The newly approved Department of Migrant Workers Act would “ensure ethical recruitment for overseas Filipino workers” in addressing and regulating various issues on hiring, employment and deployment, according to Taguig City Rep. Ala Peter Cayetano.
“When people get desperate or are into an economic crisis, there would be many recruiters or employers duping those vulnerable, or in countries that have troublesome histories with the rights of migrant workers, we see them getting abused. So, I wanted to make sure that ethical recruitment was included in the law,” he said.
He filed the bill creating such a department when he was a senator in 2017, and that he filed a similar bill in Congress in 2019.
Cayetano, as then Speaker, led in passing the measure in March 2020.
The bill is designed to create a Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment, a single agency that would focus solely on the concerns of Filipino migrants.
When the Senate approved its version on Dec. 14, 2021, the House of Representatives adopted it the following day in order to bypass the need for a bicameral conference committee meeting and to allow the measure to be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
The bill was finally signed into law on Dec. 30.
“I think we are the first in the world to put this into law and create a department for migrant workers,” Cayetano said.
“At the heart of this bill is ethical recruitment,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment would still continue their mandate of looking after the rights of migrant workers during the transitory period and prevent any untoward action or exploitation.
“In a few weeks, the President may appoint the secretary of the department. But the actual departmental structure could be in 2023 or even 2024,” Cayetano said.