OFWs in distress slam RP envoys for negligence, incompetence
By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net

Posted date: January 03, 2008
MANILA, Philippines — A group of overseas Filipino workers has criticized some members of the Philippine diplomatic corps for “bad attitude, negligence, and incompetence” in dealing with OFWs in distress.

In a letter to Senate President Manuel Villar, Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, cited five such instances — Teresita Santos, who was gang-raped in Saudi in August 2005 by five men; Julian Camat, Hermilo Ramos, and Napoleon Fabregas, who spent more jail time than their sentence provided; and Esnaira Angin, an irregular OFW from Maguidanao who was denied help at the embassy in Dubai.

Villar thus demanded that these embassy and consular officials be identified and punished. In Senate Resolution 248, he urged the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to look into these allegations.ofw-protest.jpg

“The seeming insensitiveness and indifference of a number of our diplomatic and consular officials and personnel have been reported and they are destroying the image and dignity of a larger, more committed, devoted and excellent public servants in foreign service,” he said in a statement.

In the case of Santos, she accused consulate personnel in Jeddah of depriving her of proper legal advice that almost caused her to lose claim to her private rights. This after the perpetrators were found guilty and were sentenced to four years imprisonment and 500 lashes each. In a letter-complaint submitted to the DFA, Santos said fellow OFWs helped her file a case to claim for her private rights and accused Assistance to Nationals personnel of blocking the hearings.

Camat, Ramos, and Fabregas, who worked for a cargo handling company in Jeddah, were sentenced by the Saudi court of one and a half years imprisonment for stealing computers in January 2003, but they ended up serving four years and four months in detention due to the negligence of the Consulate General in Jeddah.

Angin, on the other hand, accused the assistant labor attaché of denying her help and shelter at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, allegedly for lack of money to pay for necessary fees. An undocumented OFW, Angin was one of the four migrant Filipinos in Dubai whose house was broken into by three Emirati and an Omani national in November 2005. She was stabbed on her chest and back while trying to resist their attackers.

“The mindset and thinking of our corps of foreign service must be changed to realize that their existence in countries where they are detailed and stationed is a gift to our citizens, particularly the OFWs,” Villar reminded Filipino diplomats and labor officers.

In his statement, the Senate President also said he has filed Senate Bill 1879, which seeks to amend Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, by imposing penalties on Philippine consular officials and other government personnel who fail to act on complaints of, or to give assistance or render service to migrant workers, especially those in distress, and their families.

Under the proposal, officials and personnel who fail or refuse to render service and/or assistance will be punished with suspension from office of not less than 30 days to dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement and other benefits depending on the gravity of the offense, and shall be disqualified from holding any other government office in the future.

Sana expressed support for the Villar bill. “We join you in upholding the dignity of the Philippine foreign service corps and in upholding government’s commitment to the rights and welfare of our OFWs and their families,” she said.

Earlier, Villar also filed Senate Resolution 189 urging the Senate Committees on Labor and Employment and Foreign Relations to conduct an urgent omnibus inquiry on the plight of detained Filipino workers in various countries so that remedial measures and a package of assistance to protect OFWs may be devised.
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view_article.php?article_id=110167

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