The Worsening Plight of OFWs

Repatriated OFWs who do not have relatives in Manila are forced to abandon their claims against their recruitment agencies because the OWWA would provide them accommodation for only five days, added Martinez. “Pagkatapos ng limang araw, bahala ka na sa buhay mo. Kulang ang isang buwan para makakuha ng claims,” (After five days, you are on your own. It takes more than a month before one could collect on claims.) he explained.

Martinez added that cases filed by OFWs before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) take years to be resolved. He said there are only 100 arbiters who can handle 30,000 of the 52,000 cases filed every year.

In cases of illegal recruitment and overcharging of placement fees, Martinez said, OFWs are encouraged to settle the case and sign a waiver.

Concrete case

Artess Diaz, one of the OFWs retrenched in Taiwan, deplored the ‘abandonment’ she suffered from Philippine government officials.

Diaz related that before they left Taiwan, a representative from the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) facilitated their meeting with their respective recruitment agencies. In that dialogue, Diaz said, recruitment agencies agreed to pay 2,000 NT for every unused month in their contract. When the MECO representative left, the recruitment agencies refused to implement what had been agreed upon.

“Tumatawag kami sa MECO, di na namin makontak,” (We kept on trying to contact MECO to no avail.) recalled Diaz.

They paid for their plane tickets and until now, never got anything for the unexpired period in their contract.

Artess Diaz, one of the retrenched OFWs from Taiwan, cries as she recalls how government agencies treated them.

She added that it took them more than three months of religiously following up the reimbursement for their plane tickets before OWWA finally paid them. She said though that not all OFWs were given reimbursements.

“Anong ginagawa nilang pagtrato sa amin? Sinasabihan kaming makulit,” (How do they treat us? They even tell us that we are annoying.) Diaz said, crying.

Diaz said that in their conciliation meetings with their recruitment agencies, it is apparent that the lawyer of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) favors the agencies.

Diaz revealed that the NLRC arbiter also tried to convince them to accept the offer of P10,000 ($205) as reimbursement for the placement fee they paid their recruitment agency. The arbiter, Diaz said, told them, “Pumayag na kayo diyan kaysa tumagal ang kaso.” (Why don’t you agree to the offer so that the case would not drag on?)

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