Monday, September 21, 2015

OWWA slammed for allegedly denying benefits to 50 OFWs

Militant pro-OFW group Migrante on Thursday accused the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) of denying benefits to some 50 OFW-members, including those who suffered life-changing injuries while at work.

At a press briefing in Cubao, Quezon City, Migrante Secretary General Mic Catuira said the claimants were told last September 10 that they could not receive any benefits from the agency because of the OWWA Omnibus Policies, a controversial policy that has been questioned before the Supreme Court.

"Nagdi-devise pa sila ng mga paraan para dagdagan nang dagdagan 'yung mga bayarin ng OFWs, pero sa pagdating ng panahon na 'yung OFW naman ang nailangan ng tulong, nasaan na ang tulong ng gobyerno?" Catuira said.

Critics said under the assailed policy, OWWA benefits are available only to those overseas contract workers who have paid their monetary contribution on a per-contract basis.

Implemented on September 19, 2003, the OWWA Omnibus Polices or OWWA Resolution No. 038 makes $25 biennial contributions mandatory for overseas Filipino workers and revokes the membership of those who fail the pay the fee.

Migrante said the policy "eroded OWWA’s major welfare programs" and "discriminated against irregular or undocumented OFWs" who "constitute majority of OFWs in distress."

GMA News Online contacted OWWA through its Advocacy and Social Marketing Division, but it has yet to issue an official statement as of posting time.

Paralyzed ex-OFW

During its press briefing, Migrante presented Eugenia Bayer Perez, a former domestic helper in the United Arab Emirates who was paralyzed after an accident while performing her job.

Perez said she filed for assistance in 2013 but until now has yet to receive any help from OWWA despite her regular contributions.

"Yun pong sinasabi nilang three months, almost three years na po ngayon. Pero continuous po yung aking hulog, hindi po ako nagpa-patlang para maayos 'yung aking benefits para may maasahan ako balang araw," said Perez, who was paralyzed after falling from the rooftop of her employer's house.

Because of the delay, an organ was removed from Perez, who cannot find work in her present condition and must wear a colonoscopy bag for the rest of her life.

Having lost hope on the benefits, she wishes the agency would at least assist her in pursuing her case against her abusive deployment agency.

"Pinilit nila ako. Binenta ako ng pangalawang amo kahit hindi po ako makapagtrabaho ng maayos... Ang hinihingi lang po namin ang justice lang sa labor na naipanalo po namin sa court na eto po, para sa agency," Perez said.

Under Article III Section 3b of the OWWA Omnibus Polices, members are entitled to disability or dismemberment benefits of P2,000.00 to P50,000.00.00. In case of total permanent disability, Section 3C states the members may claim P100,000.00.

Rally

Migrante, with Perez and other OFWs, will hold a rally in front of OWWA on Friday to protest against the policy. They will also call for a “full audit” and an “immediate and independent investigation” on OWWA funds in light of "many unresolved issues of abuse, misuse, and corruption."

The Supreme Court has already ordered the Pasay City court to resolve the petition filed by pro-migrant group Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), after it ruled that the local court erred in dismissing the petition.

In its petition, PMRW said the policy was violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it created a distinction between OFWs who contributed to the OWWA Fund and those who did not.

The petitioners also claimed as invalid the provisions in the new policy that allow OWWA Board members to designate their proxies to vote on their behalf in Board meetings as well as those provisions that classify the minutes, transcripts, and other documents of the OWWA as confidential and prevents them from being publicly circulated without authorization from the Board. —KBK, GMA News

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