By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Children are not the ones who wish to become superheroes. Even relatives of overseas Filipino workers who are in distress wish they have extraordinary powers as well. And this is not because they want to save the world; it is more basic than that. They just wanted to save their loved ones who they feel are being neglected, nay abandoned, by the Philippine government, specifically the Department of Foreign Affairs and its consuls abroad.
“If only I could fly (to Saudi),” Camille’s mother told me in a conversation prior to her daughter’s repatriation. Camille, not her real name, was raped and became pregnant as a result, had a miscarriage and endured several months in jail without receiving any form of legal assistance from the Philippine government.
I thought, at first, that it was a mere coincidence that I get to hear similar wishes over and over again from families of OFWs in distress. But in the three years that I have been writing issues concerning migrants and OFs, it never fails. I always hear relatives wishing they had extraordinary powers to save their loved ones because of government neglect.
Here are some memorable examples.
Remember Mystique of X-Men? She had the power to transform herself into the likeness of anybody she wishes.
Arlene Manarang, wife of jailed OFW Jerry Manarang, wished she had the powers of Mystique so that she could go inside the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs to keep tabs on the developments in her husband’s case.
“Maybe nakukulitan na sila sa akin,” Manarang said in jest. She said that she noticed that DFA case officer Milet Flores is almost always out whenever she calls or goes to their office. But once, Manarang said, she signed in the logbook under a different name, the staff confirmed that Flores was in her office. “Oh it’s you,” Flores told her. Despite these efforts, however, Manarang could not get any information on how her husband’s case is progressing.
This Superhero is a favorite. Take the case of Boy Santos, 46. He wished he was Superman so he could rescue his wife Victoria, who is being beaten up by her employer in Saudi Arabia for more than two years now.
Others wish they could travel back in time to stop their loved ones from leaving the country. This is the wish of families and relatives of OFWs who were killed, died under mysterious circumstances, beheaded and those who were sentenced to die. Perlita Carmen, mother of OFW Mark who was killed in Kish Island in Iran last year, wished she could go back to the time when her son was about to leave abroad so that she could hug him tightly and tell him she loves him very much.
This is not to trivialize what families and relatives of distressed OFWs go through. I wrote this post to show how desperate families of OFWs have become and how callous and neglectful Philippine government officials are. Actually, the government has the responsibility, the authority and the resources to do something about the situation of distressed OFWs, even those whose cases never reached the major media networks. All they need to do is to rethink their priorities and reorient their work from being sellers of OFWs to protectors of Filipino citizens.
The national government should also rethink its priorities. After all, the labor-export policy, which began in the late ’70s, was intended to be merely a temporary measure to ease the severe unemployment situation in the country at the time. Sadly, it is now being viewed by the government as a major source of dollars and employment.