Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Arnell Ignacio defended on Thursday the government’s order to totally ban the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait amid harrowing reports of migrant workers being abused by their employers.
Ignacio said he was ready to be slapped on the face by people furious over the decision and explain to them that not all OFWs are covered by the order.
“At para sa mga nakakaalala, pinost ko po sa aking page. Kasi yung iba nung nagpost ako tungkol sa ban, gusto nila akong sampalin. O, ibibigay ko pa yung kabilang pisngi ko. Pero bago niyo ko sampalin, nakasulat doon yung exemptions,” Ignacio said in an interview with Radyo Inquirer.
(To those who remember, I posted this on my page. Because there are some, when I posted about the ban, who said that they want to slap me. I can give them my other cheek. But before they do that, they must first read the exemptions.)
Ignacio was apparently referring to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Administrative Order (AO) No. 54-A, which orders the total deployment ban of OFWs being deployed for the first time to Kuwait.
The AO exempts workers who are “Balik-Manggagawa” or OFWs who are vacationing in the Philippines but will be returning to the same employer to finish their contacts at the end of their vacation and OFWs who are returning to Kuwait on a new contract with the same employer.
Seafarers who will be transiting through or boarding in Kuwait to join their principals are also not covered by the total ban.
The DOLE issued the AO on orders by President Rodrigo Duterte, who was enraged by reports of OFWs suffering sexual, physical, and psychological maltreatment from their employers.
The latest case was that of Joanna Daniela Dimapilis, an OFW who was found dead inside a freezer. It is believed that she was kept inside the freezer for more than a year.
The Human Rights Watch meanwhile has warned government that imposing a total ban on the deployment of OFWs may pose more harm than good as it could push migrant workers into unsafe and unregulated channels and may even expose them to human trafficking.
“Such a ban would likely do more harm than good, forcing workers to take greater risks to seek overseas employment while cutting off a critical source of income for families in the Philippines,” Human Rights Watch women’s rights division Rothna Begum said in a statement.
Ignacio shared his disbelief over the stories of OFWs’ ordeal just to work abroad.
“You come face to face with them, they’re hugging you, crying sayo, ikukwento ang kanilang buhay tapos magkano lang yon? $400? How can you even? I can’t imagine (having) to go through an ordeal for such an amount. (At) nasaktan ka pa?”
(You come face to face with them, (they) hug you. They cry and they tell the stories of their lives all for what? $400? How can you even? I can’t imagine having to go through an ordeal for such an amount. And you still get abused?)
The celebrity-turned-government official called on the public to unite and support OFWs.
“Kaya ako nananawagan din sa mga kababayan natin, minsan lang tayo… dito yung pakiramdam natin ng mabuti Yung pag-iibayo ba ng ating pagka-Pilipino,” (I am calling on our countrymen… Here we can really show what it is to be a Filipino) he said.
“Kailangan talaga isang boses tayo,” (We should be of one voice.) he added. /muf