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Recently, President Benigno Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10706 or the “Seafarers Protection Act.”
The said law was made in order to protect the seafarers from entities that charge them with huge sums of money, in exchange for representing them through the court trial for their monetary claim.
In summary, the law states that any group or person who will charge the seafarer or his/her heirs more than 10 percent of their monetary claim will be charged with ambulance chasing.
According to Section 5 of the Seafarers Protection Act, any person who violates Section 2 of this act shall be punished by a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000, or by imprisonment of one year but not more than two years, or both fine and imprisonment.
Although in the past, Bantay OCW had bad experience with one lawyer who asked 50 percent from the seafarer’s widow after he offered his legal services when they claimed the said death benefits.
The seafarer’s wife sought again the assistance of Bantay OCW and we demanded from the lawyer to return the 30 percent, that 50 percent was too much.
After a few days, the widow advised us that the lawyer returned the said amount equivalent to 30 percent as demanded.
There are really abusive lawyers demanding too much from their clients.
But will this law really help the seafarers get the proper compensation they should get after experiencing an accident during their work?
Or will it just limit the choice of the seafarers on who they can get to represent them in court?
Now that the law has been passed, lawyers and groups would be pickier when it comes to handling the cases of seafarers.
Seafarers need the lawyers to prove to the labor arbiters that the injuries which were inflicted to them were work related or they got those illnesses while onboard the ship.
Wouldn’t this law protect the insurance companies according to some maritime lawyers?
Instead of addressing the situation of the seafarers, the law limits the decision and choices of the seafarers on who can represent them for their cases. Some lawyers might even turn them down.
Oftentimes, seafarers are even given Quitclaim documents, which releases the employer or the insurance company from any claims or demands the seafarers have. This is the unfair truth seafarer’s face when they are going up against insurance companies to get their monetary claim for being sick or having an accident while onboard a ship.
There is still a lot of confusion behind the Seafarers Protection Act. According to the group of maritime lawyers, they were not consulted on the issue. And why they were singled out?
Who will truly benefit from the said law, the oppressed seafarers or the insurance companies? Discussion between the seafarers, lawyers and other parties should be made in order to properly discuss the issue.
We need to think about the welfare of the seafarers before we think of anything else. These people have been making a big contribution to our country, the least we can do is provide them with the protection they truly need.
(Susan Andes, also known as Susan K., can be heard over Radyo Inquirer dzIQ 990 AM, Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m.-12 noon. For audio and video live streaming visit www.ustream.tv/channel/dziq. For more information, visit www. bantayocw foundation.org. The Bantay OCW Foundation satellite office is located at 3/F 24H City Hotel, 1406 Vito Cruz Extension corner Balagtas Street, Makati City. Tel: (632) 899-2424 Bantay OCW Helpline: 0998-9912629. E-mail: bantayocwfoundation @email@example.com)
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