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Labatt takes up OFW’s fight for compensation under mandatory insurance scheme

16 August 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

Labatt dela Torre
Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre has fired off an angry letter to an insurance broker in Manila which rejected a migrant worker’s claim for subsistence allowance under the mandatory insurance law in the Philippines, saying she should have filed it while her case against her employer was ongoing.

Labatt dela Torre sent out the letter dated Aug 13 to PAMIOFW Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries, Inc., taking it to task for rejecting the claim of Mariel F. Tadalan, who recently won a labour case she filed against her Hong Kong employer.

Tadalan, 36, was terminated on Apr 4 this year and was awarded her full claim of $5,568 against her employer on July 7 at Hong Kong’s Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board.

Under Sec 37-A(e) of R.A.10022 or the Migrant Workers Act, she should also have been entitled to a total amount of at least US$300 as subsistence allowance from her Philippine insurer over the three months that she was fighting her labor case in Hong Kong.

On the advice of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office which also certified that she was involved in litigation with her former employer, she filed a claim for subsistence allowance against PAMIOFW. However, the broker turned it down on Aug. 11.

“Please be informed that subsistence allowances (sic) are given if an OFW has an ongoing case or litigation abroad,” said the broker’s letter addressed to Tadalan’s Philippine agency, Angelex Allied Agency. “The insurance company must be notified from the time the case was docketed or from the time that there is a case preceding. In the case of Tadalan the claim was filed to us after it was settled.”

Labatt dela Torre called the response “unprecedented and makes no sense”.

He added, “The reason for the benefit is to afford the worker some kind of temporary relief which can bridge her over some difficult times while the case is pending. It is not diminished by the fact that the case had already been settled or had been resolved in favor of either worker or employer.”

He also noted that the law was still unknown to many migrant workers as it has not been fully disseminated, and so they were unlikely to file a claim as soon as they take their employers to court.

Still, he said, “There is nothing in the law nor its implementing regulations, which requires the worker to file their claim while the case is pending or while the case has not been settled yet. To impose a requirement that is not called for by the law nor its implementing rules is egregious and must not be tolerated”.

Under Section 37-A (e) of RA 10022, a subsistence allowance of at least US$100 per month for a maximum period of six months is payable to a migrant worker “who is involved in a case of litigation for the protection of his/her rights in the receiving country”.

The only other requirement is that the labor attache, or in his absence, an embassy or consular official, issues a certification stating the name of the case and parties, and the nature of the cause of action of the migrant worker.

Sec 37 of RA 10022 also provides other benefits due a migrant worker covered by mandatory insurance, including:
1) Payout of at least US$15,000 in case of the worker’s accidental death;
2) At least US$7,500 compensation in case of the worker’s permanent total disability;
3) Repatriation cost of the worker whose contract is prematurely terminated without valid cause, including the transport of his/her belongings. In case of death, the insurer should pay for the cost of repatriating the worker’s remains;
4) Money claims arising from the employer’s liability which may be awarded to a worker in a settlement of his/her claim with the NLRC. The insurance coverage for money claims shall be at least 3 months for every year of the migrant worker’s contract;
5) Transportation cost for the compassionate visit of a family member to a worker who gets hospitalized abroad for at least seven days;
6) Medical evacuation or medical repatriation of a sick OFW under certain conditions.

A lawyer consulted by The SUN regarding Tadalan’s claim said her insurer must have rejected her claim, thinking it could set a precedent for many similar cases as not a lot of workers seem to be aware of their benefits under RA 10022.

The insurance company might also have banked on the possibility that the migrant worker would just abandon the claim for lack of time or resources.

But the legal expert said that an insurance company that refuses to pay a lawful claim could be blacklisted, or even have its license revoked.
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