MANILA, Aug. 27, 2015 – Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) wasted no time in voicing their disappointment over what they consider the Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials’ “unjust” and unnecessary” practice of customarily opening balikbayan boxes, denouncing this as uncalled for and a gross violation of their rights to privacy.
Violation of OFW rights
“What the BOC is doing is nothing less than an infringement of the rights of OFWs to express their love to their families and friends back in the Philippines,” observed Edward Era, a former OFW based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who now chairs Filipino Lifeline, a non-government organization (NGO) pushing for OFW rights.
Token of love
He pointed out that for most Filipino migrant workers around the world, sending home gifts earned with their hard-earned money is just a simple way of showing affection to their kin, and this should be respected.
“Of all the questionable transactions happening right in their own backyard, I wonder why BOC officials are more interested in our balikbayan boxes. Why pick on OFWs?” asked Era.
For Mherl Ranque from Novaliches, Quezon City, an office employee in Doha, Qatar, opening balikbayan boxes is unnecessary.
“Why the need to open our things? What are x-ray machines for? I’m sorry, but what they are doing is plain stupid,” she said.
“We work here day and night so that we have at least something little to give our families. And now this?” Ranque added.
Meanwhile, Reth Ellen Se, a private nurse working in Al-Taif, Makkah, Saudi Arabia, whose father was also an OFW, told CBCP News she now has reservations about balikbayan boxes after the “scandalous” practice at BOC was confirmed.
“These people want our balikbayan boxes to themselves, but why not the crates of garbage Canada dumped on our shores?” she said, claiming there is a double standard.
While her salary in Saudi Arabia is tax-free, the Iloilo native pointed out she cannot help but take offense at the way the Philippine government mistreats and overburdens her and fellow OFWs with taxes even as they are hailed the country’s “Bagong Bayani” (Modern Heroes). (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)