Since Congress busied itself last week with the Duterte regime’s Terror Bill which criminalizes legitimate dissent, the government has proven anew what it really meant by giving OFWs the ‘VIP treatment.’ The month of May ended with President Duterte failing to certify Makabayan bloc’s House Bill 6698 which aims to make Philhealth membership mandatory for OFWs and seeks removal of the penalties and premium rate hikes.
President Duterte’s suspension of the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike is only temporary and therefore won’t suffice to permanently stop the forcible extortion of OFWs. In a media interview in May, Philhealth Vice President for Corporate Affairs Dr. Shirley Domingo herself said that collections will resume on the 1st of June. She added that only Congress will be able to decide otherwise because it would mean revising the Universal Healthcare Act which was signed and approved by President Duterte in February 2019.
With 42,000 OFWs initially expected to be repatriated in the coming weeks, DOLE reported yesterday that the number has already swelled to 100,000. Migrante KSA (Saudi Arabia) fears that as many as 200 thousand OFWs in KSA stand to lose their jobs due to business closures and retrenchments. According to the media, many distressed OFWs are still languishing in quarantine facilities because the government lost their swab test results. Some of these OFWs have sought help from Migrante International to voice out their anger against the government for treating them like detainees.
OFWs are blasting Malacañang for making them appear as recipients of government benevolence when in fact, payments for their swab tests, hotel accommodations and repatriation actually come from their own sweat and blood. All these were sourced from their contributions to Philhealth, OWWA dues and the contractual obligations of their manning or recruitment agencies. Despite handing over billions of OFW contributions to the parasitic government, Filipino migrants themselves attest that they are really indeed treated like garbage. We have heard it from OFWs themselves in media interviews and from their testimonies in social media.
What Malacañang really means when it says that OFWs are being given ‘VIP treatment’ is that they are ‘Very Important Palagatasan’ or milking cows for the Duterte regime. Filipino migrant communities are weary of the Duterte regime’s empty rhetorics so all over the world they will continue to bang their pots and pans in their Global Kalampagan to demand that they be treated humanely and not like criminals just as how DFA Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin regarded distressed OFWs who escaped from quarantine facilities when he ordered their arrests. Even more appalling is the Duterte regime’s Terror Bill which imputes the terrorist-tag on the legitimate actions of advocacy groups upholding the interests of oppressed and marginalized sectors like workers, peasants and Filipino migrants. No amount of intimidation and persecution will stop Migrante International from carrying out its social justice mission for Filipino migrants and their families neglected, peddled and extorted by the inept Duterte Fascist regime.