Press Release
February 2, 2021

Protection of overseas Filipinos' welfare must be prioritized, says Bong Go as Senate panel okays committee deliberations on DOFil bill

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go issued a strong appeal to the government to provide greater protection and assistance to overseas Filipinos and their families amid the struggles they face caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other crisis situations abroad.

Go also raised concerns on recent unfortunate incidents, such as allegedly abused Filipinos in Syria, as well as the shocking murder of Mary Anne Daynolo in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

"I offer my deepest condolences to Mary Anne's family for her untimely passing. Their grief and pain at this time are beyond words. My thoughts and prayers are with them and everyone who loved her," said Go.

Daynolo, aged 30, was officially reported missing on March 6, 2020. She was last sighted two days prior at a hotel where she worked as a receptionist. A search was quickly launched after a sibling who is also based in the U.A.E. reported her disappearance.

Despite this, the authorities made little progress and the victim's family in the Philippines organized an online campaign to aid in the search. Her remains were finally recovered nine months after her disappearance and were flown to the Philippines on Saturday, January 30.

Go has also expressed his grave concern over the reported trafficking of some Filipino women forcibly taken to Syria and abused by their employers.

"Ayaw ko talagang makitang merong mga OFWs natin na naaabuso, lalo na nasa malalayong lugar sila. Sa mga nang-aabuso ng kapwa tao, dapat sa inyo putulan ng...!," he exclaimed.

"Bagong bayani kung ituring natin sila na halos sampung porsiyento ng ating populasyon. Sana naman ay suklian natin nang mas maayos at mas mabilis na serbisyo ang kanilang sakripisyo para sa kanilang pamilya at sa bayan," Go reiterated.

To improve the delivery of services to overseas Filipinos, especially OFWs in distress, the Senator filed Senate Bill No. 1949 on December 14, 2020.

"Dapat mayro'n tayo na mas maayos na mekanismo para rumesponde sa mga Pilipino na may hinaharap na problema abroad. Hindi nila dapat kailangan pang manawagan sa Facebook o radyo dahil tungkulin nating protektahan at alagaan sila," continued Go.

The 'Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2020' is the third iteration of a bill he introduced in 2019 and represents the unified position of the Executive branch of government.

"Kapag usapang overseas Filipino, dapat may isang Cabinet-level secretary who will lead a department structured to work together as one team to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos abroad," he explained.

The bill has been certified as 'urgent' by President Duterte. It is also one of the twenty priority measures identified by both chambers of Congress for 2021.

On February 1, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri disclosed the Senate committees are set to begin deliberations on various bills, including the proposed DOFil bill.

"This is a welcome development. We will resume the committee hearings into the overseas Filipino department bills," Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said.

"The pandemic has exposed the weakness of our policies on OFWs, particularly our reintegration program to help them transition back to the local labor force," Villanueva added.

Under Senator Go's proposed measure, the department shall subsume and streamline all responsibilities pertaining to overseas employment and migration that are presently scattered among various departments and agencies. It will be primarily responsible for protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipinos as well as managing and monitoring their employment abroad and reintegration once they return.

Notably, SBN 1949 directs the implementation of a one country-team which shall require all officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment.

Go emphasized that creating DOFil will not bloat the bureaucracy and is in line with the objectives of rightsizing and streamlining government functions.

"Matagal na ako sa serbisyo publiko. Mahigit dalawang dekada akong nanilbihan kay Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte. Alam ko na kung watak watak ang mga ahensya, hindi ganun kabilis at maayos ang serbisyo ng gobyerno," noted Go.

"Mas maisasaayos ang mga programa at serbisyo ng gobyerno para matulungan ang mga apektadong Pilipino kung mayroong sariling departamento na mamamahala sa mga pangangailangan ng mga OFWs at iba pa nating kababayan abroad," he explained.

The department will also be responsible for providing social and welfare services, including legal assistance and insurance, to overseas Filipinos. It shall likewise administer reintegration programs and provide Assistance to Nationals services, especially during national emergencies.

"Ito po ang ating ipinaglalaban � ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino kahit saan man sila sa mundo. Sana naman, suklian natin ang kanilang sakripisyo ng mas maayos at mabilis na serbisyo," appealed the Senator.

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