Criminalize withholding passports

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Criminalize withholding passports

Topic |  
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It is high time that the government criminalize withholding of passports by recruitment agencies and employers victimizing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

This long time practice of withholding passports of OFWs remains prevalent, and has gone unabated.

We have heard too many stories of OFWs whose passports are tkaen from them upon stepping in foreign soil.

Confiscation of passports is done by employers for many reasons, foremost of which is to create a stranglehold against the OFW who may later on, no longer want to continue working with an employer.

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In other cases, taking away passports from innocent OFWs is a means of promoting slavery, and prostitution.

A friend of mine was once able to enter the United States, only to have her passport taken from her by her own aunt. She was very young at that time. Later, she was made to work virtually as a slave, under horrible conditions in a strange land.

The unauthorized withholding of passports of our OFWs is a form of coercion that needs to be criminalized in order to afford full protection to our modern-day heroes.

Many OFWs suffer from this unfair act as their passports are withheld, confiscated or retained either by their recruitment agencies here or by their employers overseas, for various reasons.

It is recognized though that owing to the territorial application of our criminal laws, it may not be that easy to enact such a law.

There has to be a legal mechanism whereby the physical withholding or confiscation abroad would merit criminal prosecution here, specially if the act is linked to other related acts committed within our country.

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In any event, there is no absolute prohibition against the extraterritorial application of criminal laws, as even the Revised Penal Code provides some exceptions to this concept.

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OFWs and their respective families should not be left without a remedy to enforce their rights under the law and enable the State to punish the perpetrators with imprisonment and stiffer fines and other penalties.

A passport is a document issued by the government to its citizens which is superior to all other official documents such that its unauthorized withholding or retention brings untold hardships to its holder.

The issuance amounts  to a request to other jurisdictions to allow a Filipino holder to pass safely and move freely and not to impair his or her mobility and capacity to transact, and seek aid or protection in case of need.

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