A FILIPINO seafarer can be held criminally liable for abandoning his financial obligation to persons to which he is obliged by law to support.
Issues of allotment and remittances were discussed in connection with the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (VAWC), or Republic Act No. 9262, during my lecture as part of the celebration of the National Seafarers Day (NSD) in San Fernando, La Union led by the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS).
Under the POEA Standard Employment Contract, the Filipino seafarer is required to make a monthly allotment of at least 80 percent of his monthly basic salary which shall be payable to his designated allottee in the Philippines.
The estimated 337,502 deployed Filipino seafarers in 2018 remitted $6.14 billion or around P318.55 billion. The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). These remittances help spur domestic consumption in the Philippines and a key ingredient in the country’s drive to achieve higher but sustainable growth.
The allotments shall be paid to the designated allottee in Philippine currency at the rate of exchange indicated in the credit advice of the local authorized Philippine bank. Their “allotments” do not go directly to their beneficiaries but are coursed through their manning agencies as middlemen, who disburse in pesos the seafarer’s monthly earnings to the allottee.
A common problem in connection with remittance is the issue on who will be the seafarer’s allottee , defined as any person named or designated as the recipient of his remittances to the Philippines.
The employment contract is the bilateral agreement between the seafarer and his principal, as represented by the manning agency.
Like any personal property, he can freely dispose or give to anybody without limitations other than those provided by law. His right to dispose his wage remains in his discretion, including the manner or as to how he will divide or dispose it.
Under VAWC, which was promulgated on March 8, 2004, “economic abuse” can be committed against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode.”
The said law defined “economic abuse” as any act that makes or attempts to make a woman financially dependent which includes, but is not limited to the following:
1. withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds
2. deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources and the right to the use and enjoyment of the conjugal, community or property owned in common
If convicted under this law, the seafarer shall be punished by prision mayor, or imprisonment of a minimum of six years and one day to a maximum of 12 years. He shall also shall pay a fine in the amount of not less than P100,000 but not more than P300,000.
The court may likewise expedite the process of issuance of a hold departure order once the case is filed.
Nevertheless, one legal recourse of the wife is the filing of a civil case for support. Once the court grants the petition, the said court order should be given to the manning agency and attached to each POEA standard employment contract. This will serve as a notice to the seafarer that failure to comply will have legal consequence. The manning agency is likewise bound to abide by said order for the allocation in favor of the wife.
The AoS Philippines was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the annual celebration of the National Seafarers’ Day. This year’s NSD was held last Sept. 29, 2019 with the theme “Marinong Filipino- Kababaihan: Palakasin sa Industriya!”.
Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)./PN