Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hold Departure Orders for OFWs under RA 9262

I came across yesterday a 2007 Philippine Daily Inquirer news story on the numerous cases of the breakup of families of OFWs. In that story titled “Family abandonment cases among OFWs on the rise” the author Veronica Uy mentioned that “the Center for Migrant Advocacy is calling for more legal, economic, and social support for these abandoned families.”

Uy also stated in her article that a particular NGO deals with numerous cases of “family members requesting that an OFW’’s departure be held in connection with a claim for support, noting this was often the only recourse the families had because they lacked resources to file cases against the errant provider.” The NGO, as reported by Uy, however said that “any hold departure order from the Bureau of Immigration needs a preceding order from the Department of Justice.”

Who can issue a Hold Departure Order?

Several things regarding a Hold Departure Order (HDO) need to be clarified:

1. According to the guidelines of the Supreme Court, only judges of Regional Trial Courts can issue an HDO. Judges of MTCs (Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities) are no longer allowed to issue HDOs. However, if there is a pending case with the MTC, the complainant can submit to the Bureau of Immigration certified copies of the complaint and other documents and the BID can issue an HDO.

2. Section 37 of RA 9262 “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” expressly provides that the court can issue an HDO as part of a petition for a Protection Order (whether Temporary or a Permanent Protection Order). Section 36, Rule V of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9262 implements Section 37 of RA 9262. Upon the filing of a petition for a TPO or a PPO, the judge can on that same day issue an HDO to prevent the respondent (like an OFW leaving for abroad) from leaving the country while the petition is being heard. Please read my previous posts on RA 9262 provisions on Protection Orders and Support for abandoned woman and family .

Ready made forms for petitions under RA 9262; exemption from payment of filing fees

Please take note also that under the Supreme Court guidelines for RA 9262, there are ready made forms for a petition for a Protection Order and even an Affidavit of Indigency which families of OFWs can avail of.

The ready made form for a Protection Order has a checklist of items which the petitioner needs only to mark. On the other hand, the Affidavit of Indigency states that either the petitioner has no property or is unemployed, OR that the petitioner is employed but currently does not have the means to retain the services of a private lawyer. Based on this affidavit, the petitioner is exempted from the payment of filing fees. Under the guidelines, the court is required to appoint a counsel de officio (in layman’s terms, the services of the lawyer is free) to help the petitioner.

The Office of the Clerk of Court is mandated to help petitioners

Under the Supreme Court guidelines, the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) is mandated to help the petitioner in filling out the forms in strict confidentiality and in actually filing the petition. I have been told however that in several instances, the OCC has referred petitioners to go to the Public Attorneys Office (PAO). In these instances, I have told these women-petitioners to gently but forcefully remind the OCC of its duties under the Supreme Court guidelines. In extreme cases, I have told some women to file administrative cases with the Supreme Court against Clerks of Court who refused to help them.

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