We should stop sending domestic helpers abroad

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - July 21, 2016 - 12:00am

The current leadership of DOLE and the POEA under President Rodrigo Duterte and Secretary Silvestre Bello III has not yet announced its foreign policies relative to labor migration.

We can only speculate that the new gatekeepers shall continue to adhere to the mandates of the Magna Carta For Overseas Workers, RA 8042, as amended by RA 10022. If so, we are afraid that our country may continue to send hundreds of thousands of domestic helpers to the Middle East, to Asia, and even to Europe and elsewhere. If no draconian change is adopted, the Philippines may remain as one of the top suppliers of maids in the world.

Section 2 of RA 8042, euphemistically provides: "While recognizing the significant contribution of Filipino migrant workers through their foreign exchange remittances, the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development." And in the last portion of that provision, it is stipulated: "The State, therefore, shall continuously create local employment opportunities and promote the equitable distribution of wealth and benefits of development." To our knowledge, the government of PNoy, and even those of GMA, Erap and FVR did not show enough proof that they have created local employment opportunities precisely to make OFWs come home and remain here especially the wives and mothers.

Domestic helpers are the most abused, maltreated, exploited, and subjected to all forms of dirty, difficult, dangerous, degrading, and deceptive works. Many of them are held as virtual slaves, their cell phones and passports confiscated and are not allowed to go out, much less to seek help from the Philippine embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices.

Some of the maids were subjected to sexual harassment, rape, and seduction, acts of lasciviousness and all forms of abuses. A number of them were murdered or maimed, physically attacked. The embassy officials cannot just barge into private residences to rescue them, and when they are able to escape, the law in the host government considers running away as a criminal offense.

We know whereof we speak because we have seen the female migrants' miseries with our own eyes. As a former Labor Attaché to Malaysia, Kuwait, and to Central Taiwan, we have witnessed how our domestic helpers abroad suffer in pains and in anguish in the hands of cruel and barbaric employers.

We have filed cases in the courts of the host governments but they were dismissed due to technicality, as the system was all designed to protect their own nationals against a complaining foreign worker. These maids are being paid pittance for working sixteen to seventeen hours per day, with no rest day, no medical care, with limited food, and with no safe and secured sleeping quarters.

Now that we have a new government in place, it is time to review our migration policy. I am willing to appear before any Senate or House hearing in aid of legislation, and I shall bare all the facts happening on the ground. I shall tell the legislators that marriages are broken, families are shattered due to labor migration especially those involving female migrant workers, especially the maids.

There is nothing wrong in sending off our engineers, nurses, doctors, accountants, and teachers. But the deployment of maids should be stopped, and the order to stop must be done immediately.

There is no need for a law to justify that. RA 8042 allows that bold and important step. The dignity of our women and the protection to our families is what matters most.


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