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OFWs run to Supreme Court to contest mandatory SSS contributions

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, August 27, seeking to nullify the requirement for them to pay Social Security System (SSS) contributions.

Nine OFWs, represented by left-leaning lawmakers and the labor group Migrante, filed the petition which seeks to declare null and void provisions of Republic Act 111999 of the SSS law concerning OFWs.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the law in February, overhauling the SSS charter and classifying land-based OFWs as self-employed workers, who are therefore mandated to pay SSS contributions.

OFWs say this arrangement is unfair since they have employers who cannot be compelled to pay their share of SSS contributions because they are foreigners. In contrast, those employed in the Philippines have local employers who are compelled to pay their share.

Section 9-B (d) of the law says the foreign and labor departments are mandated to negotiate a deal with OFW host countries to make employers shoulder their SSS payment share, just as local employers do.

"This ideal scenario is still a future event that may or may not happen," said the petition.

It added: "Meanwhile, the status is that land-based OFWs are being required to be compulsory members to the SSS with the status of a self-employed person paying both the employee and employer shares."

'Oppressive'

The law's Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) require that the compulsory payment of SSS contribution shall form part of the processing of the workers' Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

"By virtue of this provision, land-based OFWs must pay their contribution as a self-employed person before leaving the country as a requirement for receiving their overseas employment certificate," the petition said.

This, the OFWs said, is oppressive.

"This is especially oppressive to simple and struggling OFWs who usually had to borrow money and be already buried in debt in order to pay for the many requirements for OFW employment even prior to commencing employment abroad," the petition said.

The petition pointed out that by making it the payments mandatory, the government effectively "increased" the charges due OFWs, which it said violates the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.

The OFW law says, All fees for services being charged by any government agency on migrant workers prevailing at the time of the effectivity of this Rule shall not be increased."

"The spirit of this provision only means that it is the policy of the State not to increase and place additional financial burdens on our migrant workers. The compulsory coverage of land-based OFWs as self-employed members [of SSS] therefore runs contrary to this very lofty policy of the State," said the petition. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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