Protest rally vs ban on direct  hiring:

Ban on direct hiring serves recruiters and gov't, not migrants


Hong Kong


February 10, 2009



"Overcharging of recruitment fees and the lack of government portection and services are the widespread and serious probvlems we are facing, not direct hiring. Direct hiring is in fact the only recourse we have to get saved from overcharging of greedy recruiters."

---- Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)

     and convenor of the SKRAP the Ban coalition


Photos courtesy of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)


Press Release
08 February 2009
For reference: Dolores Balladares
Chairperson, Tel. No.: (852) 97472986

Ban on direct hiring serves recruiters and gov't, not migrants
OFWs in HK submit 11T signs to scrap order

It is never for our protection. The only interest that the ban on direct hiring is serving is that of the government and unscrupulous recruiters - not us, migrant workers.

This was declared by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) and convenor of the SKRAP the Ban coalition, as about 1,000 OFWs trooped to the grounds of the Philippine Consulate General to submit a petition signed by more than 11,000 OFWs that calls for the scrapping of the order.

"Overcharging of recruitment fees and the lack of government portection and services are the widespread and serious probvlems we are facing, not direct hiring. Direct hiring is in fact the only recourse we have to get saved from overcharging of greedy recruiters," she said.

Balladres-Pelaez reported that in a survey of the HK-based NGO Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW), about 74% of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong were employed through recruitment agencies. Of this percentage, 54% of them paid P60,000 to more than P100,000 as agency fees.

She said that it must be noted that placement fees are supposed to have been abolished by the recruitment guidelines of the POEA issued in 2007. However, she said, recruiters continue to collect huge amount of fees now guised as training charges.

"What the guidelines did was worsen the problem as it removed any legal limitation to what recruiters can charge to migrants. Up to now, no effective actions have been done to stamp up overcharging," she remarked.

In relation to this, Balladares-Pelaez also scored the "conciliation" process that the PCG-HK uses to resolve disputes on overcharging. She said that such moves only encourage unscrupulous recruiters to keep on with their modus operandi for they know that they can get off easily if complaints are lodged by the migrants.

The migrant leader also stressed that such a situation is also happening in other countries. She reported that placement fees for Taiwan-bound OFWs are from P80,000 P140,000 paid in cash or through salary deductions. In the Middle East placement agencies do not care about the plight of domestic workers and even force a number of them to work with other employers with no or little pay until their loans are paid.

"Protection will never come from recruiters who are only concerned with how much profit they can get from us. Ban on direct hiring is just the government's way to pass on its responsibility of providing assistance to the OFWs to the recruitment agencies. Ironically said agencies are now batting for a compulsory employment liability insurance in Congress so that they can be relieved of the burden of money claims or damages sought by workers," she explained.

Balladares-Pelaez believed that the ban on direct hiring is an incentive that the government is providing to recruiters in line with its agenda of intensifying the export of Filipinos abroad. She said that such move is reflected in the Administrative Order 247 issued by the government that directed recruiters to be more aggressive in exploring labor markets.

"The ban is not the answer to our problems. In these times of crisis, what we need are concrete protection and services and not license for recruiters to overcharge nor a more intensifies labor export," she concluded.#

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Press Release
03 February 2009
For reference: Dolores Balladares-Pelaez
Chairperson, Tel. No.: 97472986

HK OFWs gear to rally vs ban on direct hiring
In two Sundays, 6T sign petition to scrap rule

Instead of answering our need for sufficient services and genuine protection, the Philippine government chose to resurrect the ban on direct hiring that forcibly feed us to unscrupulous recruiters.

This was declared today by Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) as Filipino migrant organizations gear for a major protest action this Sunday, February 8, against the memorandum from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that banned direct hiring of household service workers.

The group will also present a petition signed by more than 6,000 OFWs calling for the scrapping of the said ban.

According to her, the ban on direct hiring has been repeatedly attempted by the government through the POEA MC 41 in 1994 and the POEA MC 04 in 2008. However, due to the widespread protests it generated, POEA MC 41 was scrapped through DOLE Order No. 11 in 2001 while POEA MC 04 was not implemented at all.

"We said it before and we say it again: ban on direct hiring is never for our protection as it puts us in an even more vulnerable position to get exploited and overcharged by recruiters. They government doesn't do anything to finally stamp out overcharging and now they have the gall to throw us to the wolves," she added.

In 2007, the POEA issued the Guidelines on Hiring HSW's that stipulated the removal of placement fees. However, she said, instead of reducing the expenses of OFWs, the rule is now being used by recruiters to collect even more money now masked as "training fee".

Balladares-Pelaez reported that, previous to the guidelines, Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong who go through recruitment agencies are charged up to P100,000 as placement fee. The previously legal limit was approximately P20,000 or the equivalence of a one-month salary.

"Direct hiring is the way for us not to get victimized by overcharging. What is more condemnable is, like his predecessors, DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque continues to deceive us by saying that the ban is for our protection," she remarked.

Additionally, Balladares-Pelaez argued that with the ban, the Philippine government is transferring its responsibility of protection and services to OFWs to the private recruiters while continuing to also profit much from the migration process.

Balladares-Pelaez said that Secretary Roque is muddling the issue by insisting that only a small number of OFWs go through the direct hiring process. She added that Labor Attache in HK Romulo Salud is also employing squid tactics by differentiating name hiring from direct hiring which, she said, are essentially the same.

"Still the major issue is if the ban will serve the interest of OFWs. Obviously it will not and will even worsen our condition," she asserted.

The Sunday rally will be lead by the coalition SKRAP the Ban formed after a meeting of 200 leaders from 75 organizations last January 18.

"This new ban on direct hiring will face the same wrath of OFWs. This policy has only shown that what this useless government of GMA can only offer to OFWs in times of crisis are more hardships, neglect and irresponsibility," she concluded.#

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A Petition/Signature Campaign to protect and secure
the P1-B Expatriate Livelihood Fund)

We, the overseas Filipino workers and our families, do hereby urge our Filipino compatriots around the world to support our call and initiative to protect and secure the now P1-Billion Expatriate Livelihood Support fund, which amount was taken from OWWA funds, a compulsory collection of US$25.00 per OFWs. The funds coming from OFWs were only held in trust to the government. Thus, the rightful owners and stakeholders of the OWWA funds are the OFWs themselves. OFWs and their families have all the right to protect and secure the funds.

It is our rightful demand to the Arroyo administration to provide assistance to OFWs who were laid off due to global financial crisis. But to our surprise, the Arroyo administration is clever enough to take initially P250-Million to fund its Expatriate Livelihood Support program from the OWWA fund without any consultations from the real owners and stakeholders of the funds. Now, it even took the opportunity to increase the Expatriates livelihood fund to P1-Billion – all to be taken from the OWWA fund.

We are not against using the OWWA funds for the welfare and assistance of our fellow OFWs who were laid off due to global financial crisis. It is in fact the very purpose of the funds. But our demands to use the OWWA funds for social and welfare benefits of OFWs and their families had been denied by the Arroyo administration since it implemented the OWWA Omnibus Policies in 2004 that practically stopped all social and welfare benefits program it has previously implemented like the family assistance loan, departure loan, among many others.

More so, our repeated demands from the Arroyo administration to use the OWWA funds for the repatriation of thousands of fellow OFWs in distress and stranded in the Middle East has just fallen on Mrs. Arroyo's deaf ears. Our rightful demand to provide lawyers to fellow OFWs charged in court and on death row was always "killed" by the neglectful Mrs. Arroyo herself.

On the other hand, side-by-side with local recruitment agencies, the Arroyo administration never stops in overcharging OFWs and their families by imposing a lot of fees and charges. The BIR-imposed Documentary stamp tax on OFWs remittance, the excessive fees collected by government line agencies in processing OFWs formalities that would cost them of not less than P20,000.00

It is our worries and concern that the P1-B allocated amount for the Expatriates Livelihood support fund taken from the OWWA funds will be misused and be wasted by the Arroyo administration. OFWs and their families along with the entire Filipino nation are living witnesses on the left and right corruption and bribery charges against the Arroyo administration. It alarms us because Mrs. Arroyo and the First Gentleman often pinpointed on a series of corruption and bribery charges. It alarms OFWs and their families because the Arroyo administration has an undeniable record of OWWA funds misuses to advance its own political interests and favors her political allies in her vain attempt to stay in power even beyond her term.

It is through OFWs and their families' vigilance and concerted actions that P-10-B OWWA funds misuse and possible malversation would be prevented.

It is on the interests of the 10-M OFWs and their families to demand and call for the following:

1. We demand a "hands off" undertaking of the funds by Malacanang to avoid possible maneuvering of the disbursement of funds for use to perpetuate its own political and electoral agenda;

2. The funds must be made an open and direct support to OFWs laid off from jobs to be facilitated by OWWA, subject to auditing by the Commission on Audit;

3. Portion of the P1-B funds must be allocated for the revival of social and welfare benefits programs previously offered by OWWA to OFWs and their families; the Office of the President is urged to put an additional P2-Billion or more from its Social funds;

4. Creation of a special Congressional oversight committee with representation from OFWs and their organizations and Church leaders that will look after the disbursement of the funds and ensure that it will go to the rightful beneficiaries.

It is our humble aim to protect and secure the OFWs funds from possible Arroyo administration's encroachment and misuse.

Let us sign this petition as a manifestation of our collective action for OFWs rights and welfare.




5 February 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619


Gabriela Women's Party on Thursday exclaimed deep disgust over Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's proclamation during her visit to the Middle East that the P1 billion expatriate livelihood fund for OFWs to be affected by the global economic crisis is a “payback” program for the “saviors” of the national economy.

“Mrs. Arroyo is twisting the facts. She is making it sound like her government is doing this out of goodwill, when in truth, this is another way for them to milk the 'cows',” Rep. Luz Ilagan said.

According to Ilagan, the P1 billion is nothing but another loan program for the OFWs, which the migrant workers will pay with interest.

“This should not be the case because the money for this program will come from the OWWA fund which basically comes from the OFW mandatory contribution of $25. Mrs. Arroyo is trying to lend them their own money with interest,” said Ilagan.

“Real 'payback' has yet to happen. Arroyo has promised a lot of things to our migrant workers since the start of her term as president but nothing has ever been delivered. Instead, she keeps on peddling our OFWs to foreign nationals who are looking for cheap labor to exploit, which is what she is doing in the Middle East”

Meanwhile, Ilagan urged both houses of Congress to look into passage of House Bill 5868 or an act creating an unemployment benefit package for retrenched OFWs amounting to a lump sum of P50,000 from the budget of DFA, Bureau of Immigration, DOLE and POEA. The bill was filed by Gabriela Women's Party, Bayan Muna Party-list and Anakpawis Party-list on Monday.

Ilagan, the main author of the bill, confessed that the bill is a mere band-aid solution.

“If the government is sincere in addressing migrants' issues, it will stop bargain-selling Filipinos to foreigners and abolish its labor export policy. Arroyo should instead immediately create local jobs, initiate genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization,” she said.

Abegail Rose L. Valenzuela
Public Information Officer
Office of Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
Gabriela Women's Party
SW-601 House of Representatives,
Quezon City
Telefax: 9315586
Mobile: 0915-7639619



6 February 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619


Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan filed a bill seeking to scrap documentary stamp tax (DST) on OFW remittances in response to the migrants' call to bring down the numerous and excessive government fees in the midst of an economic meltdown.

The government charges overseas Filipino workers a DST amounting to 0.15 percent for every $200 they send to their families in the Philippines, under Section 181 of the Tax Reform Act of 1997. House Bill 5862, if passed into law, will repeal this provision.

Filed on January 28, the bill aims to lessen the burden of OFWs who already shoulder a service charge of the US$7 to US$16 from banks and money transfercompanies for their remittances.

Almost three-fourths of OFW remmitances come from the basic sectors: laborers and unskilled workers (21.1%), trade and related workers (18%), plant and machine operators and assemblers (17.1%), and service workers and shop and market sales workers (11.4%).

"With the family living wage of P917, OFW families are finding it difficult to survive. They continue to tighten their belts to make do with the meager average monthly remittance of P15,980," Ilagan said.

According to the migrants' rights advocate, the money OFWs send are used mainly on food and household operations. They often have to drop education and other supposed basic need but are now considered "luxuries".

"Our migrant workers can do away with this tax especially with the worsening economic crisis tied with the government's track record for corruption, misuse of OFW welfare fund, and very limited services provided for migrant workers and their families.

Ilagan reminded the Congress that "the remittances sent by our OFWs are their blood, sweat and tears. The more money they send, the more hardships and suffering they ave to endure."

Co-authors of the bill are Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela Party-list, Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis and Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casino of Bayan Muna.

Abegail Rose L. Valenzuela
Public Information Officer
Office of Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
Gabriela Women's Party
SW-601 House of Representatives,
Quezon City
Telefax: 9315586
Mobile: 0915-7639619



News Release – January 22, 2009
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Satur C. Ocampo, 0917.8226184
For more information: Vince Borneo, Media Relations Officer, 0927.7968198

Amend law to expand legal services for OFW protection in the Middle East – Satur

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. #



2 February 2009


For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

Gabriela Women's Party, Migrante International and OFW-victims of retrenchment in Taiwan, filed a bill today aiming to create an “unemployment benefit package” amounting to a lump sum of P50,000 for the overseas workers displaced by the global financial crisis.

The package will be funded by a “contingency fund” from the national budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Bureau of Immigration.

“An act allocating a contingency fund as unemployment benefit for overseas Filipino workers who have been repatriated due to expiration of contract or retrenchment,” the bill is geared towards providing permanent assistance not only for migrant workers laid off and to be laid off by the current crisis, but also for the OFWs who will lose their jobs after the crisis.

Data from DOLE showed more than 4,000 Filipino workers around the world have already lost their jobs and are coming back to the country, though Migrante International say it far exceeds that number.

“This package is the government's way to give back to the OFWs it has relied on and slaved on for the longest time to prop up the economy,” Ilagan said.

“Aside from providing assistance being the responsibility of the government through its different departments, the OFWs have already paid for their repatriation costs with the exorbitant fees charged to them every time they leave the country, such as the $25 OWWA membership fee,” she said.

Abegail Rose L. Valenzuela
Public Information Officer
Office of Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
Gabriela Women's Party
SW-601 House of Representatives,
Quezon City
Telefax: 9315586
Mobile: 0915-7639619