MANILA — Senator Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday urged the Senate to re-examine the government’s labor and foreign policies and programs in light of the continued abuses, exploitation, and deaths of overseas Filipino workers in the hands of their foreign employers.
In a privilege speech, Pacquiao said he filed Senate Resolution No. 626 urging the Senate Committees on Labor, Employment and Human Resources; and Foreign Relations to conduct an exhaustive investigation regarding the untoward deaths of OFWs in order to know the extent of abuses and what the government can do to prevent similar incidents from happening.
“We need to review the policies and responsibilities of government agencies like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as they heighten the accountability of recruitment agencies in our move to prevent abuses as well as combat illegal recruitment and even human trafficking,” he said.
He cited the case of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait last week.
The Iloilo-born OFW started working as a household service worker in Kuwait in 2014.
The family of Demafelis reported losing contact with her a year ago.
“Alam natin kung kelan ipinanganak si Joanna ngunit hindi natin alam kung kelan siya namatay. Nariyan ang posibilidad na mahigit isang taon na mula ng siya ay pinaslang (We know when Joanna was born but we do not know when she died. There is the possibility that she was murdered over a year ago),” Pacquiao said.
The lawmaker noted that even before the discovery of Demafelis’ death, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is still investigating the deaths of Liezl Truz Hukdong, Vanessa Karissha Esguerra, Marie Fe Saliling Librada, Arlene Castillo Manzano, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga, and Mira Luna Juntilla.
“Nanginginig ako sa galit dahil sa pang-aabuso sa ating mga OFWs. Tama na. Huwag na nating hayaan na magpatuloy ang karumal-dumal na pagtrato sa ating mga OFWs (I’m trembling in anger because our OFWs are abused. Let’s not let this gruesome treatment towards our OFWs continue),” Pacquiao said.
He urged the public to strongly support the move of President Rodrigo Duterte and the DOLE to immediately suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
He said that while Kuwait is one of the top destination of OFWs, with around 250,000 Filipinos in the Middle East country mostly working as domestic helpers, the abuses has to stop.
“Ilang OFW pa ba ang kailangang maabuso, ilang OFW pa ba ang kailangang magahasa, ilang OFW pa ba ang kailangang magpakamatay,ilang OFW pa ba ang kailangang mamatay bago tayo umalma bilang isang bansa? (How many more OFWs have to be abused, how many more OFWs have to be raped, how many more OFWs have to commit suicide, how many more OFWs have to die before we cry foul as a country?)” he said.
“It is high time that we think about how we can truly provide additional protection upon our overseas Filipino workers and offer economic opportunities in their reintegration in the Philippine society,” Pacquiao added.