MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court affirmed that the Department of Health (DOH) has control over the activities and operations of all clinics that conduct pre-employment medical examinations for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The ruling effectively puts an end to decking, a practice requiring OFWs to register at a group of medical clinic, which then farms out registered OFWs to a medical clinic located elsewhere.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Approved Medical Centers Association (GAMCA) holds the monopoly of conducting medical examinations on OFWs, and because most of GAMCA’s member clinics are located in Metro Manila, applicants are forced to travel to Metro Manila. This leads to increased costs for the applicants due to travel, lodging and food expenses, just so they can accomplish their pre-employment medical examination.
This problem was initially addressed by Congress through RA 10022, which amended RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers’ Act, which led the the DOH to issue an order on August 23, 2010, commanding GAMCA to stop implementing the decking practice.
On August 10, 2012, however, Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maria Ragasa nullified the orders of the DOH and enjoined it from implementing these orders. This prompted the health agency to seek redress with the high court.
In its ruling on April 14, 2015, but was released to the media in full on June 2015, SC denied the pleas filed by GAMCA and Christian E. Cangco and suspended “the implementation of the permanent injunction issued by the [RTC of Pasay City], Branch 108, in its decision dated August 10, 2012.”
“The respondents failed to convince this court that GAMCA possesses a clear and unmistakable right or a right in esse that is sought to protected by a provisional injunctive writ,” the SC said.
Section 16 of RA 10022 states that the health department “shall regulate regulate the activities and operations of all clinics which conduct medical, physical, optical, dental, psychological and other similar examinations” for the pre-employment medical examinations of OFWs.
It further states that “no group or groups of medical clinics shall have a monopoly of exclusively conducting health examinations on migrant workers.”
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the SC resolution is a “welcome development for thousands of overseas Filipino workers.”
“The medical referral ‘decking system’ brought inconvenience and unwanted delays to aspiring OFWs, as it required them to line up at the GAMCA Manila office or file online requests, just to get forced referrals to medical clinics that were far from their places of origin,” Baldoz said in a statement.
The court also ordered “the En Banc’s Clerk of Court to notify the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of this resolution as they are the government agencies most concerned with the implementation of our OFW-related laws, rules and with relations with labor-receiving countries.”
Meanwhile, GAMCA has filed a petition earlier this week, asking SC to reverse its resolution. Accordng to GAMCA, the health department cannot order clinics to cease and desist from implementing the decking system because the practice was “an exercise of the sovereign power of the GCC states.” – Rappler.com
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