TO assist more overseas Filipinos, including workers who may be in distress or are victims of abuse, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill (HB) No. 8908, which seeks to establish the Office for Social Welfare Attache.
The bill, principally authored by Deputy Speaker and Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Ruth Villarica, provides for the amendment of Republic Act (RA) No. 8042, also known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995”, as amended, to materialize the creation of the Office for Social Welfare Attache.
The bill provides for the amendment of Section 1, paragraph b of RA 8042, as amended, so that the State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.
Towards this end, the State shall provide adequate and timely social, economic and legal services to Filipino migrant workers, especially for workers who are vulnerable to physical, emotional, and psychological stress or abuse.
It also amends Section 23 of RA 8042, as amended, so that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shall deploy Social Welfare Attaches in countries with large concentration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as determined in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).
The Social Welfare Attaché shall possess the minimum qualifications set by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the preferred qualifications prescribed by the DSWD.
Moreover, the Social Welfare Attache shall perform the following functions and duties at the overseas post: 1) manage cases of OFWs and other overseas Filipinos in distress needing psychological services, such as victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of physical or mental abuse, and cases of abandoned or neglected children; 2) undertake surveys and prepare official social welfare situationers on the OFWs in the area of assignment; 3) establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies and/or individuals and groups which may be mobilized to assist in the provision of appropriate social services; 4) respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of OFWs and their families; and 5) submit regular reports to the DSWD and DFA home office on plans and activities undertaken, recommendations, and updates on the situation of OFWs particularly those encountering difficulties in the host country. Said report shall form part of the semi-annual report to Congress as provided under Section 33 of RA 8042, as amended.
Additionally, the Social Welfare Attache shall also establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families so that appropriate social welfare services can be more effectively provided; provide information about the DSWD and its attached agencies and services; and perform other related function in the delivery of social services as may be directed by the head of the diplomatic post in the area of assignment.
The DSWD Secretary shall include in her agency’s programs the implementation of the Act, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Other authors of the bill are Reps. Gary Alejano, Jesulito Manalo, Rolando Andaya Jr., Micaela Violago, Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., Francisco Datol Jr., Fernando Gonzalez, Rosanna “Ria” Vergara, Josephine Sato, Jose “Pingping” Tejada, Federico “Ricky” Sandoval II, Michael John Duavit, Carlos Cojuangco, Celso Lobregat, Mark Aeron Sambar and Isagani Amatong.