Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International enumerated at least five instances that prove how Pres. Benigno Aquino III has been “Noynoying big time” on issues beleaguering OFWs.
- Noynoying on OFWs on death row
In a span of less than two years in office, four (4) Filipinos were executed in China because the Aquino administration’s “best efforts were merely last ditch attempts” to save their lives. Their deaths were results of lack of legal assistance and support from the Philippine government on the onset of their arrests. At the time of their appeals, budget for OFWs’ legal assistance fund (LAF) were slashed by 50 percent – from P50 million LAF in 2010 to P27 million LAF in 2011, when it is clearly stated in the law that the LAF should be at least P100 million.
In the Middle East, for instance, an estimated $20,000 is needed to hire a Sharia lawyer for OFWs in jail or on death row. According to data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are at least 27 OFWs on death row in the Middle East, six in Malaysia, one in Indonesia and 78 in China, all mostly on murder and drug charges.
- Diplomatic boo-boos
Aquino also did a “Noynoying” when he earned the ire of the Hong Kong government during the Manila hostage tragedy in 2010. Aquino’s lack of political savvy and insensitivity caused a diplomatic row with the Hong Kong government after he failed to immediately release a sympathetic statement for the victims of the massacre and, instead, defended lapses by the Manila police and Philippine government. Throughout the negotiations with the hostage-taker, and even after the tragedy when the president was expected to issue a statement, Aquino was a no-show.
- Slow repatriation efforts in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) crisis
The Aquino administration was caught off-guard and unprepared when conflicts erupted in the MENA region – particularly in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
Of the estimated 32,000 OFWs in Libya, for instance, only 14,000 were evacuated and repatriated back to the Philippines, not by the Philippine government but by their employers and agencies. Returned OFWs from Libya complained that the Philippine government was “invisible” in exit points and borders and that they were left to tend for themselves.
In Syria where the conflict continues to escalate, the government still has no clear response on criticisms of slow and passive repatriation efforts. Of the 17,000 OFWs in Syria, only 1,000 have been repatriated. The DFA and Philippine government, in some forums and statements in the media, attribute the low number to “helplessness, lack of funds and a deadlock on negotiations with Syrian employers”. Aquino, on the other hand, gives no categorical position on US-NATO plans to conduct air strikes on Syria which will greatly endanger OFWs.
- Closure of PH embassies for austerity measures
Despite the growing number of OFWs in distress and corresponding lack of action by Philippine officials, the Aquino administration had the gall to announce the closure of at least 12 Philippine posts all over the world as part of its “austerity measures”. Malacanang continues to ignore growing clamor from Filipino communities in Barcelona, Sweden, Palau, Saipan and Frankfurt to retain PH posts.
- Still no jobs at home and no genuine reintegration program
In his inaugural speech, Aquino explicitly stated that his administration’s thrust was to “create more jobs at home so that OFWs will not have to seek employment abroad.” However, statistics belie this claim.
The recent rise in local unemployment will push the Aquino government to further intensify and implement a more aggressive labor export policy. According to the 2011 Social Weather Survey, unemployment rose to 24 percent, or an estimated 9.7 million, signifying an additional 1.5 million jobless Filipinos by the fourth quarter of 2011. This figure is expected to rise as millions are expected to join the labor force come graduation season this March.
There are already some 12 million overseas Filipino workers around the world. An estimated 4,500 OFWs leave daily to work abroad. Of late, all the Aquino government, through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), has to offer are job openings for more nurses and doctors in Saudi Arabia, while no genuine and sustainable reintegration program is in place for returned and displaced OFWs. The Aquino administration’s so-called reintegration program consists mainly of loan packages and livelihood trainings that are still at the expense of returned OFWs.
“For as long as no domestic jobs are available, the government’s main recourse is to once again seek markets abroad despite the ongoing global economic crisis that continues to displace thousands of OFWs or place them in imminent danger or war. It’s a never-ending vicious cycle that will only end if fundamental reforms are in place,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.###