Let’s stop sending maids abroad
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 26, 2019 - 12:00am

One very serious social issue that burdens our national conscience involves more than one million Filipino women who work as domestics in over 20 countries mostly in the Middle East. Why can't the Duterte government, famous for being bullish and decisive on many things, make a monumental decision to stop this modern slave trade?

This government promised too many things, but it failed to redeem such promises. It promised to stop the drug problem in six months, it failed. It promised to end “endo” in under a year, it failed. It promised to stop graft and corruption in one year, it failed. It promised to make our country disaster-free in due time, it failed. It promised to address the ravaging of our environment, instead, it fired the only bold DENR secretary due to congressional obstructionism, despite the administration's super majority in both houses. It promised the “kapantay ay langit” in all things, it delivered the “bato sa buhangin.” Now, I offer a simple thing they can promise and fulfill. Stop sending domestic helpers abroad.

Ninety-nine percent of our problems involving OFWs involve housemaids. We have less problems on doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, accountants, even hotel workers and restaurant staff. Believe me. I was immersed in the pains of realities on the ground. I worked in Kuwait, Malaysia, and Taiwan as a diplomat doing the job of a Labor attaché, even when I was DOLE undersecretary. I have documents proving maids were ravished, maltreated, maligned, and persecuted by cruel employers who look at our country as a nation of slaves. We are much more dignified and honorable than the image we are projecting to the world.

Philippine Overseas Labor Offices employees can’t just barge into the homes of rich Arab employers, Malaysian taipans, or Taiwanese tycoons. These are domestic domains, and the Philippine government protectors cannot enter homes even where Filipina maids are being raped, physically and emotionally maltreated, not given food, not allowed sleep or rest. We are helpless. And yet when these OFWs die, or become deranged or psychologically broken, it’s the Philippine government always blamed. Why can’t the same government stop this social malady? Ban the deployment of maids abroad.

Delia Maga, who was murdered in Singapore, was a maid. Flor Contemplacion, who was falsely accused of her murder, prosecuted unfairly and executed, was a maid. Sarah Balabagan who was a minor, trafficked by illegal recruiters from Mindanao to the United Arab Emirates, was a maid. She was raped by her employer and she killed him in defense of her honor. Sarah was convicted and was about to be beheaded, but the late Ambassador Roy Señeres saved her with the support of presidents FVR and Erap. Many maids are now in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. And yet, we keep on sending maids each day. Only the recruiters get millions. The maids' families are broken, their marriages shattered. There are no good results from this modern slavery.

I have been a Labor attaché for almost ten years. I have seen the blood and tears of hundreds of maids. I have sheltered thousands of them in safe houses and the embassy. I am competent to testify in the Senate, House, even in the ILO and the UN. This business of sending maids abroad is immoral, unjust and is shocking to the conscience. Why is our government too callous and impervious to this social cancer? Why?

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