De Lima to refile bill strengthening mandate of CHR in educating OFWs on their rights

By Mario Casayuran

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has vowed to refile a bill seeking to strengthen human rights education and the system of legal assistance for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) amid continued reports of abuses against them.

Senator Leila de Lima

De Lima said she would refile a bill that would strengthen the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in educating OFWs about the full extent of their rights, especially on dealing with abusive employers.

The bill was expected to be filed in Congress after it opens the 18th Congress on July 22.

In the morning of July 22, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will elect their leaders and the President of the Republic will deliver his State of the Nations Address (SONA) in the afternoon.

‘’Abuses are still rampant among OFWs, with persistent reports of Filipino migrant workers suffering in the hands of their abusive employers because they don’t know the full extent of their rights,” she said.

“We need to strengthen the CHR’s mandate by tasking it with the continuing education and information dissemination among OFWs about human rights before they leave the country, to their actual deployment, and its periodic monitoring,” she added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently confirmed that an OFW fell to her death in Morocco while attempting to escape an apartment building following an argument with her employer last June 22.

The said victim, who reportedly tried to escape using pieces of garment she tied together, succumbed to injuries she sustained after falling from the third floor of an apartment building in Casablanca.

De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the incident was only one among the many incidents involving OFWs who have lost their lives while working abroad, especially among Filipino household services workers (HSWs).

In the 17th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1785 seeking to amend Section 23 of R.A. No. 8042, as amended by R.A. No. 10022, mandating the CHR to “streamline human rights education programs for current and aspiring OFWs, in line with its function to implement preventive measures for Filipinos residing abroad who need protection.”

The Senate Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development Committee has not acted on said measure.
“Nakakalungkot na hindi ito nakausad para maging ganap na batas. That’s why in the coming 18thCongress, I hope that my Senate colleagues can look at the importance of the measure highlighting human rights education for OFWs and help push for its swift passage into law,” De Lima said. (It is sad that the bill did not see the light of day in the past 17th Congress.)

A staunch defender of migrants’ workers right, De Lima previously filed Senate Bill 961 redefining the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate as a group of three or more persons formed to carry out illegal deployment of Filipino workers abroad.