Press Release
February 14, 2019

Senate ratifies measure creating social welfare attachés for distressed OFWs

The Senate has ratified a measure establishing social welfare attachés in countries with high concentration of overseas Filipino workers, especially in the Middle East.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, thanked his colleagues for the adoption of House Bill 8907 as an amendment to Senate Bill 1819, or "An Act Establishing the Office for Social Welfare Attaché," before Congress adjourned for midterm elections last week.

The adoption of the House version of the measure by the Senate would do away with the convening of the bicameral conference committee, hence the subsequent ratification of the bill.

Villanueva said the measure, which institutionalizes social welfare attachés as a permanent component of Philippine foreign posts in countries or jurisdictions, could address incidence of suicides and cases of abuse against OFWs.

The bill amends Section 1, paragraph b of RA 8042 so that 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.

He also stressed the importance of mental health of the migrant workers who are experiencing depression while they are away from their families.

"We believe that having permanent social welfare attachés in our embassies can help prevent incidents of suicide and cases of abuse against our modern-day heroes," he said.

There are about 10 million Filipinos spread out in more than 170 countries, Villanueva said. About 2.3 million of them are migrant workers.

However, Villanueva noted that there are only eight social welfare attachés deployed in several parts of the world as of May 2018.

These social welfare attachés have served, from 2013 until the first semester of 2017, a total of 61,131 distressed OFWs who were victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, maltreatment, trafficking and marital conflicts, as well as abandoned or neglected children and other vulnerable sectors.

Aside from providing social, economic and legal services to OFWs, the Social Welfare Attaché bill would also ensure the deployment of social welfare attaché officers by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to manage cases of OFWs in distress and ensure coordination among agencies and various groups to address the psychosocial needs of distressed OFWs.

The social welfare attaché 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), the proposal stated.

The DSWD shall also provide the criteria for determining the selection of Diplomatic Posts to which Social Welfare Attaches will be deployed and the minimum qualifications and attributes of the Social Welfare Attaches.

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