Why are OFWs jailed for religious activities?
Why are OFWs jailed for religious activities?
DIRECT FROM THE OFWs - Atty Josephus Jimenez () - October 23, 2010 - 12:00am

The recent report that about 12 Filipinos who were arrested and detained, for conducting religious activities, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia raises many fundamental issues involving human rights and freedom of beliefs that need to be raised by our government, via diplomatic channels, and through the peaceful mechanisms and instrumentalities of the United Nations.

It also calls upon our Department of Foreign Affairs, especially the Office of The Undersecretary For Migrant Workers Affairs, to call the attention of the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the Philippines, via a "Note Verbale'', perhaps, or a formal protest, in the light of International Law, relevant conventions and treaties on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant workers.

The incident also calls upon our Embassy and Overseas labor officials in that Kingdom to initiate bilateral talks to address the issue and hopefully, to arrive at a bilateral labor agreement to provide safety nets to our more than one million OFWs in Saudi Arabia alone. On our part, we wish to raise a simple and practical issue on the efficacy and quality of content as well as of delivery of our Pre-departure orientation seminars ( PDOS ) which are mandatory requirements as a prior condition to deployment of our Filipino migrant workers.

There are many persistent reports of the lack of quality in both the curriculum content as well as the manner of delivery of these very important seminars. Referring to the problem of the jailed Filipino workers mentioned above, we wonder whether or not the pre-departure seminar has given them adequate orientation into the culture and laws of Saudi Arabia.

If, it did not, then the seminar service providers should not only return the payment for their lousy services, they should also be held civilly liable for the damages suffered by said migrant workers. And these firms that earn a lot from departing OFWs should be closed and perpetually disqualified from providing these very essential services.

In fairness to these agencies however, if there indeed was a high quality Pre-departure seminar, despite of which the Filipinos still insisted to exercise their freedom of religion, notwithstanding the strict religious rules of that Islamic countries, then those jailed OFWs should assume the full consequences of their conscious acts. If they wish to follow the footsteps of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and the hundreds of martyrs who were canonized later for their faithful adherence to the Christian faith, then bless their souls for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

But they should not fault the Philippine government for failing to bail them out of such a mess. Always and invariably, the government is blamed for not acting enough and not acting soon to protect the Filipino workers abroad. But in many of these times, the records would indicate, it is the worker and no one else, who puts himself in a situation of great risks and difficulties, perhaps out of ignorance or naivete, or for lack of foresight, lack of prudence and lack of skills.

I was a Labor Attache for two years in the Middle East and four years in Asia. I have compiled enough empirical data to prove my thesis. Whatever it is, the government should help him and would render any form of assistance to him, whether he is documented or not, whether he is at fault or not, as long as he is a Filipino in distress.

But at the end of the day, he or his family should not blame the government for the tragedy that befall him. It's time for all of us to face the consequences of our own decisions and actions, and to accept responsibilities for our own acts.

AMBASSADOR OF SAUDI ARABIA DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS EMBASSY AND OVERSEAS INTERNATIONAL LAW KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA LABOR ATTACHE MIDDLE EAST NOTE VERBALE OFFICE OF THE UNDERSECRETARY FOR MIGRANT WORKERS AFFAIRS PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT SAUDI ARABIA
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