Migrante International expresses its condolences to the family and loved ones of the 39-year old Filipino household worker who was executed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, 29th of January. We see her as another casualty of the Philippine government’s decades-old labour export program (LEP).
Countless Filipino household workers suffer abuse and maltreatment from the hands of their employers. Their subjection to overwork, hunger, sleep-deprivation and long-term separation from their loved ones makes them more prone to stress, depression and mental health illnesses leading them to uncontrollable emotions and behaviour in many cases.
Most Filipino domestic helpers stand as breadwinners to their families back in the Philippines where they are afflicted with the rising cost of living due to Duterte’s neoliberal policies like the TRAIN Law. As in previous regimes, President Duterte vowed to turn overseas work to just an option and not a necessity. He likewise promised to make the welfare of OFWs his top concern. On the contrary, his greedy regime continues to treat OFWs as cash cows through numerous state exactions like the impending mandatory SSS coverage and mandatory insurance. This shows that the regime really has no intention of assuming full responsibility in the protection of their welfare but is stubbornly consistent in passing the buck to the private sector like insurance companies.
In short, the government’s labour export program treats Filipinos as commodities for export and OFW pockets as automated teller machines. By the time OFWs get into trouble as in the case of the executed 39 year old domestic helper, they are left nameless and made to languish behind bars, unknown to their families until the day of their execution arrives. The Duterte regime failed to draw lessons from the experience of Jennifer Dalquez who was saved from death row because of united efforts from advocates and concerned citizens here and abroad.
Furthermore, the government should not just readily accept with certainty the guilt imputed to the OFW death row victim. We challenge the Duterte regime to ferret out the truth and probe deeper to find out what led the OFW to commit the murder. There have been cases when migrant workers who were charged with murder actually acted out of self-defense because of severe maltreatment, rape or other assaults they experienced. Like many OFWs, we believe that the Duterte regime must not be too eager to put out this tragedy and move on. The employer must be investigated for previous records of abusive misdeeds towards their former workers. If ever they are found culpable, then the employers must be charged and be blacklisted from hiring household workers.
As long as the Duterte regime stubbornly clings to its labour export program and refuses to address the roots of forced migration, there will be no end to the cycle of abuse, incarceration and execution besetting stricken OFWs. The absence of genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization and the government’s hard-hearted refusal to create a favourable labour environment where national minimum wage is enacted and contractualization is abolished are the very conditions that led to the execution of the 39-year old household worker in Saudi.