Department of Labor Export Secretary Marianito Roque proudly announced yesterday via phone-patch from Qatar that the Middle East region could be the nation’s saving grace in this time of global financial crisis.
He said OFWs whose jobs will be displaced or those whose deployment will be affected because of constricting labor markets overseas due to the crisis could find employment in the Middle East’s “booming” economy where the global downturn, according to him, is something that is just being “laughed” at.
“[The] Middle East may be our shock absorber. We can bring our workers who might be displaced [by the crisis] there. The region is booming,” he said.
But while the Arroyo government considers the desserts of Middle East as an oasis in this time of global financial dearth, they might be placing the army of displaced workers into an even more precarious situation considering that the issue of human rights is also a subject that is just being “laughed” at in that region.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone, where Roque plans to re-deploy our skilled engineers and construction workers to jobs building its four “mega cities”; two or more are being executed per week according to a recent report by Amnesty International. Of those executed in Saudi Arabia, almost half are foreign nationals from poor countries such as the Philippines.
“We had hoped that the much-heralded human rights initiatives introduced by the Saudi Arabian authorities in recent years would bring an end to – or, at least, a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty. Yet, in fact, we have witnessed a sharp rise in executions of prisoners sentenced in largely secret and unfair trials, making the need for a moratorium more urgent than ever,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
The group noted that in 2007, 158 people were executed in the KSA compared to the previous year’s 39. But what alarmed AI more is the fact that the executions in the Kingdom is carried out “disproportionately and discriminately on national or ethnic grounds against poor foreign workers and Saudi Arabian nationals who lack the family or other connections that, fortunately, help others to be saved from execution.”
The AI report continued:
Execution is usually by beheading, generally in public. In some cases, crucifixion follows execution. Saudi Arabia is one of the few states in the world with a high rate of executions for women. It is also one of the few remaining countries to execute people for crimes they committed when they were still under the age of 18, in breach of international law.
So one can only imagine the dread these OFWs had upon hearing Roque’s brillant idea of shipping them to the Middle East, especially since his announcement came only days after another OFW had his head chopped off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (The latest OFW beheaded in the KSA was Jennifer Biduya aka Venancio Ladion, the 7th under the Arroyo presidency according to Migrante International).
But what is even more blood curdling is the fact that the Arroyo government plans to dump them in a region where incompetent and criminally negligent Philippine embassy and consular officials abound.
Take the case of Jeddah Consul General Ezzedin Tago (I’m still at a loss why up until now he’s still not given the boot for gross negligence), who was caught on-air that they only provided Biduya a “translator” during the critical period of his trial and that he was only given a lawyer when the case was already at the appelate stage.
I remember hearing Tago’s interview with Vice President Noli de Castro last Saturday in his weekly morning radio program. Even de Castro, who currently advises Arroyo on OFW affairs, was obviously dumbfounded upon learning of Tago’s non-action in the Biduya case that he almost ran out of excuses and rehashed rhetoric to defend the government’s so-called record of “protecting” OFWs.
Of course Tago’s admission is enough for us to believe that de Castro, Tago and the Department of Foreign Affairs were lying when they said they did all they can to save Biduya from execution.
So if the Arroyo government is really determined at re-deploying our displaced OFWs to the Middle East despite its deplorable human rights record – which is further aggravated by the fact that the place is teeming with incompetent Philippine embassy officials – I only have one message for them:
I hope you have enough supply of body bags.