The whole nation is wondering. Which of these two shenanigans is more reprehensible, the supposedly worsening sexual assaults against our female OFWs?Or the alleged ten billion plunder of congressional pork barrel. The answer would, of course, depend on our values as a people. Is money more important than the honor and dignity of our women? Why was Cardinal Tagle on the verge of tears, while denouncing the pork barrel controversy, albeit in his characteristically diplomatic sense of outrage against the rascals, while millions are starving in hunger and poverty? Why was there no bishop or religious leader expressing anger against sexual predators masquerading as diplomats? Whatever it is, we strongly believe that both are grave assaults against our sense of rectitude and justice. But I hate the sexual predators more.
As a former labor diplomat who actually worked in our embassies in Kuwait, Malaysia and Taiwan for a total tenure of almost seven years, I feel outraged by the government’s seeming incompetence and its notorious lack of due diligence in making sure that no such atrocious affronts against our migrant workers are perpetrated right inside our diplomatic missions, embassies and consulates. In the Senate hearing last Thursday, the gross ignorance of our officials was highlighted. The legal expert of the DFA confessed that she does not know whether or not rape is a crime in Saudi Arabia. How can our diplomats protect our OFWs if they are ignorant of very fundamental and compelling information? And what is DOLE doing beyond propaganda, and deodorizing simulation of investigation that found nothing?
We have more than a million Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The diaspora to that oil-rich nation started as early as the seventies, or more than three decades ago. How can DFA not know such basic data? Hundreds, if not thousands of our women had been raped in the Middle East, many of them have been murdered thereafter or have committed suicide, And our officials do not know whether the sexual assault against our women and all sexual harassments committed against them are criminal offenses? If not for the privilege speech of Sen.Jinggoy Estrada, the DFA would not undertake a research on the legal systems of the labor-receiving countries. If this is so, what can we expect from these honorable diplomats? Oh, my God, what is happening to our country?
The Migrant Workers Act of 1995, Republic Act 8042, as amended by RA 10022, mandates that we should never send any Filipino to any country that does not have an adequate safety net for OFWs. There must be a bilateral agreement between our government and the host country to make sure that the basic laws are in place to protect the health, safety, welfare, dignity and honor of our migrant workers. The ambassador on the ground should certify that these basic requirements are in place, otherwise the POEA should never approve any job order, nor process any work contract for non-compliant destinations. If these despicable atrocities did happen, it was because many fundamentals had been neglected. Some heads must roll. Why is the President so silent? This was not even worth a line in the last SONA.
Perhaps, I have earned the right to expect much from our leaders and diplomats. When I was there, I worked 18 hours a day, rescuing distressed Filipinos from many extremely dangerous situations. I visited jails every Wednesday, hospitals every Saturday. I went to courts in Kuwait, Malaysia and Taiwan to defend our accused OFWs. I attended all Filipino community activities, whether to celebrate the christening of a child or mourn the death of a rape victim. I conducted classes on basic laws for migrants every Sunday. I counseled, mentored, prayed for and entertained OFWs on the verge of slashing their wrists. I did all my work in the best way I could. I left a corporate job paying more than a million every three months, in order to suffer with our poor migrant workers. And all I got was being ignored by leaders who do not walk their talk.
That is why I want to hit those scoundrels in their faces, for desecrating the honor of our women. I hate these predators more than I abhor the perpetrators of the ten billion plunder of pork barrel. And like Cardinal Tagle, I am seething with outrage and want to cry, because I am unable to do something more concrete than silent anger.