An overpriced OFW identification card

An overpriced OFW identification card

Authored by: Nicon Fameronag (Former undersecretary DOLE)    Date posted: Sep 29, 2017

Unknown to many, or perhaps just glossed over, the Department of Labor and Employment is toying with the idea of issuing an identification card for overseas Filipino workers, purportedly as the “best gift” of President Rodrigo Duterte to the millions of OFWs who had helped catapult him into office.

At a quick glance, the idea is sane. It is a PR coup, and many in the media have praised the DOLE for coming up with a replacement for the decades-old, much-maligned overseas employment certificate (OEC) which many OFWs asked—and are asking until now—President Duterte to discard. The OEC is the paper document that proves one is an overseas contract worker and prevents an OFW from being molested and harassed at the country’s airports.

However, the OFW identification card is not as harmless as it looks. Hidden behind the proposed plastic ID is a story that social guardians of OFW welfare and OFWs themselves must need to hear, for it reeks of corruption, opaqueness, and intellectual dishonesty.

Let’s begin with the project’s technical aspect. Based on my study, the DOLE is yet to provide a technical infrastructure backbone for the ID—servers, computers, IT software, programmers, technicians, etc.—that will make the ID what the DOLE envisions it to become: (a) a ‘unique’ IDs delivered to OFWs, here and abroad; (2) an ID card to serve as OFWs’ automated OEC and airport and immigration pass; (3) an ID useful for banking transactions; (4) a pass for OFWs’ entry to portal or iDOLE

One-Stop Shop Online Facility and to access government records electronically without the need to go to government agencies; (5) an ID for easy transactions with government and private agencies concerning the OFWs’ overseas employment; and (6) an ID to serve as OFWs’ Travel Exit Clearance for two years and which will entitle them to travel tax and terminal fee exemptions.

It has even yet to train and appoint personal information processors and personal information controllers and to register a data processing system, which are all required under the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. This is important, for the OFW ID will involve generating, sending, receiving, storing, and processing of sensitive personal data of OFWs which the law guarantees certain privacy, proper use, and protection. Public interest requires us to inform our readers that there is a shadowy figure behind the OFW ID, a private businessman who is into IT projects at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and in the overseas recruitment sector; who has connection in the administration; and who may have given the DOLE the OFW ID idea as a lucrative money-making scheme. The shadowy individual should be exposed as a scum.

I said this because the OFW ID, in my estimate, will not be free as the DOLE bandied about. It will be for a cost of at least between a low of P542.75 to a high of P1,855.57 per ID card. Taking the maximum for argument’s sake, a simple multiplication will show that if the DOLE issues the ID to five million OFWs, easily the total cost will be P9.277 billion. With the ID’s validity of two years, that would be P18.555 billion in the remaining five years of the Duterte administration.

It may be significant to point out that the OEC—which the OFW ID will replace—fetches only P100 if the OFW is a balik-manggagawa; or P200 if the OFW is a first-time overseas worker, or a new hire. I will detail shortly how I arrived at this estimate. In the meantime, it may also be relevant to point out that the elected party-list representative of OFWs in Congress, Hon. John Bertiz, has been mum on the issue of the OFW ID when he should be the first to speak about its merits or demerits. Among other numerous questions, this is one that OFWs may ask as the OFW ID mystery story unravels.

A former undersecretary for employment of the DOLE, the author is the president of the Lilac Center for Public Interest, Inc., a policy research and advocacy think-tank.