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Phl insurer backs down, gives subsistence allowance to OFW

07 September 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

A Philippines-based insurance boker has reversed its decision rejecting a claim for subsistence allowance by an abused Filipina migrant worker in Hong Kong, after coming under fire from Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre.

PAMIOFW Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries, Inc. through Angelux Employment Agency, informed Mariel Tadalan  on Aug 17 that her claim for USD300 had already been approved. By mutual agreement, the amount was to be sent to her via Western Union.

Tadalan said she was happy that the insurance company had reconsidered its decision, and thanked The SUN and Labatt dela Torre for taking up the cudgels for her.

“Wow, thanks po sa tulong ninyo. Kasi kung hindi sa tulong ninyo, at ni Sir Labatt na hindi naman ako kilala, baka hindi ko na ito nakuha,” she said in a Facebook message.

The insurer’s change of heart came just four days after Labatt dela Torre fired off an angry letter, saying the insurer’s ground for denying the claim was “unprecedented and makes no sense”. Dela Torre also sent a memo to the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority which could file a case against the insurer with the Philippine Insurance Commission, if need be.

In a letter to Tadalan dated Aug 11, PAMIOFW said the claim could not be granted as the allowance was available only to those with ongoing labor cases. As Tadalan had settled her case against her employer when she filed her claim, she was not entitled to the benefit anymore.

Labatt dela Torre was clearly angered by the reasoning. “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 said in his letter.

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”.

On receipt of his letter, the chairman of the insurance company reportedly berated his staff for denying the claim.

Tadalan, 36, walked out on her job on Apr 4 this year but was still awarded her full claim of $5,568 against her employer on July 7 at the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board. The officer said the employer had effectively terminated their contract from the time the worker was forced to sleep on the terrace outside his house.

Tadalan was also able to show proof of the other abuses she was subjected to during her employment that lasted just over two months, including being fed leftovers and given four hours of sleep.

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 worker.

In line with this, Tadalan was entitled to USD300 for the three months that she spent pursuing her case against her employer.

Sec 37 of RA 10022 also provides other benefits due a migrant worker covered by mandatory insurance, including:
1) A payout of at least US$15,000 in case of the migrant 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 Philippine legal expert consulted by The SUN said that an insurance company that refuses to pay a lawful claim  could be blacklisted, or even have its license revoked by the PIC.

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