Press Release
November 6, 2013


SENATOR Cynthia Villar vowed to help in the repatriation of undocumented Filipino workers facing arrest and detention over the renewed Saudi government crackdown on illegal foreign migrants as she personally met yesterday (November 6, 2013) 4 distressed OFWs, including a 71-year old illegally-staying worker, upon their arrival in the country from Saudi Arabia.

The distressed OFWs, who came from Jeddah and Riyadh, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1 from Abu Dahbi at 3:15 p.m. via Etihad Airways, Flight No. EY 424.

The Villar Foundation, paid for their plane tickets.

Senator Cynthia Villar said helping OFWs has been a part of her advocacy and personal commitment.

"No PDAF is involved here, ... this is my own modest, personal initiative in honor of our modern-day heroes," she said, adding that in times of crises, the OFWs who have sacrificed a lot for their families need to feel the concern of government.

Among those whom the Villar Foundation helped to come home were Mariam Tingkong Sapii, 40, and Reynaldo Esmero Reposar, 71. Unable to come home due to his spinal ailment was 53-year old Diego Mag-atas, Sr, who has been estranged from his family for more than 20 years. Mag-atas was hoping to leave yesterday on the same flight but was prevented from doing so because he lacked a medical certificate showing that he is fit to travel. The said OFW suffered a rare disease that led to a weakness in his spinal column. The Philippine Consulate's Assistance-to-Nationals Section also failed to provide Mr. Mag-atas with a copy of his e-ticket, the ticket that was purchased by the Villar Foundation.

"I am appealing to our Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to fast-track the repatriation of Diego Mag-atas. The Villar Foundation has already provided a ticket for him but the airport authorities required a medical certificate to show that he is indeed fit to travel considering his illness. Mang Diego badly wants to be with his family. He has not seen them for 20 years, and they are also longing to see him come home," Senator Villar said.

The lady senator stressed that the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulate-General should assign a team at the Saudi airport to facilitate the departure of OFWs with exit visas and tickets not issued by the government.

"I urge our diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia to assign OFW assistance teams at the international airport in Saudi Arabia to guide and assist departing Filipino workers regardless of where they got their tickets from. Some of our workers think that they are able to leave because all their papers are in order only to encounter problems at the airport itself, just like Mr. Mag-atas," Villar pointed out.

Villar said that the Saudi crackdown has also led to some OFWs who have spent many years in the desert kingdom to consider going back home. Such is the case of 71-year old "Tatay Rene" Reposar.

Reposar fell into the category of overstaying and undocumented foreign workers after losing his job at the Saudi National Printing Press where he worked with proper documentation from 1980 until it declared bankruptcy in 2003. He then moved to another printing company without the necessary documents.

The 3 other OFWs who were finally reunited with their families are Farida Kasan Giang, 38, who was underpaid and overworked, attending to her job as DH from 9 am to 4 am, Lyn Tulod Verano, who was physically and verbally abused by her employer. She left with unpaid salary for 6 months, and Mariam Sapii who had stayed with different employers since she arrived in Riyadh on June 5, 2005. Her last employer where she stayed for 8 months required her to clean the whole house, which she described as a "mansion". She worked from 6 am to 11 pm with only meals as her rest. The "harrowing ordeals" of these OFWS, Villar said, should serve as a stern reminder for the government to focus on job creation in the same way the Saudi government is doing its best to provide jobs for their nationals.

"We need to help thousands of our repatriated OFWs to get back to their feet and move forward, hopefully without going back to the Middle East to work," said Villar.

"I also appeal to the private sector to do its share to help our OFWs in Saudi Arabia during these extraordinary times," she said, while adding that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment must open its doors to Good Samaritans who wish to help our OFWs come home.

"Hindi dapat solohin ng pamahalaan ang problema. Marami ang gustong tumulong sa ating mga OFWs pero hindi alam kung paano at kung kanino lalapit. Wala kasing malinaw na nagbibigay ng kumpas para makatulong din naman ang pribadong sector at mga NGOs sa mga nais umuwi ng bansa," Villar said.

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