OFWs to PNoy: Urge ASEAN to protect, respect rights of migrant workers; Show example, ‘clean own backyard’

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) urged President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to push for the completion of the regional instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers  and “to have the moral and political ascendancy to do it” as he flew in to Hanoi, Vietnam to attend the 17th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit.

The ASEAN Committee for the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) has been drafting an Instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. The instrument will define the rights of migrant workers and outline the obligations of sending and receiving states to hold governments accountable.

The ACMW was formed after the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu in January 2007 agreed to a Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers which takes significant steps in moving ASEAN member states towards complying with existing universal conventions and treaties that many, including the Philippines, have ratified.

The drafting of the instrument has come to an impasse since 2009, however, after members of the committee, receiving countries Malaysia and Singapore, and Thailand (as then chair of the ASEAN), failed to agree with provisions proposed by committee members labor-sending countries Philippines and Indonesia.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, “We expect PNoy to bring up two main points for OFWs in the summit. First is to compel labor-receiving countries to abide by universal conventions and policies with respect to the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. Second is for him to announce his concrete action to fully implement such policies and laws in our own concerned government agencies.”

The Philippines is one of the top labor-sending countries in the world, only next to China and Mexico.

Yearly, Migrante International receives an average of 1,500 cases of abuse, exploitation, labor and human rights violations and complaints against erring and negligent government officials despite the enactment of Republic Act 10022 or the amended Migrant Workers’ Act and the RA 9208 or the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act, among others.

Martinez said, “How can we expect receiving countries to uphold and respect the rights of our OFWs when our very own government fails to do so?”

He cited the cases of Agnes Tenorio, the Jordan 100++ and Nancy (not her real name).

Yesterday, Filipina domestic worker Tenorio complained of the rude and neglectful behavior of Labor Attaché Romulo Salud in Hong Kong. Salud’s rude “scolding” was captured on audio recroding. OFWs in Hong Kong and Migrante International have called for the recall of Salud.

Almost 200 OFWs in Jordan, mostly women and minors, otherwise known as the Jordan 100++, have complained of ‘state-sponsored human trafficking’ after their employment certificates were authenticated by the POLO in Jordan despite of a deployment ban still in effect. They are presently languishing at the POLO in Jordan and awaiting repatriation.

Nancy (not her real name), an OFW who was drugged and raped by a Bangladeshi national in Saudi Arabia in 2009, has finished serving her jail sentence and received 50 lashes after her employer sent her to jail “for having an illicit affair”. She was set to be released when her rapist was caught and was just waiting for her ticket from the Department of Foreign Affairs last July. However, after a call from her mother, Migrante has recently learned that she is being sent back to Saudi Central Jail. When asked, the DFA could not point out her exact whereabouts.

“These are just some of the cases by which the government should be held directly accountable for the gross disregard and neglect of the welfare and lives of our OFWs. Pnoy should show a good example to the ASEAN by cleaning his own backyard. His administration must have the moral and political ascendancy to oblige receiving states to comply,” he said. ###