By Mario Casayuran
Boxing icon Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao is waiting for the signing into law by President Duterte of his measure mandating the publication of a handbook to enlighten Overseas Filipino Overseas Workers (OFWs) about their rights, particularly when they are abroad.
Pacquaio said the multitude of OFWs carry enormous responsibilities yet, despite this, a number of these “modern-day heroes” end up maltreated and degraded.
“Thus a handbook is necessary to enlighten them about their rights, which is the main objective of a measure that has been awaiting President Duterte’s signature,’’ he said.
Congress, through the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), transmitted to the Office of the President last January 24 the reconciled version of Senate Bill 192 and House Bill 8110, or the proposed Handbook for OFWs Act. It was adopted and ratified before the Senate and the House of Representatives adjourned last December.
It is expected to lapse into law if President Duterte fails to act on it after 30 days, or after February 24.
Under the measure, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is required to publish, disseminate, and update a handbook for Filipino migrant workers.
The guidebook shall serve as a reference for OFW rights and shall contain vital information to help them address their problems and concerns abroad.
Pacquiao, principal author of the bill, said it was the obligation of government to take care of the millions of OFWs all over the world, “by providing them with standard printed information.”
“We want to equip our OFWs with the necessary information they can access once they are out there in the global marketplace,” he said.
Under the measure, the book should be issued to all Filipino migrant workers “free of charge.”
It would also include information on the labor and living conditions in the country of their destination, as well as in the Philippines for their return.
The handbook shall be written in languages that would be easily understood by OFWs.
Pacquiao said that while the 23-year old Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 authorized the POEA to “undertake other programs or resort to other modes of information and dissemination campaign,” existing efforts by government agencies to provide OFWs with such handbooks are “limited and inconsistent.”
Also contained in the handbook are the necessary information needed by OFWs for their reintegration once they return to the Philippines.
Aside from Pacquiao, the Senate’s version of the bill was authored by Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Richard J. Gordon, and Cynthia A. Villar.