Senator Chiz Escudero wants a jail term and a fine of up to P500,000 against recruitment agencies that will collect excessive placement fees from prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as a way of protecting applicants seeking jobs abroad.
In Senate Bill No. 2601, Escudero said recruiters continue to bleed job seekers by asking fees way above the ceiling set by the government, as determined by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).
To cover the cost of processing the application, placement agencies are only allowed to collect fees equivalent to one-month salary of the applicant.
Very few agencies, however, comply with the prescribed standard for placement fees, and Escudero wanted to cap the fees collected from applicants.
“Some collect as much as four times the monthly salary of an applicant which could go as high as P100,000 or even more. Most get mired in debts even before getting hired. Sometimes, applicants back out from the recruitment process altogether because they cannot produce the steep fee,” Escudero said.
He said that since the country is heavily dependent on OFW remittances to keep the economy afloat, a pro-active policy should be in place to protect the labor export.
In 2009 alone, an estimated 1.5 million OFWs were deployed for jobs abroad, or about 4,000 Filipinos per day.
“Our OFWs keep our economy stable, and there is no bilateral agreement whatsoever between us and the receiving countries to protect them in those foreign lands. If we can’t give them some kind of protection outside the country, we must accord them the service and benefit due them in their own land,” Escudero said.
Aside from disallowing collection of excessive fees, the bill also bars advance collection of placement fee before job availability, non-issuance of receipts for any fees collected from the worker, non-return of placement fee collected when deployment does not materialize, forced issuance of post-dated checks to guarantee payment of placement fee and forcing an applicant to borrow money only from designated lending institutions to cover placement fee.
Under Escudero’s bill, recruiters who commit these acts will face a prison term of six years or a fine of P100,000 to P500,000, or both, depending the court decision.
The senator said passage of the bill is important to prove that the government is the driving force in promoting migrant workers’ rights.