SC Orders Pasay Court to Rule on Contested OWWA Policy

The Supreme Court has ordered a Pasay City court to immediately resolve a petition against an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) policy requiring overseas Filipino workers to pay a $25.00 contribution on a per-contract basis.

In a 10-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the SC’s Third Division said the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 111 committed an error when it dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the petition filed by the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) in 2004.

The SC said that while it has the authority to determine the OWWA policy’s constitutionality, the Pasay court still has jurisdiction over the case.

The high court cited Section 2(a), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, which states that it is “settled in law that RTC has jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of a statute, presidential decree, executive order, or administrative regulation.”

“It was, therefore, erroneous for the RTC to abruptly dismiss the complaint filed by petitioners on the basis of lack of jurisdiction since said court clearly had the power to take cognizance of the same,” the SC said.

“In so doing, the lower court failed to ascertain factual issues necessary to determine whether the subject issuance is, indeed, invalid and violative of the Constitution,” it added.

OWWA policy

In its petition, the PMRW said the OWWA and its board of trustees acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it issued Board Resolution No. 0383, or “The OWWA Omnibus Policies to provide guidelines on matters concerning OWWA membership and its coverage, collection of contributions, and availment of benefits.”

The group stressed that OWWA was created by law to provide welfare services to all OFWs without limiting the same to member-contributors only.

However, through the assailed OWWA order, the OWWA benefits have now been made available only to those overseas contract workers who have paid their monetary contribution on a per-contract basis.

It imposed on the overseas workers the compulsory payment of a $25.00  OWWA membership contribution, which was originally collected from their employers.


The petitioners claimed the policy was violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it created a distinction between OFWs who contributed to the OWWA Fund and those who did not.

The petitioners also claimed as invalid the provisions in the new policy that allow OWWA Board members to designate their proxies to vote on their behalf in Board meetings as well as those provisions that classify the minutes, transcripts, and other documents of the OWWA as confidential and prevents them from being publicly circulated without authorization from the Board.

The OWWA and its board countered that the assailed omnibus policies do not violate the equal protection clause because it upholds the purpose of the law, which requires registration and documentation of overseas workers for their protections from exploitation in foreign countries.


Moreover, the respondents argued that the prescribed membership fees chargeable to the employers had long been implemented pursuant to Letter of Instructions (LOI) No. 537 signed on May 1, 1977 by then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The LOI was formalized by the issuance of Presidential Decree No. 1694 on May 1, 1980, as amended by PD No. 1809 issued on January 16, 1981, creating the Welfare Fund for Overseas Workers (hereinafter referred to as the “Welfund”).

The respondents insisted these issuances “expressly” instructed the collection of fees for the promotion of the interests of OFWs.

In its ruling, the SC remanded the case to the Pasay RTC for proceedings and resolution.

(Source: KBK, GMA News)

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