“We expect GMA’s Eighth State of the Nation Address will gloss over the real situation of Overseas Filipino Workers and their families,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan said during a press conference to announce Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna, and Anakpawis solons’ plan to boycott the inaugural session of the Congress on Monday.
Migrant workers have been repeatedly cited as the modern day heroes because of the important role they play in propping up the economy, and Ilagan expects the President to use this in her address to promote labor export policy as a legitimate option for the country’s workforce.
“But she will intentionally leave out the different forms of abuses OFWs are being subjected to, and the failure of her government to implement appropriate measures to protect the Filipinos abroad. Our women, particularly, are neglected by this administration as proven by the experiences of “Hazel”, an entertainer raped by an American soldier in Japan, Marilou Ranario, a domestic helper sentenced to death for killing her Kuwaiti employer and Eugenia Baja, another DH who mysteriously died in Saudi Arabia,” the Mindanaoan solon said.
She pointed out that the government is the primary exploiter of the migrant workers and the only one that benefits from the labor export policy because of the remittances that keep the economy’s vitality and the excessive fees that its departments and agencies exacts from the OFWs. Studies by the Gabriela party-list show that an average of P15,400 in OWWA membership fee, POEA processing fee, passport and other charges is being extracted from every Filipino who wishes to work abroad.
“The State does not have the right to exact this large amount because, aside from being at fault that millions of Filipinos are forced to work in other countries to cope with the worsening economic crises in the Philippines, the billions collected annually from the OFWs only goes to the pockets of some corrupt government officials,” Ilagan said.
The excessive charges and the lack of a loan program to rely on for their pre-departure needs push a lot of people wanting to work abroad to fall prey to human traffickers and illegal recruiters. Many also enter other countries illegally, like the thousands of Filipinos in Europe and in Sabah who now face the risk of illegal detention and inhumane treatment prior to their deportation, following the crackdown on undocumented immigrants.