Stop confusing OFWs on financial assistance – Migrants group urged Duterte

Migrante International has accused President Duterte of resorting to violence in order to cover-up for its incompetence in providing the Covid-19 assistance it promised to the Filipino people here and abroad. The group cited the confusion among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) regarding the promised $200 financial support to those affected by the pandemic.

“It was DOLE Secretary Silvestro Bello himself who was the one who prematurely announced the assistance program without clarifying when it is going to be received by our kababayans abroad. This led to the confusion of OFWs who went to the embassy to seek clarification on the matter. The response they got was similar to the threat made by Duterte to those asking for food in Quezon City,” says Joanna Concepcion, chairperson of Migrante International.

Philippine Embassy officials in Saudi Arabia called the local police last Wednesday to drive out distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who trooped to the embassy in Riyadh. OFWs claim that they were yelled at and harassed by embassy officials and personnel.

PHOTO: (1 April 2020) Embassy personnel and officials drove out distressed OFWs who were seeking clarification on the $200 cash aid promised by the Duterte government through Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Concepcion cited the official media release of Bello dated March 25, 2020, promising that the agency is targeting to provide the $200 assistance to about 70,000 Filipinos working abroad. The said announcement did not clarify that the agency is still drafting the guidelines for fund distribution.

“Up to now, DOLE has not provided any guidelines and consequently the funds they promised to distressed OFWs who were expecting the assistance a month ago. This is the problem with the Duterte government: they will give you false hope so they will look good to the media, then inflict police brutality when you want to avail of the promised assistance,” Concepcion lamented.

Migrante International likewise lambasted the confusing memorandum circulars issued by the embassies and consulates in the Middle East that were posted on their respective websites after the incident in Riyadh.

The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi posted a memo on their website that only OWWA members who were infected and confirmed positive of COVID-19 virus are the ones who are eligible for financial assistance. “This is contrary to the statement of Secretary Bello, which promised to assist all OFWs displaced by the pandemic,” Concepcion exclaims.

While on the other hand, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh clarified through its official statement last March 26, 2020, that they are only providing food assistance and not food allowance to OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Duterte government is quick to blame the people in protesting for food and assistance while failing to see itself as the culprit behind the confusion. Then issues a shoot-to-kill order brought about by its incompetence,” Concepcion added.

Migrante asserts that the very same incident had transpired in San Roque, Quezon City, two days ago when people protested on the long-overdue assistance package that Secretary Bello promised to local workers as early as March 17, 2020.

“We condemn the shootdown order of President Duterte against those who are demanding what is due to them. We demand the government to stop creating confusion and mayhem due to their incompetence in assisting the Filipino people here and abroad. We also call on the people to remain steadfast and continue pressuring the government to do its job correctly in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and stop its useless threats of terrorizing communities due to its failed promises to provide assistance,” Concepcion concluded.