Mitigating OFWs’ woes

While there is eerie silence these past months about their plight in the desert lands of the Middle East, it does not mean that their ordeal has stopped.

Being dollar earners who help boost our economy, the problem of overseas Filipino workers deserves more than a passing glance from the government. This is not an indictment against authorities, but we feel that they should do more.

Policies and programs vis-a-vis the OFWs are apparently effete. They should be subjected to regular and constant review to find out which one to sustain and which should be trashed to give way to new ideas. Departments mandated to regulate their migration should be proactive in protecting their interest and exhaust ways to ease their persistent problems. In fact, the government should adopt a continuing study to address their problem.

While there is eerie silence these past months about their plight in the desert lands of the Middle East, it does not mean that their ordeal has stopped. God forbids, we will wake up again one day with headline-hugging suicide or death of our workers in the hands of their employer. In fact, more incidents of abuse are not reported than authorities know. I know it, having been an envoy in two Arab countries — Egypt and Sudan.

Apropos of this, I am giving way to an exposition written by a front-seat spectator who, because of his vantage position, has accumulated profound knowledge about what he called the “cycle of abuses” committed against migrant workers. He knows the issues like the palm of his hand. I will be capsulizing, if not quoting in toto his observations for print space and clarity.

Offhand, many were surprised why lawyer Fidel Macauyag, with a budding and promising career at the Department of Justice as Chief Prosecutor of a major city, would be enticed to shift calling. But his works as a prosecutor and Labor Attachè which he now holds are not dissimilar. Both jobs are founded on the philosophy of rendering justice to his fellow being, the OFWs, and the innocently accused of a crime. Was it upon the prodding of his friend and boss, the Secretary of Labor, to help in addressing the problems of the OFWs which hitherto defy solution? One can look at his move as one to a more noble calling — helping distressed migrant workers. Let us read what he has to say.

First, he enumerated the problems, some quotidian already publicly known, which continually haunted OFWs. And among them includes, “maltreatment/physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuses with impunity… the non-release “of workers by employers even after they finished their two-year contract… difficulty to transfer employment… Unjustifiable delay in the implementation of labor decisions”… arbitrary reporting of Huroob (Arabic term for runaway, absentee from work, etc.) who is deprived of all rights of a legal worker, such as, but not limited to, seeking job or medical consultation or hospitalizations, filing of any complaint, open an account or remit money to his family, etc…. difficulty in securing exit visa for domestic helpers reported as Huroob… burden of paying penalty for expired iqama (National ID) and work permit (being) shifted to workers… transfer of DH to other employers against their will… lack of POLO Manpower… refusal by the employer to issue exit visa… (problem) of OFW with pending cases… use of influence by locals (and) the prohibitive cost of hiring “the services of lawyers” which are badly needed to attend to the thousand cases now pending before courts in the kingdom. These and many more will give readers a glimpse of the magnitude of the problem and the dismal condition of our so-called “modern heroes.”

In my next column, we will deal with the serendipitous solution offered by Labatt Macauyag which is simple, practical, doable, and at no cost to the government.

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