Inter-department synergy for OFWs

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Atty. Dodo Dulay

Atty. Dodo Dulay

NO man is an island. This adage is true for people as well as organizations. It is in this light that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has signed various memorandums of agreement (MOAs) and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the different government agencies and institutions to advocate common causes and address shared concerns affecting our OFWs.

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The partnerships forged through these MOAs and MOUs enable OWWA to reach out to its OFW clients and make use of the skills and resources of the different partner agencies in order to live up to its mantra of “Kahit Saan, Kahit Kailan, OWWA Maaasahan.”

To be clear, these inter-department agreements do not create a “super body” but more of a task force geared towards effectively addressing OFWs’ issues with the help of colleagues in other government agencies.

As the implementation of the new OWWA law looms, the various MOAs and MOUs will further strengthen the host of programs and services the agency can offer to our OFWs and their families. The OWWA board of trustees, headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, has instructed that these programs and services (such as health/medical, entrepreneurial development, electronic portal system, to name a few) be OFW-friendly and easily accessible to our migrant workers.

The recent signing of an MOU between OWWA, the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Welfare and Development cemented the collaboration between the three departments aimed at protecting and safeguarding the welfare of the children of OFWs.

Although we have enough laws for the protection of children against any form of abuse such as Republic Act 7610, as amended, otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and Republic Act 9262, An Act on Violence Against Women and Children, better known as the VAWC law, special attention must be given to children of OFWs especially those left to the care of one parent, or in some cases, distant relatives. These “quasi-orphans” are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect, especially with the absence of the OFW mother or father.

The MOU was the result of many meetings, consultations, conferences, and brainstorming sessions between and among OWWA, the DOJ and the DSWD after the tragic death of an OFW’s son at the hands of a relative of his mother. While OWWA immediately extended assistance and monetary benefits to the grieving family, the incident surely caused some sleepless nights for many OFWs, especially those who have left toddlers or children behind in the Philippines.

Being thousands of miles away, OFW parents know they cannot immediately respond when problems arise at home. This is why under the MOU, OWWA’s family welfare officers in each of the agency’s 17 regional welfare offices will conduct regular consultations and monitoring of OFW families through the OFW Family Circles (or the grassroots OFW associations), and if necessary, report suspected cases of child abuse to the DSWD, DOJ and other law enforcement agencies.

For its part, the DOJ has agreed to conduct speedy preliminary investigation/resolution of referred cases, and participate in the case conferences on cases referred by OWWA and in the convergence program of the OWWA, DSWD, LGUs, and Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and ensure child-friendly, child- and gender=sensitive investigations of cases as stipulated in the DOJ-CSPC Protocol for the Management of Child Victims of Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation.

The DSWD, on the other hand, will provide assistance, shelter and protection to children of OFWs who are victims of child abuse and exploitation in coordination with the LGUs; participate in the prevention campaign against child abuse and exploitation and converge with OWWA, DOLE, LGU, LGU, DOJ, and AFI; and take the lead in the conduct of psycho-social interventions/referrals and case conferences on child abuse cases referred by OWWA as well as integrate issues and concerns of children of OFWs in the family development sessions (FDs) and parenting effectiveness sessions (PES) modules.

This MOU on the protection of children of OFWs is only one among many other agreements that OWWA and its mother agency, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), have entered into to protect and promote the welfare of OFWs. This goes to show that the assistance that OWWA provides go beyond the usual dole-outs expected of welfare agencies, and extends to intangible—and more valuable—services, such as counselling, training and various other non-monetary support for our migrant workers abroad as well as their children or families scattered throughout the country.

After all, nothing is more important to our OFWs than to come home and see their families safe, healthy, and better off than when they left.

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