IT’S high time President Rodrigo Duterte directs his diatribes at Arabs who torture and rape Overseas Filipino
Workers, especially domestic helpers (DH).
At this time when President Duterte is trying to raise the stock of Filipinos by showing to the high and mighty that he wouldn’t allow them to treat us like dogs on a leash, he could elevate Philippine pride further by telling abusive Arabs that they can join the United States, the European Union and the United Nations in hell.
My blood boiled when I read the news of a Pinay DH who was raped by her employer, her employer’s son and her employer’s brother. She ran away and was given a ride by three men whom she thought would bring her to safety. Instead, she was taken to a desert tent where she was gang-raped. Worse, the rape was videoed. A copy of the video tape fell into the hands of ABS-CBN which edited it before airing it.
This isn’t the first time that Pinay DHs wanting to provide a better future for their families in the Philippines suffered indignities in the Middle East. Probably hundreds of Pinay DHs, including Muslims, have already been raped but know no recourse. They run to the nearest office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration but they find it very difficult to fly back to the Philippines because their passports are usually in the hands of their abusive helpers.
I had seen Facebook posts of DHs who were scalded by ruthless Arab wives, and of others who were punched and kicked for the slightest mistakes. Many also complain that they receive a much lower salary than what was stated in their labor contract. How much longer can the Philippines endure such degradation of her citizens?
President Duterte can tell Arabs that enough is enough, that he can no longer tolerate their abuses against Filipinas. He should demand that kingdoms or governments in the Middle East provide better protection and justice for Pinay DHs. And if they’ll merely shrug their shoulders? Then President Duterte can start talking to them the way he talked to the US, the UN and the EU. Perhaps, Arab culture dictates that domestic helpers be treated like chattels, not as human beings. If this is so, then this should give the President more reason to talk tough in protecting Filipino women and Philippine pride.
I hope he can direct the OWWA to prepare a blacklist of abusive Arab employers and of placement agencies that fail to provide assistance to aggrieved OFWs. The best move for President Duterte, however, is to permanently ban the placement of DHs abroad. Indonesia did this. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t. The President should also stop approving renewals of contracts.
I know this would force hundreds of thousands of Pinay DHs to return home, but this should be no cause for worry. After all, President Duterte had brought home billions of dollars in pledged investments, aids and trade agreements from China and Japan. Recently, there was also a report that more South Korean investors are coming in.
With a brighter economic horizon looming under the Duterte administration, there should be no problem for the returning DHs to find employment. Many of them are college graduates, forced to work abroad because of lack of job opportunities in the country. Now that President Duterte has announced that thousands of jobs will soon be available after his state visits, we can start welcoming back our long-suffering DHs and end the ignominy of being called a country that exports domestic helpers.
The jobs may not be immediately available but they are coming as the President has confidently assured the country. Maybe, this is the reason why he dared investors who are already here to get out if they don’t want the way he was running the country. He said the Philippines can survive even without these wary foreign investors from the US and the EU.
Fil-Ams don’t matter?
Philippine pride is at stake in the treatment of Filipino citizens working as domestic helpers abroad, especially in the Middle East. The President can’t go on ranting against the alleged ill-treatment of the Philippines by the United States while closing his eyes on the continuing abuse of Pinay DHs in the Middle East – unless he believes these Pinays don’t matter like the Pinoys in the United States.
The President said he had grown tired of hearing the argument that he shouldn’t be too harsh against the US because there are at least two million of them there.
“Filipinos in America don’t matter. They are now Americans,” he said.
The interpreters of the President’s controversial statements should now start working before Fil-Ams harden their position or make “erroneous” conclusions. For one thing, it’s wrong to say that Fil-Ams have already turned their backs on their roots.
For instance, former residents of my hometown, Lupao, Nueva Ecija, have formed the organization “Lupao-USA and Worldwide,” to provide high school and college scholarships for promising students, mostly children of farmers. They also undertake medical missions and have funded school improvement projects. I’m sure there are many similar organizations of expatriates from other towns.
What if they feel so unwanted, so unappreciated by the Duterte administration that they will stop remitting dollars to their relatives in the Philippines and end their civic works.
Oh yes, I just had a talk with a Fil-Am and she said there’s a growing fear that they would soon need a visa to return to the Philippines. This came after the President said Americans should get a visa to enter the Philippines, the same way that Filipinos need a visa to visit the US. Does this signify the end of the “Balikbayan Program?”
The heat generated by the talks on visa reciprocity ignored one thing — Filipinos were previously allowed to visit the United States without visa for as long as three months. This visa-free privilege was withdrawn by the United States when thousands of Filipinos became TNTs.