My sister is currently applying for work abroad through a licensed recruitment agency. Not knowing that the recruitment agency has a preferred medical institution where medical exams should be taken, she took her medical exam at another medical institution. Now, the recruitment agency is requiring her to retake her medical exam at their preferred medical institution. Can my sister question this requirement because it would mean she has to pay the medical fees again?
Overseas employment is governed by Republic Act (RA) 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. The purpose of this law is to uphold the rights and welfare of our Filipino migrant workers, and protect them from possible abuse. The latest amendment to this law introduced stricter rules concerning medical examination for overseas employment.
The latest amendment tasks the Department of Health (DOH) to regulate the activities and operations of all clinics that conduct medical, physical, optical, dental, psychological and other similar examinations on Filipino migrant workers seeking overseas employment. One of the provisions states that every Filipino migrant worker shall have the freedom to choose any of the DOH-accredited or DOH-operated clinics for his or her health examinations and that his or her rights as a patient must be respected. The decking practice, which requires an overseas Filipino worker to go first to an office for registration and to be farmed out to a medical clinic located elsewhere, shall not be allowed (Sec. 23 (c.4), RA 8042, as amended by RA 10022). Under the law the Filipino “migrant workers” refer not only to those persons already engaged in overseas employment, but the term includes those who are “to be engaged” in overseas employment. Simply put, those who are applying for work abroad. Hence, reading the two mentioned provisions together, it is clear that an applicant for overseas employment may not be forced nor required to take his or her medical examination at a preferred or specific medical institution. As long as the medical examination was taken at a DOH-accredited/operated clinic, it should be recognized by the recruitment agency.
To give more teeth to this policy, the lawmakers deemed it proper to impose criminal responsibility on those who will violate the rule. The latest amendment to the law expressly listed the practice of imposing a compulsory and exclusive arrangement where an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) is required to undergo health examinations only at a specifically designated medical institution, except in the case of a seafarer whose medical examination cost is shouldered by the principal/shipowner, as a prohibited act (Sec. 6 (4), RA 8042). Violators are penalized with imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years and a fine of P500,000 to P1 million. The conviction shall also carry the automatic revocation of the license or registration of the concerned recruitment/manning agency and medical clinic (Sec. 7 (c), RA 8042).
Applying the foregoing to the case of your sister, it must first be determined if she took her medical examination at a DOH-accredited/operated clinic. If yes, then the recruitment agency may not order a retake. If no, then your sister cannot question the demand of the recruitment agency to take another medical examination. She may, however, refuse to take it from the preferred medical clinic of the recruitment agency and opt for any DOH- accredited/operated clinic. In any event, if it can be proven that the recruitment agency is requiring your sister to take the medical examination at its preferred clinic, then a case for violation of RA 8042 may be filed against the recruitment agency.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org