Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the implementation of the newly-launched identification card of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which many fear will be used as a cash cow for some corrupt government and private entities.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, filed Senate Resolution 452 urging the appropriate Senate committees to conduct an inquiry into the implementation of new OFW ID which the Department of Employment and Labor (DOLE) launched last July 12.
“Our OFWs should be protected from efforts and schemes that, while hailing them as our modern-day heroes, surreptitiously make them the usual milking cows not only of government offices but also of private entities with vested interests,” she said.
Last July 12, DOLE launched an OFW ID, also known as IDOLE, to replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) that was scrapped by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to streamline government processes imposed on OFWs.
In lieu of the binned OEC, the OFW ID was launched to rationalize and consolidate into one all other membership cards of OFWs, such as Social Security System, Pag-ibig Fund, Philippine Health Insurance, Philippine Post, at no additional cost to the OFWs.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the new OFW ID is the Duterte administration’s “best gift to OFWs,” whose cost would be shouldered by their foreign employers through their local recruitment agency or their foreign counterparts.
Bello also announced it is seriously contemplating on replacing the existing passport for OFWs with the new OFW ID in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Based on news reports, the OFW ID will cost a total of PhP701, PhP501 of which will be charged to defray the cost of plastic card and another PhP200 for the delivery, which many claim is more expensive than the OEC which only costs PhP100 to PhP200.
De Lima noted that such proposed payment scheme would, in practice, be passed on by their recruitment agencies acting on behalf of their foreign employers to the OFWs who are already heavily burdened with all the fees and costs of their recruitment application.
“Our government should stop pulling the legs of our hapless OFWs by requiring them to obtain the new OFW ID because it not only duplicates but also is costlier than the OEC and may be used to siphon the OFWs’ hard-earned money into the pockets of some corrupt individuals,” she said.
De Lima also pointed out that some OFWs and their families are confused with the lack, if not at all absence, of clear-cut guidelines on the implementation of the OFW ID without the benefit of a public consultation with recruitment agencies and OFW groups.
“Congress should ensure that the new OFW ID which seems to serve the same functions as that of the old OEC would not be used as another money-making scheme that was hastily hatched to benefit some government officials in cohorts with some quarters or private business groups,” she said.
The Senator from Bicol also expressed apprehension that some sensitive personal information from the new OFW ID will be used by some sinister groups for their vested business and political interests.
“Congress should also scrutinize how the new OFW ID would benefit the OFWs and ensure that the basic sensitive personal information contained in the new identification card would be adequately protected and not land in the full control and management of some sinister groups that have vested business and political interests,” she said.
De Lima has been a staunch protector of migrant workers’ rights. Early this year, she filed SR No. 406 calling for a Senate probe to assess the impact of Qatar diplomatic crisis to OFWs who are residing or working in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.