A GROUP representing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) has asked the Supreme Court to stop the Social Security System (SSS) from collecting pension contributions from land-based workers overseas.
In a 37-page petition, Migrante International said the law mandating pension coverage of land-based Filipinos working abroad violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
Land-based OFWs are considered self-employed and must pay SSS contributions both as an employer and employee, resulting in monthly deductions of as much as P2,400, according to a copy of the lawsuit. Sea-based OFWs pay only P800, it said.
“It is unreasonable and oppressive to land-based OFWs,” according to the filing.
Under the rules, an overseas Filipino worker must pay his contribution before leaving the country. Overseas workers returning to their jobs must also pay three months worth of contributions or P7,200.
Also named respondents aside from SSS Chairman Carlos G. Dominguez III were SSS President and Vice-Chairman Aurora C. Ignacio, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Administrator Bernard Olalia.
The requirement deprives overseas workers of their property without due process, the plaintiff said. “Preventing a land-based OFW from leaving the country to work abroad, unless the three month/one-month self-employed contribution is paid, is a deprivation of the right to work and achieve a life of dignity and a decent standard of living.”
Treating land-based OFWs differently from sea-based OFWs is baseless, Migrante also said.
Remittances from Filipinos working overseas reached an all-time high of $32.3 billion last year, making up almost a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product, the plaintiff said, citing data from the central bank. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas