Representative Roy Seneres (OFW Family partylist) is pushing for the passage of a measure that would disallow the collection of any fee from departing overseas Filipino workers as a precondition for them to leave the country.
In filing House Bill 4004, Seneres noted that the right to travel is guaranteed under the Constitution, and can only be restricted in three instances.
Section 6, Article III of the Constitution states: "Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety and public health, as may be provided by law."
He also pointed out that Section 2 of Republic Act No. 8239, or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, declares that: "The people's right to travel shall be inviolable."
Seneres is a party-list ally of the National Unity Party (NUP) under the Coalition for Peace and Development.
"Why demand unnecessary fees and make travel more difficult for our financially hard-pressed workers seeking employment abroad?" Seneres said.
Under HB 4004, it would be unlawful “to impose, exact or collect any sum of money in any form as for any purpose from a department overseas Filipino worker as a pre-condition for travel except those authorized by law."
The POEA is tasked to initiate the filing of the appropriate criminal complaint before the Department of Justice or any law enforcement agency, against any individual, juridical entity, its officers and personnel who violate the provisions of the proposed law.
"Our modern-day heroes do not deserve to be punished, inconvenienced or annoyed when seeking to exercise their right to travel to foreign countries to find golden opportunities for the sake of their loved ones," Señeres said.
In seeking the swift passage of his measure, Seneres reminded his fellow lawmakers of the invaluable contributions of OFWs to the economy, which, according to him, reach billion annually.
"We should not lose sight of the fact that OFWs are forced to leave the country, not for pleasure, but to work in a foreign land for the sake of their loved ones. We cannot simply close our eyes to the reality that before they leave the country to work abroad, most if not all OFWs are already burdened with huge indebtedness. Sometimes they would even sell their properties or personal belongings, just to finance their trip," Seneres noted.