Shabby treatment | Inquirer Opinion

Shabby treatment

/ 04:08 AM April 29, 2020

In a virtual slap at the Philippine government, the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected yesterday [Tuesday] the request of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for Taiwan to deport a Filipino caregiver for her alleged “willful posting of nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte” on social media.

In a statement, Taipei pointed out that “Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country where foreign workers enjoy ‘citizen treatment,’ and their rights and interests are protected by relevant laws and regulations, including freedom of speech, which should be respected by governments of all countries.”

Imagine that — a foreign government ending up more protective of the rights of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) than the Philippine agency mandated to look after her welfare.


Sen. Nancy Binay earlier had the right words for the Philippine labor officials behind the move: “Wag maging bagong Makapili sa harap ng mga bagong bayani (Don’t be the new Makapili to our modern heroes),” she said, using the derogatory term for Filipino collaborators during the Japanese Occupation.


Labor Attaché Fidel Macauyag and his cohorts at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan who had spearheaded this folly, and who had gone to the extent of going to the OFW’s broker and employer to press for her deportation while also threatening the OFW with cyberlibel charges, should resign their positions forthwith, or be fired if they so refuse, for the utter embarrassment and humiliation they have inflicted on the country.

The other agency tasked with protecting OFWs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), should be put on notice that one of its officials, the infamous Mocha Uson, has in her blog thrown support for DOLE’s odious action against the Taiwan OFW.

An April 25 posting in the blog by one of its so-called “admins” not only reshared Macauyag’s statement, but also warned OFWs not to abuse their freedom of speech or they will be punished (“Wag ito abusuhin dahil me ikalalagyan ka”) and, more ominously, appeared to egg more such action targeting other OFWs: “Balita ko meron pa diyan sa Japan. Galaw na mga ninja (I heard there are others in Japan. Move, ninjas).” Is Uson being paid taxpayer money to harass and threaten the very constituency her office is required to secure and protect?

And what was DOLE’s business policing a Filipino citizen’s sentiments, anyway, when it’s supposed to be up to its neck with urgent work given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Filipino workforce?

By DOLE’s own count, more than 230,000 overseas Filipino workers have been adversely affected by the pandemic and have sought cash aid, but its available funds of P1.5 billion sourced from the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program are only good for 150,000 people, leaving the rest hanging on to the promise of the one-time assistance of P10,000 or $200.

Add to that sobering figure the over two million local workers who are now out of work or earning less because of the quarantine, many of them still desperately waiting for financial assistance under DOLE’s social security programs.


Instead of brown-nosing and sycophancy, alleviating the people’s suffering should be foremost on DOLE’s mind, especially as the decimation of jobs abroad translates to significantly lower remittances, a vital lifeline for the economy. The World Bank projects that remittances to the Philippines will go down by at least 20 percent as job losses mount worldwide, which means smaller amounts going into the spending budget of millions of Filipino households that depend solely on money sent by family members overseas. Some 17,000 OFWs have already been repatriated, and even more are expected to follow.

As it is, in a number of instances, the department couldn’t even assure a decent welcome for OFWs. Repatriated workers quarantined in a ship, for example, complained about the lack of physical distancing and basic provisions such as water and toiletries. Similar sorry conditions were seen in a designated quarantine hotel in Quezon City that workers said were “filthy and unhygienic,” while complaints of shabby treatment arose over a temporary shelter provided by OWWA where quarantined OFWs from different countries were packed side by side.

Not a few pointed out that they were treated well in the countries where they worked, with proper sanitation and physical distancing, only to go home to substandard conditions.

“We arrived in the Philippines healthy but we feel we might get sick because of our situation here in the hotel and out of stress,” a displaced seafarer told ABS-CBN.

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Would that labor officials apply the same zeal and enthusiasm they exhibited in going after the caregiver in Taiwan to tending more solicitously to the needs of Filipino workers now under extraordinary distress.

TAGS: cyberlibel case, Editorial, Fidel Macauyag, Mocha Uson, OFW in Taiwan, OWWA, Rodrigo Duterte

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