How labor migration destroys the Filipino family
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Which is more important; the billions our economy gets each year or the preservation of Filipino families as the foundation of the nation? The current clamor to pass a law creating the Department of OFWs brings to focus again the fundamental issue of how outward labor migration impacts the Filipino family. Millions go abroad to help their families, but when they come home after years of working, they have no more families.

I am asked by many communities of OFWs from the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, to serve pro bono as a resource person to help both the Senate and the House of Representatives formulate and refine the final draft of the migrant workers’ own version of the bill.

Having been deployed as Labor attaché to Malaysia, Kuwait, and Taiwan for nine years, the migrant workers are convinced I have enough actual experiences, empirical data, and a good quantum of anecdotal evidence, to serve as basis for my inputs to legislation. Also as a long-time professor of Law, Bar reviewer, and author of Labor Law books, the OFWs believe I am qualified to testify in public hearings in aid of lawmaking.

In accepting the call for help, I hastened to interject a caveat. First and foremost, it is my core conviction that our country should go slow on outward labor migration. The cause of our reservation is that migration has, for many decades, been destroying the family as the foundation of our society and nation. From the early seventies we have been deploying construction workers, engineers, architects, and other skilled human capital to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Much earlier we sent workers like nurses, doctors, and other professionals to Hawaii, California, and other states. Then later, we sent OFWs to Europe.

About 12 million Filipinos in about 200 countries, annually remit no less than $32 billion to their families through banks and other formal financial intermediaries. Much more than that amount is also being remitted through the informal “padala” or by personal delivery when OFWs come home for vacation or for good. But these financial accomplishments are achieved at a very high social cost. Broken homes, shattered marriages, philandering husbands, wives thrown into adultery and bigamy, and children who take drugs, suffer teenage pregnancy, or are caught by authorities committing crimes. Homes and families have become dysfunctional.

Over and above the destruction of the family is also the deterioration of the individual’s human dignity. OFWs, especially the domestic helpers, are compelled to perform dirty, difficult, and dangerous tasks that are degrading and deceptive. This sad predicament often ends in disease, disability, death, as well as despair, disillusionment, debt, and despair. The domestic helpers are treated like slaves, compelled to work 15 to 20 hours a day, maltreated, maligned, insulted, physically, psychologically, and emotionally abused. Many of them are falsely accused of crimes and jailed. Others are seduced, raped, and made sex slaves.

Labor migration may be good for the economy but it is a social malady that destroys the Filipino family. Gradually, it is also destroying the whole nation in the ultimate end. And so, this clamor to create a new Department of OFWs should be carefully and prudently handled. First and foremost, it should uphold what matters most, the family and human dignity.

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