SENATOR Cynthia Villar is dismayed over the steady increase in the number of Filipinos being deployed overseas as domestic workers since 2014.
According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the country in 2016 deployed 275,073 first-time househelpers compared to 194,835 in 2015 and 183,101 in 2014.
“Why are we sending more domestic workers now than ever before? Last year, the records of the POEA showed that we have almost breached the 300,000-mark in terms of newly hired migrant domestic workers,” Villar said on Friday.
“We should focus our attention more in offering women workers decent local jobs rather than facilitating their deployment to foreign households under slave-like conditions,” she said.
For the first semester of 2017, the POEA has processed the contracts of 124,969 first-time migrant domestic workers.
“This means we may be sending 300,00 new-hires as overseas domestic workers by the end of the year,” she said.
“I find this quite alarming because the intention of our President [Rodrigo Duterte] has always been to find better and safer means of local employment especially for our women,” Villar said.
“Are we sending out more domestic workers than we can protect? We cannot afford to see more ‘Joramies’ stripped of dignity by foreign employers who think of our women as their slaves,” she said.
The senator was referring to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joramie Garcia Torres who was scalded with boiling oil and beaten up by her Malaysian employer.
She intends to seek an inquiry into the rising number of migrant domestic workers and instances of abuse and maltreatment concerning OFWs like Torres on a “per country basis.”
“Indonesia has stopped sending domestic workers to the Middle East despite pressures from other governments,” Villar said.
“What exactly is the Philippine policy in relation to the deployment of overseas domestic workers? This is something that needs to be discussed because right now, the figures are quite alarming,” she said.
More welfare protection
Villar urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to enhance welfare protection for OFWs.
She urged the DFA to extend legal and humanitarian assistance to Torres as she attends court hearings and pursues a criminal case against her employer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“We all should be proud and supportive of Joramie because she is intent on seeking justice under Malaysian law. While she cooperates with the Malaysian government, I hope that the DFA and DoLE can also assist her indigent family,” Villar said.
She noted that Torres was a grade school teacher prior to applying to work abroad as a domestic worker in Malaysia.
Torres is now under the care of the Malaysian government while charges against her employer are pending in court. The Malaysian employer was arrested but was able to post bail.
Villar hopes that the P1-billion in Assistance-to-Nationals Fund of the DFA can be used to protect and help OFWs especially hundreds of thousands of domestic workers living and working under vulnerable conditions worldwide.