Bello: CHR more concerned about political crimes than OFWs’ plight
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday chided the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for being “more concerned with political crimes” and the administration’s drug war instead of helping to protect the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
At the House inquiry into the various needs of OFWs and the fatal death of OFW Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait, ABS party-list Eugene De Vera asked Bello if the CHR had reached out to them in relation to Demafelis’ case.
“How about the CHR, do they touch base with you? Because under their Constitutional mandate, they are also mandated to investigate human rights abuses even of Filipinos residing abroad,” De Vera said.
Bello answered: “Actually you are correct, your honor, that the mandate of CHR includes the advocacy for the protection of the rights of our workers abroad. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have time to consult with us, they are more concerned with political crimes, I think so, your honor.”
De Vera replied: “That is a very important point, even the CHR has the mandate to investigate human rights abuses against our OFWs. As far as this point is concerned, the CHR does its job.”
On Saturday, March 23, 2018, the CHR denied neglecting the rights of OFWs.
In a separate interview, Bello criticized the CHR for focusing on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Iba kasi focus nila eh. War on drugs ang fino-focus nila eh. Dapat ang focus ‘yung drugs, hindi war on drugs,” Bello told reporters.
(Their focus is different. They’re focused on the war on drugs. Their focus should be on drugs, not on the war on drugs.)
The Labor Secretary said they invited CHR when they drafted the memorandum of agreement (MOU) to be signed with the Kuwait government to protect OFWs there.
“I suppose they are doing their part of the bargain. Hindi lang siguro sinasabi sa amin (Maybe they just didn’t tell us),” he added.
Bello had announced the complete deployment ban of workers to Kuwait following the discovery of the body of Demafelis inside the freezer of her employers’ abandoned apartment in Kuwait, and amid the investigation on seven Filipino household workers killed in the Arab country.
INQUIRER.net has tried to get the side of CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz but he has yet to respond as of posting time.
Last Feb. 16, the CHR released a statement condemning Demafelis’ gruesome death, and urging the government to deploy OFWs only to countries that have guaranteed to protect their rights as provided under the amended Migrant Workers’ Act.
The independent Commission, as stated in its website, is “mandated to conduct investigations on human rights violations against marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society, involving civil and political rights.” /je
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