BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Vol. VII, No. 50, Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2008
Middle East-based migrant groups, led by Migrante Middle-East Regional Coordinator, Migrante-Jeddah chairperson, Migrante-Dubai spokesperson, and the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangang (KGS) chairperson, lambasted Labor Secretary Arturo Brion for allegedly lying on the real situation of overseas Filipino workers in the region.
Detached from the plight of OFWs
Speaking at the 4th Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labor for Countries of Origin and Destination in Asia held in Abu Dhabi on Jan 21 and 22, Brion was quoted saying that “the Arroyo Government scored high in its efforts to stop exploitation & promote the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East.”
“Philippine Labor Sec. Arturo Brion is misinformed & detached from the real miserable situation of overseas Filipinos in the Middle East,” said John Monterona, Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator.
Monterona said that Brion is “essentially lying and grandstanding,” with his statement, citing that their chapters in the Middle East Region receive at least 15 cases a day of complaints and requests for assistance. These cases involve contract substitution, overcharging fees, maltreatment, sexual advances, and various forms of unfair labor practices. These, he said, are aside from the complaints its national office in the Philippines has been receiving from the OFWs’ families and even aspiring migrant workers.
Monterona advised Brion to further “look deeply into the logbooks of numerous cases of complaints from OFW victims filed in different Philippine Embassies, Philippine Labor & Welfare Offices before concluding that the Arroyo government is stopping exploitation of OFWs and promoting their welfare.”
“The truth is, the Arroyo government is driving Filipinos abroad to be victim of abuse, maltreatment & neglect in its intensification of the labor export program to milk more dollar remittances at the expense of OFW’s sweat & blood,” said Monterona.
In its semi-annual report to Congress, the Department of Foreign Affairs, through its 12 Philippine posts and embassies in the Middle East, has documented at least 1,772 OFWs in jails, excluding data from the Riyadh Embassy, from January to June 2007. Meanwhile, 13 Philippine posts and embassies reported that at least 4,531 OFWs were in distress during the same period.
Migrante groups also noted that 33 OFWs are still on death row, mostly in the Middle East region.
At the Kuwait Embassy alone, it was estimated that about 10,000 cases of assistance to nationals have been received from January to June 2007, or about 123 cases daily. Among these requests involve searching for the whereabouts of OFWs, requests for repatriation, financial support, police clearances and shipment of remains of deceased OFWs.