3 years of Aquino, services and benefits for OFWs still nil

Five days before the resumption of the crackdowns in Saudi, repatriated OFWs from Jeddah and Riyadh once again trooped to the main office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) today to demand services and benefits that the agency promised to give.

In a dialogue with OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon last June 6, the OWWA promised to give all repatriated and returning OFWs from Saudi the following:

–          Representation in the next OWWA Board meeting to discuss the P10,000 emergency financial support demanded by the OFWs and their families;

–          On-site medical assistance for stranded OFWs and automatic medical assistance for returned OFWs in light of the deadly MERS-COV virus;

–          Free air fare tickets for all returning OFWs scheduled to be repatriated;

–          Shelter and transportation costs for returned OFWs; and,

–          Funds for the repatriation of remains of stranded OFWs who died in Saudi.

All the demands are in line with the general call for “free, urgent and mass repatriation” of stranded OFWs in Saudi before the July 3 deadline, said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson.

The OWWA Board meeting, according to Dimzon, was supposed to have been set today, June 28. However, the meeting did not push through because the board failed to reach a quorum.

Bragas-Regalado said that apart from the P10,000 emergency financial assistance, all other services and benefits demanded by the OFWs are “built-in services that should have been provided by the OWWA without any need for prodding or lobbying from OFWs and families”. “Without the persistence and vigilance of the OFWs and their families to demand what is rightfully theirs, the OWWA would not have been prodded into action,” she said.

“Our OFWs have already struggled to survive in Saudi, thousands are still there barely surviving, when they come back here they have to struggle once again for services and benefits from the government. Parang nagmamakaawa at namamalimos pa ang ating mga OFW. Simpleng quorum ng board members hindi maabot.”

To the OWWA Board, she said, “If they are too busy to address the needs of our OFWs, they shouldn’t be the ones in control of the OWWA funds. Those are OFWs’ funds, from OFW contributions, they have no right to keep those funds hostage. The OFWs and their families have every right to get the P10,000 financial assistance and it should be given to them without any further delay.”

The OWWA Board is headed by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz.

 Punish all erring and abusive officials

Bragas-Regalado also called for the immediate recall, investigation and prosecution all officials involved in the sex-for-flight exploitation and other abuses against OFWs. Some of the officials linked to the abuses are POLO-OWWA case officers, labor attaches and other officials under the OWWA and DOLE.

She called for a “comprehensive, independent investigation of all forms of abuses, exploitation and government neglect of stranded OFWs, especially in light of the crackdowns.”

“What we want is comprehensive justice for the victims of sex-for-flight and other abuses and violations committed by erring officials, from top to bottom. We are presently processing all information that we have from victims who have surfaced and approached us. We will be filing necessary charges against direct perpetrators up to top officials for their complicity and tolerance of these abuses. Sec. Baldoz has a lot of explaining to do,” Bragas-Regalado said. ###