Staff Writer - Ricky Laxa
In light of recent successive isolated cases of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) reported victims of brutality by police authorities, employers and individuals, the Filipino communities in the Middle East have issued signature campaigns online via social media and hard copies circulated among organizations urging the government to issue a moratorium banning household helpers in the Middle East. Recruitment agencies brace to receive the impact of the move since prominent personalities in the government have pledged to push forward the implementation of the moratorium. Recruitment agencies' administrators and secretaries undertake to challenge the government should it presses on to approve the moratorium.
In the series of interviews by The Times with both recruitment agencies and community leaders in Kuwait, it was clear that both sides strongly stand their grounds; the Filipino community leaders commit to protect victims and stop deployment of workers to halt abuses and recruitment agencies claim that cases were isolated and that their businesses are institutions that provide jobs and better future for families. Furthermore, recruitment agencies attest that hundreds of cases have been resolved without them going through the media thus, unreported and readers as well as viewers have no knowledge of such mended cases.
The Times spoke to some of the presidents of different Filipino organizations in Kuwait who strongly urged the stopping of deployment of Filipinos. President of Pinoy Ambulance Nurses in Kuwait Hengie Taton suggests that the Philippine government must temporarily suspend the deployment of workers in Kuwait. He said "Working in the ambulance and being in the front line give us the first hand information of these victims' pitiful situations and conditions and it is alarming that these cases have never ceased to stop if not lessen.
The Philippine government must step forward to look into this issue with urgency". President of Club Ilonggo Oliver Diong contested that there are several cases in the past that have not been resolved and that a moratorium to stop deployment of Filipino workers in Kuwait is essential. "It will be wise for the Philippine government not to send workers in Kuwait until these cases have been resolved or a stronger law be implemented to protect further the security and welfare of Filipinos in Kuwait" commented Diong.
Founder, Consultant of Confederation of GBI-TBGG Leo Rosal added that the only solution to stop these brutalities is for the government not to deploy workers in Kuwait. "The agencies play an essential role in these cases since they choose employers and in some cases, they end up in harsh and worst situations, thus resulting to multiple cases in the hands of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Philippine Embassy", stated Rosal. Spiritual leader Pastor Gil Bantugan commended a different approach to the issue; he said "It is true that what is happening with our women here is alarming especially for our community. As for me, the issuance of a moratorium is too reactionary.
This is the right time for the government, from the President and sectors concerned, to study deeper the issues and come up with urgency and adequate solutions that are right and would be beneficial to all our workers", stated Pastror Bantugan. As for the recruitment agencies, they oppose these allegations and say that cases have been followed up, attended and resolved and that media has never been their priorities on publicizing these resolved issues. In a conversation with agency secretaries The Times compiled these issues as response to the move the Filipino communities have initiated.
That many of the cases reported of abuses are isolated and have been resolved in many instances. Such in the case of Alma who was raped, she was undocumented but chose to work outside. "Some cases of runaways instead of heading to the shelter or agency opt to seek refuge and shelter on friends' houses or friends they meet on chats and internets and in numerous cases after running away find themselves victims of human trafficking, rape, physical abuses, forced labor and more. Do agencies and employers contribute to these results? In fact they are the last to know".
• That most of the cases of runaways in the shelter are not physical abuses but also include non-payment of salaries, verbal abuse, long working hours and strict employers who deny them of communication with families, day-offs and in some cases food.
• That most of the cases have been if not resolved but are in the process of settling amicably by agency representatives, Assistant to the Nationals Unit or Labor departments.
• That employers just like us speak to each other and discuss matters to protect their interests and that they too are influenced by reports. Stop deployment of Filipino Workers
• That employers also take the risk of hiring household helpers' since they too have no knowledge of them and in the process of adjustments between the employers and workers exist disputes.
• That agencies are after the protection of their businesses and have no intentions of hiring bad employers since they are fully aware of the repercussions that would affect their businesses. :They too take the chance and risk when they accept would be employers. There is no such a thing as a psychological test or other interviews that can assure agencies of the characters of their would be employers.
• That they too are against and denounce brutality on women and in particular their own wards.
• That some of the agencies deserve to be penalized but encompassing and generalizing agencies with such mistakes committed by one is unfair and unjust.
• That the government needs to understand that agencies also provide employments, uplift conditions of destitute families, provide education and better future for millions of workers overseas and that banning the process of employment can bring about increase in illegal recruitments, strain in diplomatic relations between host country and Philippines.
• What must be considered is to have a dialogue if not a Memorandum Of Understanding between both countries to further enhance implementation of laws that will protect the interests of both employees and employers who are often overlooked in several instances.
• That unyielding coordination between countries labor related sectors must be implemented
• That a moratorium is not the answer to these claims.