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Seafarers oppose escrow provision in Magna Carta

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A group of Filipino seafarers yesterday expressed strong opposition to an escrow provision in the proposed Magna Carta for seafarers, saying the provision is “anti-seaman.”

Jacinto Rivera, spokesperson for the Association of Marine Officers and Ratings Inc. (AMOR Seaman) said the provision states that any monetary award for a sick or deceased seaman from the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) or National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) will not be immediately available to the seaman winning the case.

“The AMOR Seaman strongly opposes the proposal to put the monetary award that has already been won in the NLRC or the NCMB into the ESCROW account,” Rivera said.

“It will be placed in an escrow bank account while the case is in the Court of Appeals and up to the Supreme Court. Disability or death benefits can only be obtained if there has been a final decision in the Supreme Court which usually takes five to ten years,” he said.

Rivera also said the group strongly believes the provision regarding escrow is “pro-employers,” “pro-manning agencies,” “pro-ship employers,” and “pro-ship owners.”

The group said the escrow provision will put seafarers at a disadvantage and discourage them from filing claims for disability or death benefits because of the number of years they’ll have to wait before they can win the case.

“Where will they get the money to spend on the case, their medical treatment, and the food for their family while waiting for the outcome of the case?” Rivera said.

AMOR Seaman also stated the escrow provision is unconstitutional as the Labor Code provides the decision of the NLRC or the NCMB is “final and executory,” which means that if the NLRC or NCMB decides in favor of the seaman, the seaman will immediately get his benefits.This provision in the Labor Code is for all workers, whether land-based or sea-based and includes Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“Why must the monetary award of the Filipino seafarer who won the casebe placed in the escrow account but the monetary award of otherworkers including land-based OFWs who won their cases be allowed to receive it immediately? This is a clear violation of the equalprotection clause under our Constitution,” Rivera said.

AMOR Seaman pointed out the purpose of the Constitution is to provideadequate protection to all workers.

“To set aside the said Constitutional purpose is to set aside theConstitutional rights of our seafaring workers,” Rivera said, addingthat for a sick or injured seaman, filing a case is an uphill battle.

“Apart from the fact that it’s expensive and takes a long time toresolve, the aggrieved seaman immediately needs to address his illnessand injury. Seafarers are therefore driven to file a case not becauseof greed but by need,” Rivera said.

“Besides the usually unreasonable length of the progress of thesecases, we cannot make a living progress of these cases, we cannot makea living while hearing the case for the precise reason that we areeither ill or injured and no employer will hire us under ourcondition,” he said.

“If we add the placement in the escrow account of our won case and wehave to wait a few more years, it will be a big blow to us. Is thislike pushing us to death, that it doesn’t matter if we disappear fromthis world as long as the case lasts longer. Isn’t this a lot ofsuffering for our sailors? It’ll be a heavier cross to bear.”

Rivera said: “If it is true that we are considered “modern-day heroes”then we should be given fair, reasonable, and just treatment not onlyin the eyes of the law but in actual situation.”

“The law may be good, but if there is a provision inserted that onlyaggravates our sufferings, it obviously desecrates our honor.”

“We pray that our legislators will be blessed by our dear Lord and be given wisdom and conscience so that such a proposal is rejected! We agree to the provisions of the Magna Carta for Seafarers except for the escrow provision,” Rivera added.


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