MANILA, May 13, 2015 – All stakeholders should work together to protect overseas Filipinos who can be found in 196 countries worldwide.
This was the collective sentiment of Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard J. Gordon, Migrante Deputy Secretary-General Sol Pillas, Philippine Migrant Rights Watch President Mel Nuqui during the “Tapatan sa Aristocrat” on Monday.
Gordon said both private and government sectors make a lot of money from oversease placement fees and other dues levied on foreign-based workers.
He said recruitment agencies earn a lot from sending workers abroad and should at least be responsible for their deployed workers. He added the government earns from membership dues from Filipinos and they are likewise duty-bound to protect and represent migrant workers.
“Calling [OFWs] the new heroes is just lip service,” the former senator said. He called on government to assist workers in difficult situations as in the Middle East and some other Asian countries.
Figures vary as to the number of actual overseas Filipinos. Some say there are 10 to 13 million overseas Filipinos, including migrants or permanent residents and undocumented workers.
Government data revealed nearly US$ 30 billion has been remitted by overseas Filipinos last year.
Pillas said during her 28 years as domestic worker in Hong Kong, she and her colleagues never saw a Filipino diplomat or attaché who provided needed guidance and counseling services.
“There was a woman who complained of sexual harassment and she was told by those in the consulate that she was victimzed because she was beautiful,” Pillas explained in Filipino.
Families left behind
According to Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas, this does not even begin to shed light on the sad state of so many families OFWs leave behind, who so often become the “collateral damage” for a chance at supposedly better socio-economic opportunities.
“What happens is that they are deprived of the proper guidance only their fathers and mothers can provide. This results in a ‘relationship absence’ between them and their OFW parents. Unfortunately, they will carry this over well into adulthood, causing them to diminish, even lose, respect and obedience to their fathers and mothers,” he explained.
There are times children of OFWs, Santos explained, are not guided properly. “No wonder, they often find themselves in bad company. They look up to people who are not really the most qualified to set good examples as role models,” the prelate added.
Mel Nuqui who also works for DAWN, a non-government organization assisting former entertainers sent to Japan, said at the height of the entertainment industry, there were at least 80,000 young Filipinas, most of whom had dreams that remained unrealized due to unfortunate experiences in the highly-industrialized country.
Depression among OFWs
Dr. Benny Vicente, former director of the government-run National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City said depression usually sets in when overseas workers end their so-called “honeymoon stage,” when they are quite new to a different work environment.
However, all these change to depression when they are abused, are no longer allowed to use mobile phones and tables, or when contracts are altered, which means reduction in remuneration.
“Even their children left behind would suffer, especially when left to the care of their grandparents who can no longer cope with the active play and movements of three to six year-old children,” Dr. Vicente said.
Gordon said while it is both a privilege and right to seek employment elsewhere, this should be coupled with responsibility as he call on government to institute HIV testing to prevent the upsurge of the virus in the Philippines.
All the panelists believe overseas employment will continue within the next five to ten years as it will not be easy for government and the private sector to curb unemployment and underemployment which is pegged at about 27 million.
“Unless all stake holders will work for a miracle to significantly reduce unemployment and underemployment, the country will continue to see its citizens leave for abroad,” Gordon said. (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)