Senator Christopher ‘’Bong’’ Go said President Duterte has certified as urgent the newest version of his measure providing for the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil).

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

“I’d like to hurry up Congress in this. One of my proposals during the campaign period was the creation of Overseas Filipinos [department],” Duterte said during his recent ‘’Talk to the People’’ address.

Go thanked Duterte for heeding the calls of overseas Filipinos and their families by certifying the measure as urgent and emphasized that the proposed department would ensure an efficient and more responsive government services to them.

“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa Pangulo (we thank the President) for heeding the call of various stakeholders, particularly Filipinos abroad, who are appealing for a more efficient and responsive mechanism for government to respond to their needs so that we can provide them the best service that they deserve,” Go said.

Go then urged his colleagues in the Senate to heed the call of the President and the millions of overseas Filipinos by immediately acting on the passage of the measure and continue the committee deliberations to see how the chamber can reach a viable solution.

The Senate goes into a Christmas recess today. it resumes regular session on January 18.

“Sana po ay alalahanin natin na mga ordinaryong Pilipino ang pinaka-nangangailangan dito. Pakinggan po natin sila at intindihin natin kung saan sila nanggagaling. At the end of the day, para naman po ito sa kanila, sa kabutihan po nila ang isunusulong nating batas,” he added. (We should look after the welfare of ordinary Filipinos who need this. Let us hear them. At the end of the day, this is for them, their welfare is what this measure is for.)

Go filed on Monday, December 14, the third version of the bill which provides for the creation of the proposed DOFil.

He was referring to the new bill as “the result of a series of consultations and meetings among the Executive agencies”, particularly those which would be affected by the restructuring as a result of the measure.

As with its previous versions, Senate Bill 1949, also known as the “Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2020,” provides for the creation of the DOFil, defines its powers and functions, and rationalizes the organization and functions of government agencies related to overseas employment and migration.

In this new version of the measure, the new Secretary will now also have the authority to assess and evaluate, and transfer, delineate, reassign, or reorganize the functional areas or responsibilities of each office as he may deem necessary.

He is further authorized to recommend the creation of or additional Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary posts and other positions as may be necessary, subject to existing laws, rules, and regulations.

It also consolidates the Legal Assistance Fund and the Assistance to Nationals Fund currently administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) into a single fund that will be administered by the DOFil.

The new version also transfers back to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) over monetary claims arising out of an employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract involving overseas deployment or employment of Filipino workers. This includes claims for actual, moral, exemplary, and other forms of damages.

The POEA, as an attached agency of DOFil, will likewise assume original and exclusive jurisdiction over disputes relating to OFWs covered by collective bargaining agreements which are previously filed before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

Aside from these additions, the new DOFil bill improves the provision on the One Country-Team approach where all officers, representatives, and personnel of the Philippine government posted abroad regardless of their mother agencies shall, on a per country basis, act as one country-team with a mission under the leadership of the Ambassador or the Consul General.

Moreover, Go also reiterated that the creation of the said department would contribute to the initiative of rightsizing the bureaucracy.

He further explained that the proposal “will not bloat the bureaucracy, but would rather streamline the functions, improve coordination, and make it more responsive to the needs of Filipinos it wishes to serve.”

The senator from Davao emphasized that around 10 million of the population are considered overseas Filipinos.

While the government does its best to create equal or even better opportunities for these Filipinos to return home, it is still the responsibility of the state to take care of its citizens wherever they are in the world.

“Sila po ‘yung bagong bayani natin, more than ten million po ‘yan, nagpapakamatay sila sa ibang bansa. Alam niyo, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot na mawalay sa pamilya — kaya po bigyan natin sila ng departamento na pinamumunuan ng isang Cabinet-level Secretary na para sa kanila talaga. Ito ang magtitimon, magpapagitna, poprotekta sa kanilang mga karapatan, magsisiguro sa kanilang kapakanan, at tutugon sa kanilang mga hinaing,” he lamented. (They are our new heroes, 10 million of them. They are working to death in other countries. You cannot pay the heartaches of being separated from their families. That is why we need to have a department to be able headed by a Cabinet-level secretary. He will be the ship captain and middleman to protect their rights, maintain the benefits due them and extend help to complaints.)  

Source: Manila Bulletin (