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Monday, July 15, 2024

DOJ: LGUs may send OFWs abroad, but with DMW supervision

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) says local government units (LGUs) may send Filipino workers abroad under sisterhood agreements like those forged with several cities in South Korea.

In a legal opinion issued by Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez, the DOJ clarified that while the LGUs may be the primary actor when it comes to sisterhood agreements, it is still the national government agencies mainly responsible for the protection and promotion of the welfare of the workers covered under the sisterhood accord.

“In particular, with respect to the deployment of Filipino workers for employment abroad, it is the DMW (Department of Migrant Workers) which has jurisdiction over the same pursuant to RA 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), as amended by RA 10022 (the law amending the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995),” the DOJ stressed.

“The DMW is the primary agency of the government mandated by law to protect and promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers after it absorbed all the functions and powers of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),” the DOJ said.

The legal opinion was issued on behalf of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla after it was sought by Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Senior Undersecretary Elaine Musukat.

Masukat sought the opinion as she expressed concerns over the sisterhood agreements between South Korean cities and Philippine LGUs because the scheme includes the deployment to South Korea of seasonal workers in the fields of agriculture and fisheries.

The DOJ was told that “several problems have surfaced involving the deployed Filipino workers, such as non-payment or reduction of their agreed wages; bad working conditions; maltreatment; physical and verbal abuse by their employers which in some cases led to the worker’s death.”

It was also learned that there have been “news as well of illegal recruitment and some recruiters asking for collaterals for these workers to be deployed abroad.”

Vasquez said Section 35 of Republic Act (RA) No. 7160, also known as the Local Government Code of 1991 (LGC), grants “LGUs the authority to enter into joint ventures with people’s and non-governmental organizations to engage in the delivery of certain basic services including livelihood projects….”

“The law makes no distinction whether the organization is local or foreign. The sisterhood programs or agreements for the deployment of workers entered into by LGUs is akin to the delivery of livelihood projects contemplated in Section 35 of the LGC. Therefore, it is within the authority of LGUs to enter into such agreements,” the DOJ official explained.

He also said that Section 23 of the LGC authorizes LGUs “to negotiate with local and foreign assistance agencies to secure financial grants or donations in kind, without necessity of securing clearance or approval from any department, agency, or office of the national government or from a higher local government unit.”

“The employment of seasonal workers under the sisterhood agreement may qualify as part of financial grants or aid extended by their foreign partner. In this case, residents of LGUs are offered employment and remuneration in South Korean cities and companies in exchange for assisting or complementing the South Korean labor workforce,” he added.

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