Stand by Me, Grace sings to OFWs

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Reluctantly granting the request of migrant workers for her to sing karaoke-style, Sen. Grace Poe yesterday sang what could be the most appropriate song to describe her message to supporters: “Stand by Me.”

But unlike her father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. who was known for serenading his supporters during campaign sorties in 2004, the senator appeared uncomfortable as she mouthed – without microphone – the lyrics of the song prepared by organizers of a forum at UP Diliman.

Poe sang with senatorial candidates Neri Colmenares, Lorna Kapunan and Sandra Cam during an event organized in time for the celebration of the International Migrants Day.

In her speech, she rallied the support of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid a flurry of disqualification cases filed against her, including a question on her compliance with the 10-year residency requirement for those running for president.

She identified herself with OFWs, saying she left the country after her husband was offered a job in the US after graduating from UP Manila.

“It was difficult to find a job at the time,” Poe said in Filipino, adding that she did not want to be a burden to her parents as they were also supporting a lot of other people.

Poe stressed that leaving should not be a measure of one’s love for the country as it is often a result of various circumstances beyond their control.

“OFWs are among the most patriotic and nationalistic Filipinos,” she said, saying what they are doing is always for the benefit of their families left here in the Philippines.


Poe decried as unfair the current question on her citizenship that is the basis of the disqualification case filed against her.

“When you leave and send money to your family, they will call you bagong bayani. But when you run (for president), you are no longer one,” she added in Filipino.

She said she returned to the country in 2005 to join the protests after her father lost to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Her certificate of candidacy filed when she ran for the Senate in 2013 declared that she had been a resident of the Philippines since July 2006, which her camp said was an honest mistake.

“I think that it is unfair… One’s love for his or her country is not determined by the territory (where he or she in),” she said.

Platform for migrant workers

During the forum, Poe presented her plans for OFWs if she becomes president.

Among these was the creation of a sole agency that will handle the concerns of OFWs, as well as the strengthening of legal assistance fund and support from embassies and consulates for migrant workers.

She also pledged scholarships and other support for families of OFWs and called for a stronger manufacturing industry to give opportunity to those who want to stay in the country.

“I am not just saying this. I will do this,” she said.

Poe criticized the  administration for failing to remove Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina and Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado over issues such as taxes on balikbayan boxes and the tanim bala (bullet-planting) scam.

The Senate will soon release the results of its investigation over incidents of bullet planting at the country’s airports, Poe said.

Maltreated Filipina in Singapore

Poe yesterday urged concerned government agencies to assist Thelma Gawidan, the Filipina domestic worker reportedly maltreated in Singapore.

“The abuse of our workers is unacceptable,” she said.

“The government must take an active role in making sure distressed overseas Filipino workers get the support and protection they deserve.

“By providing all help urgently needed by our OFWs in abusive employment, we send a strong message to all destination countries that we will not tolerate the maltreatment of Filipino workers.” 

Gawidan has sued her abusive employers, who had reportedly starved her for 15 months while she was under their employ.

Based on reports from Singapore, Gawidan lost around 20 kilograms as a result of her not being able to have access to decent food.

In her testimony before a Singaporean court, Gawidan said her employers Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon only fed her instant noodles and bread twice a day.

Her employers monitored her every move and   prevented her from talking to anyone and locked away her cellphone,  Gawidan said. – With Marvin Sy, Pia Lee-Brago     














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