Cash flows from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) surge, but the growth in remittances, from which the country gets huge economic benefits, is not repaid by our government in terms of services, benefits, rights and privileges.
On the contrary, the very government that should fight for the rights of OFWs and that should protect them often ends up abusing them. Ironically, with the higher expected OFW deployment in the future, we could also expect more OFWs being abused, not only by their employers but by their own government.
The allegations that some Philippine Overseas Labor Officials (Polo) had sexually abused Filipino workers in Kuwait in exchange for airline tickets home is just the latest in the laundry list of complaints coming from the OFWs themselves.
These acts are shameful and condemnable and, of course, criminal. The alleged perpetrators should be thoroughly investigated and if guilty should be jailed.
Mario Antonio, one of the two labor officials, named in the “sex-for-repatriation” exposé of Akbayan Party-list Rep. Walden Bello, denied the accusation against him.
I really cannot think why Filipino women workers there will fabricate such charges.
There is also a similar allegation made by a female OFW in Kuwait.
Bello also named Blas Marquez, an officer of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait, and a certain Mr. Kim, who is based in Damascus, Syria, as among those who victimize female OFWs at the Philippine safehouses in these countries.
So this is just not one case or one accusation we are talking about here, but a pattern of such alleged abuses or acts of depravity.
As Sen. Tito Sotto said “those Philippine envoys involved in sex favors are worse than rapists because the women are made to suffer in silence.”
Another unfortunate thing is that these sordid allegations have cast all labor and foreign affairs officials in a bad light, when I know there are still many honest and dedicated ones in the service.
I am sure though that some other officials knew about these “sex-for-repatriation” schemes but chose to remain silent perhaps because they were subordinates or did not want to cause a scandal or for whatever reasons.
Now is the time for them to come out and substantiate the charges and right the wrongs. Because having stayed silent while these criminal acts were being committed makes them just as guilty. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” Edmund Burke said.
We really need tougher laws against illegal recruitment and human trafficking as well as reforms in the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and other institutions that help OFWs.
Unfortunately, there are only few legislators in Congress who are genuine representatives of workers.
We need to make sure that six of the 12 members of OWWA’s Board of Directors are bona fide OFWs, because they are the ones who can genuinely represent the needs of their sector.
We have to reward the hard work our OFWs put in for this country. They have sacrificed so much to provide for their families and their remittances practically keeps the Philippine economy afloat and thriving even during bad times.
When abused, cheated and beaten Filipino female workers take shelter in our embassies or ask help from our labor officials, they should be helped and protected, not further abused.
And to think that we just recently celebrated Migrant Workers Day.
Manila celebrated its 442nd foundation day yesterday.
I’m Visayan. I have my roots in Cebu and Bohol, but I have lived a good part of my life in Manila as well, having worked here for most of my professional life.
I rent a place in Legaspi Towers along Roxas Boulevard, which offers a spectacular view of Manila Bay’s world famous golden sunset.
During my two terms in the Senate, I worked in the Old Congress Building. Blas Ople and I would often have coffee either in Intramuros or at the Army and Navy Club near the Quirino Grandstand, which is no longer around.
Manila is truly a unique city with unique attractions and an unrivaled history.
Many say the city is no longer what it once was. While this is true, there is much hope for the future because Manila’s unique attractions could always bring tourism revenue for the city government and local businessmen and residents.
The city government must clean up the city, light it up again and enforce discipline and peace and order. The administration must nurture the Old Manila attractions that bring economic activity and give aesthetic benefits and community pride to the city.