Saturday, April 12, 2008

A slap on Arroyo’s lip service to OFWs

Press Release
April 12, 2008

Complaints of deported 14 OFWs a slap on Arroyo Administration’ s lip service to OFWs - Migrante ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations based in the Middle East has lambasted the Arroyo administration as the recently arrived 14 OFWs from Saudi Arabia have issued their statement when interviewed by the media complaining that the Arroyo administration failed to help them.

“The statement issued by the 14 OFWs who have just arrived today complaining that the Arroyo administration through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consular General and Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies such as Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, all has failed to help them thus its promised of immediate repatriation has been long delayed,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante chapter in Riyadh have talked to an embassy official, whose name we could not reveal to protect his person, who acknowledge that pressuring the Arroyo government to repatriate the stranded workers in Jeddah and Riyadh is a big help and without doing this, Embassy and Consular officials will not act with exigency and efficiency.

“We are used to hearing series of pronouncements from the Arroyo administration that stranded OFWs will be home soon. The fact is, the Arroyo administration, DoLE and OWWA were only pressured to an effort primarily because Migrante International and Migrante ME along with Migrante chapters around the world have intensify its campaign for the immediate repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia especially those seeking refuge in Kandera Bridge in Jeddah,” Monterona added.

Migrante immediately commenced their collective actions, launched several dialogs, picket and rallies in the DFA Main Office in Manila, issued statement of condemnation and possible filing of an appropriate case in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Migrant Rights against the Arroyo Administration’ s continued neglect to their worsening plight; all these actions undertaken by Migrante forced the inutile Arroyo Administration to “exert an effort” as per Mr. Roque’s pronouncement, to assist Filipino workers that are in distress abroad and want to go home.

“We would like to remind the Arroyo administration, DoLE and OWWA that there are still less than 500 OFWs in the deportation center in Jeddah and as per our Migrante-Jeddah reports they are seeing several OFWs who are now in the Kandera Bridge .

Those OFWs in Kandera Bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia are runways who can’t anymore afford to stay working with their errant and abusive employers; they are the runaway OFWs who are often manhandled by their employer, who are often harassed sexually, who are often not paid for their labor, who often their being degraded. They are our fellow OFWs working as domestic helpers and constructions workers.

“They are the majority of OFW population in the Middle East . Unfortunately, many of them were also abused and harassed,” Monterona explained.

Some hundred OFWs in distress are also at Philippine Embassy’s Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh , Saudi Arabia .

The above figures does not include the more than 200 OFWS in distressed in Jordan including the Domingo Sisters, who were pressured to pay for their placement and airfare costs as they were directly hired by the principal agent who is a friend to a certain Enrico Garcia and Alexander Maestrado of the Philippine Embassy’s ATN (Assistant to the Nationals) in Jordan. Worst, ATN Garcia is pressuring the Domingo sisters to pay US$1,500 plus airfare costs of Php40,000 as per their short messages sent to their father and was confirmed by Migrante ME during a short talked to one of the sisters on April 5.

There are more to add: the more than 30 OFWs in distress in Kuwait and more than 20 in Dubai , UAE including the distressed OFWs working for Princess House party organizers.

DoLE Acting Secretary and OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque pronouncement that repatriation is part of government’s effort, (please note: he used the term “effort” instead of “responsibility”) is issued so that they can claim before the very eyes of the public that Mrs. Arroyo’s administration is doing good for the protection and welfare of OFWs.

“But his claim is negated by the 14 deported OFWs who just arrived today with their complaints of the failure of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to help them. It’s like a big slap on their face,” Monterona said.

Migrante demand the Arroyo administration not just to exert an effort, but to perform its state responsibility of providing assistance to all OFWs in distressed and runaways in the entire Middle East. What we have mentioned above are only a few of the thousand OFWs in deportation centers, shelters and jails in the entire Middle East .

“Protecting OFWs, in distress or runaways, is a state responsibility. It is inherent to every government; government has an obligation to protect its people especially those who are working abroad not only to survive their own families but above all contributing much to keep its nation’s economy afloat,” Monterona averred.

Migrante’s Monterona said that the numerous neglect of the Arroyo administration to OFWs is tantamount to criminal negligence and is exhausting OFWs and families of repeatedly reminding her administration of its responsibility to OFWs and families.

The Arroyo’s administration does not deserve even a single “thank you” from OFWs and families for its effort to assist OFWs in distressed who are long been neglected and who suffered a lot under her seven (7) years in office.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Monterona ended. # # #

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

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