The Associated Marine Officers and Seafarers Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), the largest seafarer union in the country is supporting the escrow deposit provision in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers that the House Committee on Overseas Workers included in House Bill No. 7325, also known as “An Act Instituting the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers.”
In a statement on March 2, 2023 to the Joint Senate Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Finance Technical Working Group, AMOSUP said that its leadership and members favor the insertion of the escrow deposit provision in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers because it protects seafarers from the predatory practices of ambulance chasers.
AMOSUP made this clarification in response to published reports indirectly alluding that the union is supporting quarters not in favor of the bill’s escrow deposit provision because it is against the unscrupulous activities of ambulance chasers in the local maritime industry.
House Bill No. 7325 was passed by the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers chaired by Congressman Ron Salo of Kabayan Party-list with Congressman Sandro Gonzalez of Marino Party-list as well as Congresswoman Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino of OFW Party-list, Congressman Elizaldy S. Co of AKO Bicol Party-list, and Congresswoman Ma. Rachel J. Arenas of the 3rd district of Pangasinan as members.
The House committee was able to successfully include in the bill an escrow deposit provision in the execution of final and executory decisions of both the National Labor Relations Council (NLRC) and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the absence of which have been taken advantage of by ambulance chasers for so long.
Since the NLRC and NCMB labor decisions are final and executory, the seafarer and the ambulance chaser can immediately get the claimed amount, usually in millions of pesos. More than 50% of the money usually goes to the ambulance chaser and the balance goes to the seafarer who shall still be happy since he got something that he was not expecting in the first place.
The problem occurs when the shipowner files an appeal and the Court of Appeals overturns or reverses the decision of NLRC or NCMB. The reversal would mean that the seafarer would be forced to return the entire amount of the claim even if he just got less than 50% of it so he will be forced to sell his car, house, land, or other possessions to repay the millions worth of claims he owes the shipowner. The ambulance chaser on the other hand pockets the bounty and is back scavenging near hospitals and medical clinics looking for his next seafarer victim.
With the escrow deposit provision in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, it protects the Filipino seafarers from the modus operandi of ambulance chasers. By allowing escrow deposit as form of payment or satisfaction of judgment, the shipowner still pays the judgment award issued either by the NLRC or NCMB. However, the money is preserved in an escrow deposit by the NLRC or NCMB until the appeal is decided with finality by the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
In this way, the money along with the interest earned is preserved for the prevailing party be it the seafarer or the shipowner and is protected from the predations of ambulance chasers who have been receiving more than half of the judgment awards, thus, leaving the seafarers unable to restitute the shipowner for money award that is ordered returned upon appeal.
The largest Filipino seafarer union has previously launched a joint campaign with the government to rid the industry of ambulance chasers which have been feasting on unwitting Filipino seafarers and also turning off many foreign shipowners who have been providing Filipinos with shipboard employment.
AMOSUP promotes the social, legal, and moral rights of its members and Filipino seafarers in general in the domestic and international shipping arena. Thus, it is against any entity or individual preying like vultures on hard-working Filipino seafarers.
Apart from AMOSUP, the escrow deposit provision in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers bill is also not being opposed by the United Filipino Seafarers and its president, Engr. Nelson Ramirez. He cited that UFS has long been against the nefarious activities of ambulance chasers and he said that it is about time to put an end to their wicked ways. As a voluntary arbitrator of the NCMB, Ramirez has been very vocal against ambulance chasing in Senate and Congressional hearings.
Even the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have expressed their support to the escrow deposit provision of House Bill No. 7325 because it is a solid response to ambulance chasing that the seafaring sector has been facing for many years now.
For his part, Congressman Raymond Mendoza of TUCP Party-list also lauded the successful passage in the Lower House of the Magna Carta bill for Filipino seafarers.
Image credits: AMOSUP/Facebook