OFW Guide: How To Seek Legal Assistance Through POEA

It’s never easy being an Overseas Filipino Worker. Despite the promise of a better life, there is always a possibility that your dreams of an improved future won’t happen. If you’re not too careful, you might even be a victim of illegal recruitment.

That being said, what is your legal remedy in case you became a victim of illegal recruitment? Can you file a case against the illegal recruiter? If yes, where should you file it? What is the procedure you need to follow to make sure that the illegal recruiter pays for what he did?

Here’s what you need to know about POEA’s Legal Assistance Services:

Coverage of Legal Assistance Services:

Legal Advice – this offers counselling services wherein repatriated workers are informed of rights as well as possible options for redress of grievances.

Conciliation – this gives both the repatriated worker/s and recruitment agency an opportunity to discuss and possibly come up with an amicable settlement. Per POEA, parties must undergo 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation before a complaint will be filed in the Adjudication Office for the following cases:

  • Administrative complaint involving OFW, licensed manning agency, or employer relating to overseas employment
  • Issues arising from labor and employment

In case parties are unable to settle, the POEA Conciliation Unit will issue a Certificate of Failure to Conciliate.

On the other hand, the following cases are NOT required to undergo mandatory conciliation-mediation proceeding:

  • Cases referred by POLO
  • Cases initiated by the POEA
  • Cases involving acts of misrepresentation to secure license
  • Violations of POEA Rules and Regulations involving serious offenses
  • Offenses penalized with cancellation of license
  • Complaints against agencies with revoked, cancelled, or delisted license
  • Disciplinary actions against land-based workers and seafarers, which are either considered serious offenses or carry the penalty of delisting from the POEA Registry at first offense
  • Other complaints included in the POEA Rules that are not subject to compulsory mediation

Preparation and Filing of Complaints – if the case prospers, the agency, through Legal Assistance Division, may help in the preparation and filing of complaints for illegal recruitment, disciplinary action cases, and other forms of recruitment violations.

Counseling – this is done during preliminary investigation and and hearings of criminal cases for illegal recruitment.

Procedure in Availing POEA’s Legal Assistance Services:

Before you proceed, you need to make an appointment to ensure that the agency will assist you when you arrive. Consequently, this assures the agency that the assistance is extended to OFWs only.

Click this link to make an appointment. Make sure to tick the box that indicates “Legal” under “Assistance” tab for the purpose of such request.

Once you made an appointment, here are the other steps you need to do on the day of your schedule:

  1. Proceed to Legal Assistance Division, 4th floor of the POEA Building.
  2. Get and fill out a Verification Form from the guard-on-duty.
  3. Secure an OFW Information Sheet from the Central Records Division, 6th floor, POEA Building.
  4. Submit the documents, Info Sheet and Verification Form, at Window 3, Licensing Branch, 4th floor of the POEA Main Building. The LB Verifications Officer will verify your status as OFW.
  5. Once your status is verified, submit the verified documents to the Legal Assistance Division or LAD Officer. Wait for your name to be called.
  6. When you’re called, go to the designated Legal Officer for counselling or legal assistance. The Legal Officer will also help you in the preparation or filing of a complaint form.
  7. Submit the duly accomplished complaint form to the Legal Officer. You will also be asked to swear under oath as to the truthfulness of the facts contained in the complaint.
  8. File the complaint at the Conciliation Unit, 2nd floor of the POEA Main Building if proper for conciliation OR Docket and Enforcement Division, 3rd floor of the same building.

For further details, you may contact:

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
Legal Assistance Division
4th Floor, BFO Building
EDSA corner Ortigas Avenue Mandaluyong City
Telephone Nos.: 721-0619/722-1189
Email: legal-asst@poea.gov.ph

7 Signs You Are A Documented OFW

Illegal recruitment is defined as the act of recruiting individuals, usually for a fee, for local or foreign employment. Unlike regular jobs, individuals are victimized because:

  • There is no job placement effected as opposed to what was advertised by the “recruiter;” or
  • There is an actual job but the worker will be placed in an oppressive or exploitative conditions such as low salary, long work hours, or performing sexual acts.

According to the Department of Justice, in 2016, there are more than 1,500 illegal recruitment cases filed in the agency. Apparently, this does not yet include cases that are either dropped by the complaining or not reported at all.

You don’t want that to happen. This is why it is imperative that you check out these signs to ensure that you are a documented OFW:

Sign No. 1: Valid Passport

Your passport must be issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs only and no one else. Personal appearance is a must and don’t forget to schedule an appointment.

Sign No. 2: Working or Employment Visa or Permit

You cannot work overseas WITHOUT a valid working or employment visa. This signifies that you are permitted to work in a foreign country. This is valid for one or two years, or sometimes longer, depending on your contract.

If the agency gives you a tourist visa despite promising you an employment abroad, then be worried. There is a chance that a different kind of job is waiting for you there.

Sign No. 3: Contract Of Employment

Employment Contract is among the documents you need to submit to be able to process your overseas employment. It contains terms and information pertaining to your employment such as working hours, benefits, and termination.

Take note that the Contract of Employment must be processed by the POEA OR verified and registered on-site by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO.

READ: Overseas Employment Contract

Sign No. 4: Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar or PDOS Certificate

This is mandatory. All workers, whether first-time or re-hires must undergo Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar prior to leaving the country. This helps you prepare for your life overseas, as well as tips, guidelines, do’s and don’ts when abroad.

Once completed, you will be given a PDOS Certificate, which you need to keep and present when applying for OEC.

Sign No. 5: Overseas Employment Certificate Or OEC

This is another important document you need to secure to legitimize your status as OFW. The OEC serves as your Exit Clearance as well as exempts you from paying travel tax and airport terminal fees.

Normally, your recruitment agency will take care of this, so you don’t have to worry about this.

READ: Overseas Employment Certificate

Sign No. 6: OWWA, PAG-IBIG, and Philhealth Membership

Being an OFW means you are NOT exempt from mandatory government services. In fact, all OFWs are mandated to still be members of various government agencies for your benefit. Unfortunately, you have to pay for this from your own pocket since this is not included in agency fees.

These government agencies offer assistance and various benefits you can maximize to your advantage. They also offer loan facilities that are more affordable compared to banks, so make sure you are a member.

Good news! OWWA offers Rebate Program, which is another reason why you should be a member.

Sign No. 7: Philhealth Medical Insurance

Aside from the membership to various government agencies, OFWs must also have an insurance prior to departure.

The insurance covers various benefits like death, accident, disablement, repatriation, and medical among others. It may seem like an additional expense, but again, you’ll never know what will happen in the future, so it is best to be prepared.

Did you comply with all of these?

8 Reasons For Cancelled Or Delayed Flight

Are you excited to ride an airplane? As an Overseas Filipino Worker, one of the easiest and most convenient way to go to your place of destination is by riding an airplane.

Of course, there will always be unforeseen circumstances that will led to the delay or cancellation of flights. Although this is not the primary aim of transportation companies, sometimes, things could go beyond their control. This could cause issues on your employment since you are supposed to arrive on a specific date – and for visa purposes as well.

That being said, what could be the reasons for delayed or cancelled flight? These are:

Bad Weather

This is the most common reason why flights are delayed or cancelled. Even if the weather is good in Manila, if the weather from where you are going is bad, then there is a possibility that the flight is cancelled as well. The condition of the route and runway are also considered in case of bad weather; hence the delay.

Unfortunately, bad weather is something that is hard to avoid because you’ll never know when a typhoon is coming.

Aircraft Preparation

Thousands of people use a single aircraft every single day. Before you board, cabin crew and aircraft personnel ensure that the plane is clean and in tiptop condition. Refueling and security checks are likewise conducted to avoid aircraft issues while on air.

Strict timeline is being followed to avoid delays. Apparently, unavoidable situations happen; hence the reason why you have to wait.

Airport Congestion

The Control Tower plays a crucial role. They provide information to pilots regarding critical information such as weather updates, runway closures, and even traffic condition in the runway.

Unfortunately and despite the huge amount of space available, traffic, commonly known as airport congestion, is still an issue. When this happens, aircrafts won’t be able to takeoff properly and could cause accidents, which is something everyone wants to avoid.

Mechanical Delay

One of the standard operating procedures to be conducted is checking the aircraft prior to the scheduled flight. This is a must because more than anything else, safety is the top priority.

If they see any issues while testing the plane, the Operations Team will conduct troubleshooting procedures to ensure that the aircraft is safe and viable to fly. This may take some time, but again, safety of not just the passengers but the crew as well is a must.

Waiting For Connecting Passengers And Cargo

Not all flights are direct to a specific destinations. At times, you need to have a connecting flight to arrive in the country where you’ll work. When there are passengers in the connecting flight, you have to wait for them as well.

There’s no issue if the passengers and cargo from the connecting flight did not experience any delay. Otherwise, expect your flight to be delayed as well for hours.

Delay Caused By Cabin Crew

Sadly, this happens. Generally, there is an assigned cabin crew for every flight. But if the crew assigned is coming from another flight that is also running late, then delay might happen – even if it means waiting for them.

Catering Concerns

Believe it or not, this could be a cause of delay. International flights take hours, which is why most aircraft serve food along the way.

Unfortunately, there are instances when the catering arrived late for various reasons like traffic or last-minute preparations. When this happens, departure will be delayed as well.

Security Concerns

This is crucial. Sometimes, there will be last minute cancellations because of unforeseen situations in the country of destination, similar to what happened in Hong Kong last August 2019.

Stringent security clearances is another issue to look into. Some countries require submission of detailed and time-consuming clearance to allow the plane to depart, which explains the delay.

Don’t worry. Regardless of the delay, you can still work overseas and start a better life there. Just make sure that you have all your travel documents with you and don’t forget to bring water, food, and other things that will help you kill time.