Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ugly Labor Attaché

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved). Photo taken from philStar.com

After the expose of Akbayan’s Representative Walden Bello of alleged abuses by a number of officials in Philippine embassies in the Middle East reportedly due to sex-for-repatriation scheme among distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWS). Finally secretary of foreign affairs begins to summon investigation to bring justice to victims.

Who is the culprit?

One of the assailants of probable administrative, civil, and criminal cases is Assistant Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and two other unnamed labor officials. Victims accounted that the first used his position to provide tickets and documents in exchange for sexual favors.

Secretary Albert Del Rosario of foreign affairs has recalled Philippine ambassadors of eight Middle Eastern countries to return home to Manila and discuss the delicate matter.

Why it took so long to uncover the scandal?

Foreign affairs continued to become blind despite alleged horrific stories of sexual harassment of overseas workers in their own backyard until a principled whistleblower congressman bared their mess on Philippine national television and encouraged alleged victims to speak up and come forward.

Some of them already rendered their sworn statements. Others are still worried to come out for fear of being castigated by fellow OFWS. Or perhaps avoiding embarrassment to tell their stories as their families will become the butt-of-jokes.  

Philippine legal procedures will make the pace of investigations sluggish to establish facts of the case. Although if found guilty and there are culpability on the part of the offenders at the end of the investigation, officials and personnel in Philippine embassy shall be held liable. 

They should be fired from their juicy jobs!

How come higher officials or embassy personnel sexually corrupt fellow Filipinos?

That obscene question sounds demonic to me. I wonder why Filipino ambassadors, believed to represent our president and the government, and who should also be responsible for boosting morality as heads in our embassies abroad become blind and deaf of the troubles among their attaches in their own backyards. They should also be held liable of the moral damages incurred by victims since they acted as incident commanders during the crisis.

The alarming scandal is a double jeopardy for distressed Filipinas of the devious sex-for-flight scheme after suffering abuses from their Arab employers and subsequently by officials of our own embassies in the Middle East whose primary duty is to protect the welfare of our OFWs.

What should be done?

Shame them all!

I don’t know why Filipino officials deployed in the Middle East are mistreating our OFWs who should be treated as “the boss” dubbed by President Aquino himself and the “modern day heroes” of Philippine economy because of their dollar remittances to our country.

I presume Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), as an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), is responsive and responsible enough as a welfare institution that serves the interest and welfare of our bayani ng bayan – the OFWs.

But where is the credibility of this agency when higher officials that could represent them are perceived as alleged predators of sexual abuses?

This is totally disgusting!

I think there are many besetting security issues amidst tensions in that region which the embassy personnel and officials should have acted upon, or even try to resolve in protecting the welfare of hardworking and distressed Filipinos.

I wonder why some officers in Philippine embassies in the Middle East have the luxury of time to think and act maliciously.

Have they thought seriously of the dignity of women OFWS?

Malacanan Palace is considering now of deploying female labor attaches in the Middle East to cater to the needs of female overseas workers. Abusive male officials corrupted themselves and feasted on the vulnerabilities of their female prey. Irresponsible labor officials are gross violators of human rights. This is one of the highest forms of deviance performed by any officer considered a public official through a public office. It breached public office as a public trust.

The psychological traumas experienced by victims are irreparable. It violates the sworn duty of the officers to protect the welfare of fellow Filipinos who are in dire need of help.

What policy considerations about this problem can be drawn from?

In the long run, the Philippine government should doubly accelerate its economic fundamentals to offer jobs to its people, create a visible middle class, and translate economic fruits and gains into developmental programs that should be experienced by all sectors in the society – even professionals, the masa and poorest of the poor to avoid brain drain and massive influx of labor force abroad. Now almost 20 percent of the country’s population is deployed abroad and working in different parts of the world.

The OWWA was originally set up as a temporary agency to cater the needs of international labor. It was not seen as a permanent office of the government or intended to prolong its lifeline.  However, due to our country’s economic woes and struggling people, succeeding administrations of elected presidents since Marcos has institutionalized its existence.

The ideal outlook of labor force presents a scenario where there should be no OFWs around the world. Filipinos should be productive and working in our own backyard. Or working abroad should be an option and not a must. Therefore, there should be neither labor posts nor abusive labor officials abroad in that case.

However, that is not the real scenario!

Unfortunately today, our human resource or OFWs have become our country’s saving grace. They suffered exodus from the Philippines to seeking greener pasture in foreign lands. Some has become lucky while most has turned out to be unlucky. The saddest part about their ordeal is when our own countrymen and officials in some diplomatic posts are mistreating them. 

Recently, reports say that DOLE and DFA have launched separate investigations into the issue and encouraged more victims to come forward and file complaints before the authorities.

However, it should be highlighted again that it is unacceptable for any official duty-bound to help and protect distressed OFWS from abuses of foreign employers in exchange of sexual favors. This should not be happening!

As a responsible government, we should not take for granted our modern day heroes. They truly deserve respect and proper care. The Philippine diplomatic corps should be vigilant of the abuses of their own members. They are not posted abroad for family vacation and engage in wanderlust. The interest of our OFWs should be their primordial responsibility or canonized duty to secure them from harm and abuses! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is happening to Filipino diplomats? Don't they have morality at all. Although am not generalizing them all, siguro marami pang natitirang matitino! Aren't they taught well during their cadetship before they are deployed abroad! Kesa naman sa magkalat sila pag pinadala na sa sila sa post nila sa ibang bansa!