19 July 2010

Mandatory membership of OFWs in Pag-IBIG

In Memorandum Circular No. 6 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), all Filipinos working overseas are mandated to involve themselves in the Home Development Mutual Fund, otherwise known as Pag-IBIG.

Pag-IBIG stands for Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno. It enables its members to avail of some financial aid in purchasing residential properties, choosing whether to be assisted by a developer and have a ‘buyback guaranty’.

This law, or the Republic Act No. 9679, was passed days after former President Cory Cojuangco Aquino died. It would be implemented—disagreeable or not—on August 1.

“Upon registration and deployment of an OFW, an initial membership of six hundred pesos (P600.00) representing six (6) months contribution shall be paid by the worker. The OFW may, however, opt to contribute a higher amount as provided under Rule VI of the same law.”

It has been signed by Atty. Jennifer Jardin Manalili, the current administrator of the POEA. She replaced Rosalinda Baldoz last September 3, 2008. Baldoz is now the labor secretary (DoLE).

Manalili graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 2001. The sixth in her class, she studied further to acquire a master's degree in public administration from the same university.

Her scholastic records led Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio Morales to delegate her as Court Attorney VI in her office. She also worked for former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban who personally recommended her to Mrs. Arroyo.

She used to be a reporter; it was actually during her journalistic career that she met her would-be husband John Manalili, former editor-in-chief of Cebu’s Republic News and current chief of the Philippine Broadcasting Service, the government radio station.

Under her administration, registered Filipino nurses and certified caregivers were demanded in a bilateral economic partnership agreement with the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services. She also paired with the LBC Development Bank, assisting about one million OFWs deployed yearly.

She thought of giving an award—the Best Partner in Illegal Recruitment Award—to minimize, if not totally eradicate, illegal recruiters.

There should be no problem therefore; Manalili seems to be a reasonable person in all respects. Investing in the Pag-IBIG Fund would encourage Filipinos to consider going back to their homeland. For how would these OFWs benefit from their contributions if they would reside somewhere else?

This could also foster solidarity among Filipinos. Bayanihan. Tulungan. Pagkakaisa. Gone are the days when Filipinos live only for themselves. Gone are the days when they would not think twice migrating to another country.

It could just be another source of corruption. There were already about one million OFWs eight years ago. Each of them would be required to contribute for at least two years, totaling to P2400. Assuming that there are still one million OFWs today, the fund would gain P2.4 billion.

More importantly, this memorandum could curtail the OFWs’ freedom. What if they really have to cease working abroad before they could complete the two-year requirement? What if they are just earning a minimal salary? Do they really have to shed their hard-earned money to an expense no soul can assure that they would be having?


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