Santiago urges creation of body to monitor documented OFWs
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is calling for the creation of a multi-agency task force that will monitor documented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are vulnerable to abuse.
Santiago, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said in a statement on Saturday, December 19, that she will file a resolution when Congress opens in 2016 "to express the sense of the Senate that a task force must seek to prevent the maltreatment of OFWs."
The proposed task force will be composed of representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Santiago stressed to need to create the body following reports of a Filipino domestic helper in Singapore who was deprived of food and salary. (READ: Life as an OFW: The grass is not always greener)
Forty-year-old Thelma Gawidan was reportedly forced to work without pay and was only fed with instant noodles and bread for more than two years since January 2013, reducing her to just 29 kilograms. (READ: PH maid says Singapore couple starved her to 29 kg)
“I fear that Thelma Gawidan is not an isolated case. How many other Filipinos in foreign countries endure the same fate only so that they can send money to their loved ones at home? The government must find out and help all of them,” Santiago said.
The senator added: "What would have happened if she remained in that situation, or if she got caught while trying to escape?"
She urged government to "proactively" seek out OFWs reported missing or could not be reached by their families.
“We defeat the purpose of documenting all OFWs if their records waste away in archives. Locating OFWs reported missing is a difficult task, but it is the responsibility of government, especially to those whom it calls modern-day heroes,” she said.
Also a presidential candidate for the 2016 elections, Santiago criticized the government for the lack of opportunities and continuing poverty that drive Filipinos to work abroad.
The number of OFWs continues to rise. In the Aquino administration alone, there have been a 42 percent increase in the number of migrant workers from 341,966 in 2010 to 487,176 in 2014. (READ: OFW life: Building the home you'll never live in) – Rappler.com