By Macon Araneta

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said that the new version of the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) Act of 2020, or Senate Bill number 1949, intends to implement a one country-team approach of government offices and personnel posted abroad.

Go filed the proposed measure early December. It  has been recently certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

He said the  one country-team approach requires all officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment, in protecting the rights and advancing the welfare of Filipino migrant workers there, with guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Foreign Service Posts.

“Due to the one country-team approach in the latest version of the DOFil bill, we hope for a swift response to overseas Filipinos in distress,” he said. 

May iisang team na binubuo ng iba’t ibang opisina sa bawat bansa na magtutulungan. Wala ng pasa-pasahan ng mgarequests kasi gumagalaw ang gobyerno natin bilang iisang team,” Go explained.

As author of the bill, Go emphasized that the establishment of the DOFil would also help “rightsize “ the bureaucracy by streamlining and rationalizing the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration into one department. 

It will also promote streamlined coordination among various officials and offices based abroad through the one country-team approach. 

“(It is) about time we create a Cabinet-level, secretary-led department with an organization structured to work together as one team to protect the rights and advance the interests and welfare of about 10 percent of our population who reside abroad,” reasoned the Senator. 

Under the new DOFil bill, “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.”

This also means that the officer who acts as the head of post abroad, such as the Ambassador or Consul General, through the Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary, may recommend to the DOFil secretary the recall of DOFil officers, representatives and personnel posted abroad for misbehavior, misconduct or commission of acts that are detrimental to the national interest. 

Other reasons for recall also include the failure to provide necessary services to protect the rights of overseas Filipinos and failure to perform the duties required of Assistance to Nationals (ATN) officer. Upon request of the secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Overseas Filipinos shall recall the ATN Officer.

In addition, the revised DOFil bill also adds responsibilities to the secretary who shall have the authority to “assess and evaluate and, on the basis of which, transfer, delineate, reassign, or reorganize the functional areas or responsibilities of each office as he may deem necessary.”

The Secretary is also authorized to recommend the creation of such positions when deemed necessary.

Once the DOFil is established, the Legal Assistance Fund and the ATN Fund of the DFA shall be consolidated into the ATN Fund. This fund will then be administered by DOFil.

Lastly, the monetary claims arising out of an employer-employee relationship or by any contract involving overseas deployment or employment of Filipino workers will be transferred back to the POEA within a year from the effectivity of the act.

SBN 1949 is the third iteration of a measure filed by Go in 2019. The latest version of the bill “represents the unified position of the entire Executive branch of the government” including the agencies which will be affected by the reorganization.