The Supreme Court has been asked to declare as unconstitutional a provision in Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act that requires a mandatory contribution of overseas Filipino workers to Social Security System.
In a petition, the group led by Joint Ship Manning Group Inc. sought immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining the implementation of a provision in RA 11199 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last February that makes mandatory SSS contribution of over 3 million OFWs.
The petitioners also asked the SC to strike down the assailed provision in the law for ‘violating their constitutional rights.’
In particular, they assailed the validity of Section 9-B of the law, which provides compulsory social security coverage for OFWs and considers manning agencies dealing with sea-based OFWs as employers.
The petitioners said that such provision is unfair to their manning agencies that are considered as employers of the OFWs when they are only recruiters of foreign employers.
“In a way, the liabilities are being passed on the manning agencies, the recruiters, instead of the employers. So instead of the employers being the shipowners, ang lumalabas na employer 'yung manning agencies, when all they did was really to recruit the OFWs,” petioners’ lawyer
Blessilda Abad said in an interview.
The lawyer clarified that they do not oppose the compulsory SSS coverage for OFWs.
“What our concern is that the way it’s being implemented violates the rights of the sea-based manning agencies,” the lawyer said.
According to the lawyer, they also questioned the “joint and several
liability” imposed on sea-based manning agencies and special criminal liability on managers for acts committed by foreign employers, which RA 11199 does not impose on agencies of land-based OFWs.
Several groups have earlier opposed the new policy, arguing that newly hired OFWs, particularly household service workers (HSWs), would not be able to pay P960 a month.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Dooc said one of the advantages of the law is covering the social security of all OFWs.
Dooc explained that membership of OFWs in SSS will secure their retirement through entitlement to lifetime pension benefits.
He lamented that less than 600,000 OFWs are registered SSS members out of about three million OFWs.