Nga pala…

With the sad news of another OFW beheading recently in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the deportations among our kababayans there that followed, I felt compelled to rummage around for an article that I wrote two years ago.

“WHY SAUDI JAILS ARE TEEMING WITH OFWs?

May 15, 2006

As Malacanang’s fanfare over the homecoming of 170 pardoned Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dies down, I can not help but raise questions that are of critical importance: Why do we have thousands of OFWs, including minors, jailed in KSA in the first place? Is the Philippine Embassy in the KSA and the DFA doing its job efficiently?

The Department of Foreign Affairs in a report released 2003 pegged the number of jailed OFWs to 2,856 in 56 countries, 673 of them are women. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts to almost half of the number of Filipinos detained with 1,115 including 50 minors.

First of all, no OFW ever dreamed of committing a crime in a foreign country. This is farthest from their priorities because they were there to work – for their families in the Philippines to have three square meals everyday and to bring their children to school.

The majority of OFWs that are jailed abroad especially in the Middle East landed there because they only did the deed to defend themselves. Worst, some are totally innocent and others fell victims of frame-up.

The number of Filipina domestic helpers in the KSA that are imprisoned for running away from their abusive employers continues to rise by the day. First hand accounts from former OFWs in the Kingdom says that the Philippine Embassy run OFW shelter there is deluged daily with run away OFWs mostly domestic workers. They come in the wee hours of the morning, as it is the only time in the day that they have a chance to escape from their abusive employers.

But most of us didn’t know that the Arroyo Government has a hand in the steady rise on the number of OFWs detained in KSA. On March 4, 2003, the Arroyo Administration agreed with the implementation of the “Recruitment and Manpower Deployment Contract,” better known as the “Unified Contract” of the Saudi National Recruitment Committee (Sanarcom) that aims to standardize the contracts of all Saudi-bound overseas Filipino workers.

Provision C, Section 1 of the Unified Contract criminalized those OFWs who run-away from their employers even if they are being maltreated or abused. It also legitimized contract substitution among OFWs in the Kingdom. In essence, the Unified Contract practically condemned the over 1 million OFWs in KSA to abusive situations and our very own government agreed to its implementation! No wonder Gloria Arroyo never raised the Unified Contract with King Abdullah during her 4-day State Visit to the Kingdom. This is more than enough of an explanation why Saudi jails are teeming with run away OFWs.

Second, the alarming number of jailed OFWs in the Kingdom speaks highly on the kind of performance of our Post there. Philippine Ambassador to KSA Bahnarim Guinomla is definitely sleeping on his job. He is the one that should be imprisoned for his gross neglect of duty.

Lastly, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should explain as to how they use the P100 million funds (replenished annually by the national government) specifically allocated for offering legal aid to OFWs in distress. Right now, we have 32 Filipinos on death row worldwide. Just last year, 4 OFWs were simultaneously beheaded in KSA.

So much for Malacanang’s fanfare.”

E, kaya naman pala……

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