Bello ‘misinformed’ on CHR’s part in protecting OFW rights — exec
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III might have been “misinformed” when he slammed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for focusing more on the rights of drug war victims rather than migrant workers’ rights, one of its commissioners said on Thursday.
Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, CHR commissioner for migrant workers’ rights, said that the commission has been an active participant in global efforts to ensure their protection.
“It appears to me that our labor secretary had been misinformed. The CHR along with other government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was an active participant in the global discussions regarding the UN’s Global Compact on Migration,” Gana said in a statement.
“We are also in the process of establishing an observatory on migrant workers’ rights that would help generate information and data on the rights and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers,” she stressed.
Bello, during an inquiry at the House of Representatives on March 21, criticized the CHR for focusing more on drug war victims when asked if the commission had reached out to them in relation to the death of overseas worker Joanna Demafelis.
“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,” ABS party-list Rep. Eugene De Vera asked Bello.
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.”
But Gana stressed that the CHR, through her office, had issued a statement supporting the government’s total deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait following the discovery of Demafelis’ frozen body.
“We are all public servants here. Protecting the rights of our migrant workers requires a whole-of-government approach, and we consider DOLE as well as the DFA as our allies in this shared advocacy,” Gana said.
Gana also assured Bello that the CHR shares “the same deep concern over rising reports of abuse and maltreatment involving our OFWs especially women domestic workers.”
For instance, Gana said that the CHR was alarmed by reports that “several stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia have resorted to selling their blood in order to send money home to their families.”
“I hope that the good secretary would welcome a constructive partnership between DOLE and the CHR for the sake of our modern-day heroes,” Gana said.
“We look forward to working closely with DOLE in advancing the cause of migrant workers’ rights worldwide,” she said. /je
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