MANILA (Mabuhay) – Rep. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (1st District, Valenzuela City) has called for a congressional inquiry into the current status of the legal assistance fund for distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
Gatchalian filed House Resolution 2653 urging the House Committees on Overseas Workers Affairs and Foreign Affairs to summon the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and furnish the House body an inventory of all the cases involving OFWs.
In pushing for the probe, Gatchalian said the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act mandates the provision and overall coordination of all legal assistance services to OFWs through the Office of the Legal Assistant for Migrant Workers Affairs under the DFA.
“Many of our OFWs are currently embroiled in cases abroad that threaten not only their employment but their lives and the future of their families as well, hence, the need to provide legal services to these OFWs in distress,” Gatchalian said.
Based on data from the DFA, Gatchalian said the number of OFWs facing legal problems abroad increased from 6,002 in 2014 to 7,182 in 2015.
“Of this number, 807 are drug-related cases, while 79 of these cases involve Filipinos currently on death row,” he said.
Gatchalian cited the pending case of Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia and the recent execution of Joselito Zapanta in Saudi Arabia has only magnified the urgent need to reexamine the implementation of the provisions of these laws, vis-a-vis the efforts, which the government and its agencies are doing in order to ensure that the rights of OFWs are being protected.
The 2014 survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority states that the number of OFWs has increased to 2.32 million, which is 1.5% higher than in 2013, according to Gatchalian.
“The overall remittances of the OFWs rose to Php173.19 billion in 2014 from Php162.37 billion a year earlier, making them primary contributors to the country’s economy,” Gatchalian said. (MNS)