Press Release
August 10, 2013

As OFW abuse cases mounts, Recto bats for deployment
of more 'social welfare attaches'

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto today called for the deployment of more "social welfare attaches" (SWAs) abroad following the deployment of an initial nine to countries which reported a high incidence of Filipinos in distress.

Recto said the rise in the number of overseas Filipino workers in crisis situations should be met with an increase in the number of trained government personnel who can give them comfort and aid.

He said personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration stationed in government's 92 foreign posts are already having a hard time responding to a "myriad of OFW needs."

Recto suggested "a fourth leg to the three traditional agencies assisting OFWs and that would be the Department of Social Welfare and Development which can dispatch professional social workers to countries where there are Filipinos in distress who need to be aided."

He said professional social workers and trained counselors might be the right kind of personnel who can give succor to Filipino migrants who have suffered maltreatment and abuse in the workplace or host community.

"Our posts have the competency to make legal representations or attend to labor matters but there is a reported big gap when it comes to comforting Filipinos in distress," he said.

When it comes to intensive therapeutic counseling to victims of abuse or stress debriefing for those who have experienced traumatic events, for example, there is no designated personnel in a typical embassy, Recto said.

Recto said the deployment of SWAs to selected diplomatic posts had been authorized as early as February 2004 when Executive Order 287 was released.

Among the first countries to which SWAs were sent was Malaysia, after it expelled Filipinos by thousands from 2000 to 2010.

Recently, the Department of Budget and Management approved the creation of six SWA positions, each with the rank and pay officially of Social Welfare Officer IV.

The six will be stationed in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah, Hong Kong, South Korea and Qatar. Previously, three social welfare officers were deployed to "OFW heavy" cities of Amman, Jordan and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Recto said that a preliminary count by his office using 2012 reports filed by DFA missions showed that at least 1,272 Filipinos were languishing in jails in 42 countries. Of this, 776 were men and 446 were women.

Recto said if there are existing budget limitations in the hiring and deployment of SWAs, one possible funding source are "reasonable adjustments" in the proposed P5.4 billion "operating cost and administrative overhead" of DWSD's P62.6 billion Conditional Cash Transfer program in 2014.

Recto said next year's CCT has a proposed allocation of P3.38 billion for salaries and wages; P533 million for trainings; P550 million for bank service fees; P141 million for information materials and publicity; P356 million for monitoring and evaluation; P372 million for administrative expenses and P80 million for capital outlays.

"If we can save a little from these expenses, then we can rechannel 'savings' to the deployment of more social welfare attaches," Recto said.

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