit of the funds allocated for AO248 and the TESDA vouchers. Per reports, availment of both programs was very low. There were also reports that some TESDA directors converted the vouchers into rice, etc.

PMRW Members at the MOA signing of the OLTCC

Fr. Graciano, Fr. Paul, Fr. Val and Ms. Edyza
Bong, Ellene, Fr. Graciano, Fr. Paul, and Fr. Val
at the Memorandum of Agreement signing for the
Overseas Landbased Tripartite Consultative Council
last May 10, 2013, POEA.


Thursday, May 23, 2013




PMRW Group Foto

Philippine Migrants Rights Watch

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch is a registered civil society network that was established in 1995 to encourage the recognition, protection and fulfillment of Filipino migrants’ rights - both in the Philippines and abroad during the entire migration process. The objectives of PMRW are the following:
To carry out education, lobbying, and monitoring activities toward the recognition, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of all Filipino migrants and members of their families before departure, during migration, and upon return.
To monitor respect for and expose abuses of Filipino migrants’ rights toward the pursuit of justice.
To disseminate information among migrant workers and their associations, and in dialogue with them.
Visit us 
Official site -
Facebook page - 
Twitter account -

PMRW 2013 Assessment and Planning

PMRW Meeting

by Carmelita Nuqui, DAWN

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) held its annual assessment and planning last March 11-13, 2013 at the Voyager Hotel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  The hotel is owned and managed by a former seafarer.  

In attendance were PMRW regular members namely Fr. Edwin Corros of CBCP-ECMI, Dyz Pumarada of SLA, Fr. Graziano Battistella and Fr. Valentin  Mendoza of SMC, Ellene Sana of CMA, Sr. Angie Balmes of SCPM, Leonardo  of the AOS-Manila and   Mel Nuqui of DAWN.  Unfortunately, Jigger Latoza of the Rada Human Rights Bureau of the University of San Agustin, Iloilo City failed to join the meeting since he got sick.

On the first day, a discussion of the PMRW 2012 year-end report was made highlighting on the organization’s accomplishments as a network that promotes the rights and welfare of migrants and members of their families. The PMRW 2012 Financial Report was also tackled.

In a report presented by Mel Nuqui, PMRW president, the year 2012 is considered a very productive year for the organization. Various fora were held on issues concerning migrants such as Anti-Violence Against Women and Children, Social Security Protection of OFWs, Protecting the Rights and Welfare of Filipino Domestic Workers and Strengthening Partnerships between Overseas Filipinos and LGUs Towards Sustainable Development of Communities.  A Forum on Reintegration and Development: Partnership and Challenges was even held separately both in the cities of Cebu and Quezon City.

Part of its government-civil society collaboration, the PMRW continued to actively engage government in dialogues and consultations. Members of the PMRW were invited to Congressional and Senate hearings as resource persons to shed light on issues related to migration and overseas Filipinos. 

The organization also lobbied for the ratification at the Senate of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers on August 26, 2012 and the Maritime Convention of 2006 in September 2012 and the passage of the amendments of the Anti-Trafficking Law and the Overseas Voting Law.

Aside from the quarterly newsletter, “The Migrant Watch,”   PMRW also continues to maintain, update and publicize on its website,  up-to-date information about its activities and advocacies.  With the importance of having an online social media presence PMRW now have its own facebook page that was created last April 2012. The link can be found here -
Ten posters with various migration themes were printed as part of PMRW’s advocacy campaign to further promote and protect the rights of migrant workers.  The posters were launched during the PMRW Poster Session at the 5th World Social Forum on Migration held at Miriam College last November 2012.  Copies of posters were distributed to the participants.

On its December 18 forum, PMRW launched the fourth edition of the book entitled, “Migrants’ Stories, Migrants’ Voices.  Ten stories written by migrants and members of their families were featured in the book.  Some copies of the book were distributed to the writers, those who attended the forum and other friends.  The stories are also available online at the portal.

Two associate members joined the PMRW in 2012: 1) Migrant Workers Concern Desk, Taiwan and the Scalabrini International Migration Institute (SIMI), Italy.
In 2013, PMRW will continue its campaign of promoting and protecting the rights of migrants and members of their families. Its ten-point agenda for the protection and empowerment of the Filipino migrant workers, seafarers, fishers and members of their families were discussed and finalized as follows:
  1. Upholding the state’s policy of not pursuing overseas employment as a development strategy as affirmed by Republic Act 10022, an act amending R.A 8042
  2. Prioritizing  the protection of overseas Filipino workers and their families
  3. Improving/enhancing government’s services and resources for OFWs and their families
  4. Participation of the migrant sector and civil society in governance
  5. Implementation of gender-sensitive programs and approaches
  6. More attention to issues affecting Filipino seafarers
  7. Pursuit of Bilateral Agreements and MOUs that guarantee strong protective measures for Filipino migrants and their families
  8. Providing interventions for the welfare of migrants’ families
  9. Strengthening Re-integration programs for returning migrants
  10. Certification of priority bills and ratification of International Conventions in the interest of overseas workers and migrants
Meanwhile, the group agreed that all officers will maintain their current positions for 2013 as follows: 

President            : Carmelita G. Nuqui (DAWN)                                                                                                
Vice-Pres.           : Fr. Edwin D. Corros (CBCP-ECMI)                                                                              
Secretary            : Ellene A. Sana  (CMA)                                                                                           

Treasurer            : Fr. Graziano Battistella (SMC)

Inspite of the busy schedule of the PMRW’s annual assessment-planning, members took the opportunity to find time to relax and admire the Underground River in Sabang, Puerto Princesa, and had an encounter with the fireflies along the Iwahig river.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Amendments to the Overseas Voting Law

By the Center for Migrant Advocacy
Ellene A. Sana

The first amendments to Republic Act 9189, otherwise known as Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act of 2003, were adopted by the 15th Congress of the Philippines. It was a much celebrated achievement for overseas Filipinos and migrant advocates alike. After 10 years since the law's passage, improvements have been adopted to allow overseas Filipinos to more easily engage in the country's political processes while abroad. With nearly 11 million overseas Filipinos (OFs) remitting an estimated US$20 billion plus annually, this underrepresented voting population deserves to be heard and valued in the shaping of the country's socio-cultural, economic and political affairs. 

The amendments are beneficial as they remove some of the obstacles which had been keeping OFs from registering and/or voting. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) revealed that only 26% of OAV registrants voted in 2010. The number of registrants has increased for the forthcoming national elections in May 2013 and a significant boost in voter turnout is anticipated for the 2016 presidential elections at which time the provisions of the act will have been fully implemented.

Perhaps the most salient of amendments contained in the bill is the removal of Section 5d, which disqualifies Filipino immigrants and permanent residents from the exercise of suffrage through RA9189; unless they execute an affidavit declaring intent to return and resume physical actual residency in the Philippines no later than 3 years from the time of his or her approval of OAV registration. This provision had been among the most scrutinized and its removal is expected to greatly improve OFWs access to suffrage.

Other notable amendments include the creation of Resident Election Registration Boards (RERB) in Manila and various other foreign posts to process, approve and disapprove all applications of registration including cancellation, activation and deactivation. It also institutionalizes the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) OAV Secretariat and allows for the creation of a more stable Office for Overseas Voting in the COMELEC to replace the current Committee on OAV (COAV) in the COMELEC.

Lastly, the removal of the word 'absentee' from the Act's title, renaming the short title as “Overseas Voting Act” of 2013 creates a broader inclusion of those who qualify to vote under the law. Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and Peoples Participation, attests that "the amended OAV removes the documentary requirements that keep our citizens at arm's length from the ballot box, and seeks to create a more permanent mechanism to promote a more efficient and effective electoral process for Filipinos abroad."

It is noteworthy to share that there is also a proposal to authorize the COMELEC “to explore and adopt other more efficient, reliable and secure modes or systems, ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the entire process, whether paper-based or electronic-based technology or such other latest technology available, for onsite and remote registration and elections.” The proposal was put forward in consideration of the peculiarities attendant to the OV processes for voters who are spread out in more than 214 countries and destinations around the globe. Added to this is the fact that there is also a significant number – among women migrants, undocumented migrants, and seafarers, in particular– who may have limited mobility and access to voting due to their job categories or immigration status.

The other context of course is the fact that we only have less than a hundred embassies and consulates that can serve as voting centers for overseas Filipinos. For the moment, however, Congress approved only the part where the COMELEC can explore and submit reports and recommendations, but not to have the authority to adopt. Notwithstanding deferment on this, the challenge remains for stakeholders to continue exploring effective stable systems for broader enfranchisement. 
The bill is expected to be transmitted soon to the Office of the President for his signature once all the required signatures in both chambers of Congress shall have been completed .

In the meantime, preparations are almost completed for the start of the month-long mid-term national elections where qualified overseas voters will vote for 12 Senators and one (1) Party-list Representative one month ahead of voting in the Philippines.

In terms of qualified overseas voters, the number of new registrants reached 398,554, which exceeded all prior new registration numbers. Combined with the list of existing voters, a total of 988,384 registered OVs for this voting period. Although shy of the one million target set by the DFA and the COMELEC, Senator Pimentel expressed confidence that once the amended OAV is enacted, the one million mark goal will be far exceeded.

In January of this year, the COMELEC ordered the removal of 238,557 OVs who failed to vote in the past two elections and who failed to notify COMELEC of their intent to vote for this year's elections. Upon calls from migrant advocates and voiced disapproval from the OF community of such action, the COMELEC en banc reinstated their rights to suffrage for the upcoming elections. The reinstated voters, however, must be able to show a manifestation of their intent to vote by appearing at their designated voting stations within the voting period.

Modes of voting will also be expanded this elections. The automated election system (AES) is expanded to seven posts, from the current two, in the 2010 elections. To join Hong Kong and Singapore with AES mode of voting are the posts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Postal and modified postal as well as personal voting will also be implemented in the rest of the posts around the globe. As in previous electoral exercises, seafarers may vote at any posts conducting personal voting or by postal voting in places where international ports are duly identified as such by the DFA-OAVS.

The amendments adopted by Congress are big steps forward in terms of improving the legal mechanism for the exercise of suffrage by overseas Filipinos. The increase in registration is also a notable positive step forward. However, a lot remains to be done as overseas Filipinos continue to assert their right to participate in the country's political and electoral exercises and be part of the shaping of the country's future.

1 Last 1 April 2013, the Senate transmitted the amendatory bill to the House of Representatives for the last required signature of the Speaker of the House. Then it is ready for transmittal to the Office of the President.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CCOFW paves way for OLTCC creation

grp foto

What used to be the Consultative Council on Overseas Filipino Workers (CCOFW) that went through series of meetings or consultations is now shelved to give way to the creation of Overseas Landbased Tripartite Consultative Council (OLTCC).

In a ceremony attended by leaders in the recruitment business, government and labor sector composed of various migrant rights NGO advocates led by member organizations of the Philip-pine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), the memorandum of agreement on the OLTCC was signed last 10 May 2013 at the PST Hall, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), in Mandaluyong City. The signing was witnessed by Sec. Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Admin. Hans Cacdac of POEA and other government officials.

The OLTCC will serve as a forum through which labor, management and government can work together to address issues and concerns involving landbased OFWs. It will act as an advi-sory body to the Secretary of DOLE in terms of policies and programs affecting labor and em-ployment in the overseas employment sector. It was stressed that the council shall at all times endeavor to arrive at a consensus on matters brought to it for consideration, deliberation and /or resolution and will not decide on a basis of a majority rule. Moreover, the function of the OLTCC includes: consultation with the concerned stakeholders on issues and concerns involving OFWs; address priority issues and concerns and recommend solutions or measures on labor and em-ployment concerns through social dialogue and other initiatives; review existing laws and regula-tions and propose measures and policy actions; and monitor and evaluate the implementation of international, regional and national programs, plans and projects.

PMRW member organizations such as the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People – Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (ECMI-CBCP), Scalabrini Migration Center (SMC), Scalabrini Lay Association (SLA), Scalabrini Center for People on the Move (SCPM) have been actively engaged in the past with the CCOFW.