21 April 2023
It has come to our attention that Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Arnell Ignacio released a video in which he decried Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are “pasaway” or stubborn in violating laws and customs of migrant-receiving countries. In said video — the version of which posted by one “Eljan TV” on April 12 has gathered 2,500 reactions and 68,000 views — Ignacio says that the government is at a loss as to how to serve OFWs so they will avoid violating the laws and customs of destination countries. He also says that OFWs who get into trouble for making such violations often make noises in the media, fake the real story and blame the government.
Ranting on social media will not prevent OFWs from violating laws and customs of migrant-receiving countries. This will only make it appear that government officials are doing something when they are actually not doing anything on the issue. What Ignacio and OWWA need to do is improve the agency’s Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) and Post-Arrival Orientation Seminar (PAOS) to educate prospective and repeat OFWs about laws and customs of migrant receiving countries. According to our members, these seminars often educate OFWs about being submissive to their employers, but about not the laws and customs of migrant-receiving countries.
OWWA, according to its charter, “develops and implements responsive programs and services, while ensuring fund viability, towards the protection of the interest and promotion of the welfare of its member-OFWs.” Providing basic information about migrant-receiving countries to OFWs is most important in protecting OFWs’ interests and promoting their welfare. Such information should in fact be provided free, especially in view of OFWs remittances’ immense contributions to the Philippine economy. Instead, prospective OFWs are charged P400 for PDOS and while the PAOS is free, it is not regularly provided. The PDOS fee is part of the government’s money-making schemes in the ranks of OFWs. These fees should be removed and the PDOS should be provided free, and the PAOS should be provided regularly.
The truth is that despite the government’s weaknesses in informing and educating OFWs, most OFWs abide by the law and customs of migrant-receiving countries. Most OFWs who report their problems to media also have real grievances. These are important points that Ignacio failed to mention in his anger at erring OFWs. OFWs see that many migrant-receiving countries punish harshly migrants and other people who commit such violations. At the same time, fellow Filipinos — friends, relatives, co-workers and even acquaintances — freely and out of concern provide information and education to OFWs about laws and customs in migrant-receiving countries. While the government should educate OFWs, it should also learn from OFWs.###