Tulfo OFW proposal, heartless

Press Statement

January 18, 2023

Migrante International condemns Sen. Raffy Tulfo’s proposal that the government deny legal support to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are facing cases abroad that are related to illegal drugs, such as drug trafficking or serving as drug mules.

Tulfo’s proposal is woefully ignorant of the conditions faced by OFWs that land them in drug-related charges. It shows a mindset that is heartless not only towards OFWs in said situations, but all OFWs. 

The overwhelming majority of OFWs facing drug-related charges are innocent of the crimes and are in fact victims of wealthy and well-connected drug syndicates. They do not at all deserve the death penalty, which is the punishment for drug-related offenses in many countries. 

A clear illustration is the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who was tricked into carrying a suitcase containing illegal drugs to Indonesia. Like many OFWs facing drug-related cases, she was denied a competent lawyer and translator, a violation of her right to fair trial, and was sentenced to death. It was only the widespread protest that pushed the Philippine government to protect her, resulting in the stay of her execution.

To deny legal support to OFWs in Mary Jane’s and others’ situation is to turn a blind eye to the drug syndicates, condone the mistreatment suffered by Filipinos facing drug charges in foreign lands, and consign our kababayans in these situations to the death penalty or long jail terms. 

OFWs facing drug-related cases abroad are also victims of poverty and joblessness in the Philippines. It is not them who are a kahihiyan or embarrassment to Filipinos, but the Philippine government. The government has become so dependent on labor export that it has failed to generate jobs and development in the Philippines — even as it has always been uncaring towards OFWs. 

The Philippine government has been so smugly dependent on migrant Filipinos’ remittances that it sees no compulsion in solving the problems faced by many Filipinos in the Philippines — soaring food prices, high power rates, horrendous public transportation and heavy traffic, among others.

The truth is that government assistance to OFWs facing drug-related cases and OFWs in general has been so meager. While pretending to be a remedy, Tulfo’s proposal is a continuation of the government’s heartless denial of support and protection to OFWs. 

The government has been trying to remove sections of Filipinos from its protection: the Philippine consulate in Dubai for example once told distressed OFWs that OFWs who entered the country outside of the regular process will not receive support from the Philippine government in the face of abusive employers. 

The cases faced by OFWs abroad are not as simple as the “justice” dished out by the Tulfo brothers’ talkshows. The accused is presumed to be innocent before proven guilty and therefore has the right to legal protection from the Philippine government. If the Philippine government denies legal assistance to its people facing drug-related cases, it has thereby acted as the prosecutor and the judge. Kawawa ang mga Pilipino sa ganitong gobyerno.

We likewise condemn this attempt to exclude segments of the Filipino population from Filipinos deemed by the government as “deserving” of protection and rights. This is an abominable legacy of Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on drugs depicted drug addicts as “less than animals” and caused the death of tens of thousands of Filipinos — thereby displaying who is the “less than animal,” the fascist scum, in this issue. ###