This, Salvador said, shows how alarming and serious the situation is. But like the case of the three Filipinos in China, the government again did not exert much effort and lacks the political will in helping these Filipino workers. “It was already too late and the government has placed too little effort in saving them from execution. They waited for the last minute to act,” Salvador said, “Villanueva and Credo were arrested in 2008 yet it was only in 2011 that the government acted on their cases.”
Aquino’s Budget Cut
If there is anything that differentiates the Aquino’s administration from its predecessor, Martinez said, is that he reduced the budget for legal assistance for OFWs from P50 million ($116,280) to P27 million ($62,790) and the Assistance to Nationals from P100 million ($2.3 million) to P87 million ($2.02 million). This, he said, is the “most direct attack on OFWs.”
“Legal assistance fund is like oxygen to an ailing OFW. When Aquino reduced the budget, it affected the services of the government to the Filipinos in need, from the embassy official’s visits to prison cells to the legal counsels that are given to them,” Martinez said.
He added that the government has already provided a meager budget to OFWs even prior to Aquino’s budget cut. “We feel the effects of the budget cut,” he said, adding that even those who have committed light offenses in other countries do not have legal counsel who would represent them in their hearings.
The budget cut also backfired on government officials, Martinez said, when they were criticized not just for the lack of legal assistance to the three Filipinos executed in China but also the failure to immediately repatriate Filipinos who were caught in the strife-torn country Libya, and in other parts of the Middle East where there is political turmoil. Martinez said the government was also criticized for its “slow response” to the case of Filipinos in Japan who want to be repatriated after they were hit by an earthquake, and a tsunami and the threat of a nuclear meltdown.
“It is time for the government to translate the contribution of OFWs in the country’s economy into services,” Martinez said. He added that the remittances should be used to generate more jobs back home by developing the country’s industry. “But they are not doing it because they are already earning so much (by simply intensifying the labor export policy) yet they exert so little effort.”
Bragas said the government should conduct a full accounting of the cases abroad where Filipinos are involved. She added that a provincial migrants center is also a good way to reach out to families and relatives of OFWs in distress.
Rose, for her part, urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to quickly act on his brother’s case. She said that there have been reports that the family of the Sudanese landlord have already forgiven Joselito and are asking for $40,000 as blood money. “We could not afford that. I hope that the government will do something about this before they change their mind. We do not want our brother to be another Flor Contemplacion or to end up like those three Filipinos executed in China.”