Why executed drug mules should not be called OFWs

Migrante International cites below the main reasons and motives why some sectors and apologists who, days after the nation mourned the execution of Sally Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain, are now saying that they should not be called overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

To say that Villanueva, Credo and Batain and hundreds more of Filipino drug mules in jail or on death row abroad are not OFWs justifies the government’s late action and eventual failure to save their lives. While they relent that Villanueva, Credo and Batain were victims of drug syndicates, of desperation and lack of opportunities at home even, on the other hand they insinuate that the public should just accept the fates of the three Filipinos because they were “complicit victims.”

To say that Villanueva, Credo and Batain are not OFWs water down the main issue by passing off their execution as mere “isolated cases” when at least 700 Filipinos are either on death row or in jails abroad for the same offense, 76 of them in China alone. It chooses to ignore the fact that there is a thriving drug trafficking industry in the Philippines being run by international drug syndicates, their local counterparts and coddlers in government that has victimized and continues to prey on the desperation and kapit sa patalim of our Filipino labor force.

Lastly, to say that hundreds of drug mules on death row and in jails abroad are not OFWs underlines some sectors’ ignorance of the law and exonerates the government of its responsibilities as regard the protection and promotion of the rights of Filipino migrants.

Villanueva, Credo and Batain belong to the 4,500 who leave the country daily in pursuit of better opportunities, higher wages and income abroad. Of the 4,500, it is not indicated in government statistics which ones are actual OFWs with legitimate job orders abroad and which are victims of illegal recruiters and human and drug traffickers. In fact, a big bulk may arguably be those who leave as tourists and eventually end up being undocumented, another “illegal and criminal act that violates the laws of host countries”.

Republic Act 10022, or the Magna Carta for Migrants, does NOT discriminate against undocumented workers or overseas Filipinos in general, especially if they are in distress (RA 10022, Section 3). There is no big difference between those victimized as drug mules as those victimized by illegal recruitment and human traffickers, whether they were willing or innocent victims. Sections 23 and 24 of RA 10022 state that all of them should be guaranteed government support and legal assistance, and, needless to say, the Filipino nation’s sympathy.

For its part, Migrante International will never tire to point out the government’s responsibilities and accountabilities. That there is a great divide between the cases of Villanueva, Credo, Batain and other drug mules to that of Rep. Ronald Singson in terms of quick legal assistance and action from the Department of Foreign Affairs. That there is a thriving drug trafficking industry in the country and it is none other than the government’s problem. That there are currently 122 Filipinos on death row and 7,000 in jails abroad and it is the government’s problem. And most importantly, that in light of the worsening situation and conditions of overseas Filipinos, there continues to exist an unapologetic labor export policy that drives away Filipinos to distant shores, legally or illegally, and it is none other than the government’s fault.

Garry Martinez , Migrante International Chairperson