“UUWI NA KAYO [You are going home].”
With these words, Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday gave five distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who had sought shelter at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai a belated but much-needed Christmas cheer.
“Hindi man sila nakauwi noong Disyembre, ito ang pinakamagandang pamasko para sa kanila at sa kanilang mga pamilya [They may have been unable to come home last December, but they are now getting the best Christmas gift for themselves and their families],” Binay said.
The OFWs are scheduled to arrive on Friday night with the Vice President.
Binay, a former presidential adviser on OFW concerns, met with Rosminda Baui, Belsie Espine, Leowilyn Tan Angelyn Tak and Lucrecia Insesto at the POLO center in Dubai on Thursday and told them the good news.
The Vice President and his friends and supporters provided for the plane tickets.
“Bago kami umalis papunta dito sa Dubai, nalaman namin na may mga kababayan tayo na pwede nang umuwi at kulang na lang ang pamasahe kaya minabuti namin na tumulong sa kanila [Before we left for Dubai, we had learned that some of our countrymen wanted to go home but they lacked fare and so we decided to help],” Binay said.
According to him, “businessmen and private individuals” chipped in for the plane tickets.
Baui, a 27-year-old single mother from Cabagan, Isabela, ran away from her employer on December 23, 2015 after she was slapped on the face and physically abused by her employer.
While she finished her original two-year contract with her employer, she said the latter refused to let her go home for vacation so she was forced to renew her contract.
Advised of her options, Baui chose not to file a police complaint as she just wanted to see her only child, whom she has not seen for almost three years.
She was also forced to refund her renewal visa cost of AED1400 in order to facilitate release from her employer.
Espine is a 36-year-old household worker from E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental.
She was given a ticket to Manila and was brought to the Dubai International Airport by her employer last September 21, 2015 but was not allowed to board her flight since her visa was not canceled.
Espine said she sought shelter at the POLO center because her employer did not wish to take her back anymore.
Upon verification of her immigration records, POLO officials found out she was not issued a visa by her employer, so she had to pay a penalty for overstaying.
Tan, 31, from Wao, Lanao del Sur, came to Dubai on October 27, 2015 to work as clerk in a manpower agency.
She said while at work, she was sexually harassed by the marketing manager of her agency.
While Tan tried to avoid the man who was making advances, the man continued to pursue her until she decided to run away and seek the assistance of the POLO.
Tak, 26, from Kiamba, Sarangani, arrived in the United Arab Emirates on June 23, 2015 to work as a waitress/receptionist.
Upon her arrival, however, she was made to work as a household worker where was paid a low salary and suffered verbal abuse by her employer.
Tak said she ran away from her employer’s residence on December 20 2015 because she could no longer take the frequent scolding of her employer.
Insesto, 42, whose family hails from Zamboanga Sibugay, said she ran away because she was being physically abused by the son of her employer.
She said she was punched in the stomach, was not given adequate food and made to work seven days a week.
The Vice President, also a former chairman of the Presidential Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment, vowed to assist in investigation of the OFWs’ cases, especially those who were given jobs different from what was promised them as he called for clearer guidelines on the repatriation of undocumented workers.
“Dapat may malinaw din na patakaran para sa mga undocumented na kababayan natin, paano sila matutulungang makauwi. Problema pa rin ang illegal recruitment kaya dapat tuloy-tuloy ang kampanya laban dito [There should be a clear policy on undocumented Filipinos and how we can help them return to the Philippines. Illegal recruitment is still a problem and so we should continue the campaign against it],” Binay said.
He reminded the five OFWs to be more careful in the future.
“[Go through the legal process in seeking overseas employment]. In the long-term, as I have always said, my administration will give priority to providing jobs in the Philippines so that overseas employment becomes a choice, not a necessity,” Binay, a candidate for President in the May 2016 elections, said.
During his three-day visit to the UAE, he held dialogues with OFWs and UAE officials on issues covering investments, job opportunities and workers’ welfare.
He met with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and discussed potential investment opportunities in power and infrastructure in the Philippines??
Shortly after the meeting with the Crown Prince, UAE Labor Minister Shaqr Ghobash invited the Vice President for a meeting where they discussed three new labor decrees and reported on the status of ongoing negotiations on the Memorandum of Understanding on Labor and on Household Service Workers (HSWs) Unified Contract.
OFW remittances accounted for 8.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2014, with P76.55 billion coming from some 822,000 OFWs in the UAE.