Press Release
August 17, 2022

Highlights of Senator Pia Cayetano's manifestation and interpellation
On the privilege speech of Senator Raffy Tulfo regarding the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)

I think it is worth mentioning as a point of information, and since tinanong ng ating mga kasama, kung pwedeng banggitin ang ibig sabihin ng 'extra service,' right? There is nothing wrong with making it clear what that is, and I think it's important because this is an offense and an assault usually committed against women, but it happens to men as well.

'Sexual services' means any form of sexual conduct including intercourse, penetration, or any other touching of any person, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, aggression, degradation, or other similar purposes.

So yun ang ibig sabihin na ang ating mga kababayan masahista, which is a decent and legitimate work, pinapagawa ng ganitong klase na hindi na kasama sa sakop ng trabaho nila.

Thank you, Mr. President. With the permission of the sponsor, of the Chairman of the newly created Committee on OFWs, I would also like to share some insights and perhaps ask a few questions.

First of all, congratulations, sir. This is a very interesting and revealing privilege speech. I think many of us are familiar with it in some way, but the truth is, I could barely look at it because it's very painful to see those kinds of images, but that's the reality.

I am looking at our Minority Floor Leader [Senator Aquilino Pimentel III] and I am reminded of a similar, very disturbing video, that was shown in private [to senators]. And I didn't realize that I wasn't looking at it for the same reason that I was very disturbed. And his late father [Senator Awuilino Pimentel Jr.] said something very kind to me, "kawawa ka naman na hirap na hirap kang makita ang pictures na yun." Maybe it's because I am a mother and [the victim was] a child, so my heart bleeds for fellow mothers, and of course, for families that have to go through these difficulties, or to see their loved ones, usually a mother, daughter, sister going through that.

Anyway, on that note, I listened to your speech, to the different interpellations. And is it correct if I would summarize that your privilege speech is about the welfare of our OFWs, in a nutshell?

And later on, I'll go into this pero nagustuhan ko ang sinabi niyong 'one-strike policy.' But we'll save that for later, just recognizing that his honor is very serious about doing whatever is needed to protect our OFWs.

Mr President, may I know if the gentleman is familiar with the Treaty on Migrant Workers? To be clear, the whole title is, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Because I think it's very important, your honor, that we work with existing laws and conventions that we are signatories of. And if I may spread into the record, this is basically a comprehensive international treaty that deals with, as the title says, the protection of migrant workers, their rights, including members of their families.

I think the best way that I can expound on this is by telling you a story. In 2009, again, with the father of our late colleague. He was a senator until 2010, so kasama ko pa siya nun, 2009, I am sure. Because the late Sen. Nene Pimentel was active in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) as I was, and he was actually the one who encouraged me to run for the position of President for the Women Parliamentarians of the IPU. So in my capacity as President, I had many opportunities to go around the world and chair various meetings.

So one of the meetings was a joint meeting held in the National Assembly of France, with European Union member-states wherein the topic was migrant workers. And it's actually on our Senate website, my staff dug it up, I didn't even remember it was there. It's a press release dated December 16, 2009, perhaps the gentleman can direct his staff to check this. Because in a nutshell, it explains here what that conference was about. I chaired that conference, listening to all these European states explain how they are dedicated to protecting the welfare of migrant workers. Some are Filipinos, some of them have had experience working with Filipinos, while others were from other Asian countries.

And at the very end - I was not a presenter because I was chairing that meeting - I wrapped up the meeting with a presentation. And my presentation was about OFWs. The plight that they went through in different countries and the families that they left behind to serve these other countries. Either they were OFWs in the hospitals or in the homes, as [Sen. Alan Cayetano] said, many of them were responsible for caring for princes and princesses of various countries. And these members of the European member-states were shocked when I revealed to them that this particular convention on the protection of migrant workers, none of them present - after all of the long speeches about protecting the migrant workers - have signed that convention that protects migrant workers.

So I would have proceeded to ask, your honor, if he is aware of who the signatories are. But given that this is new to his honor, I will be the one to update the members of the Senate on where that stands. From what I know, because time and again, I have asked for updates, I don't think we've moved forward. I may be wrong, but I am not aware that any major 'receiving' country - to be clear, 'receiving' country yung tumatanggap ng mga OFWs natin - eh pumirma nito.

Nakakalungkot na ang mga pumirma ng Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families are mostly 'sending' countries: mga katulad natin na maraming kababayan na pumupunta doon [as migrant workers].

Yung tumatanggap ng ating mga OFW [receiving countries], wala ho sa kanila ang pumirma. I can probably just mention the names, hindi pa nga ganun karami ang mga pumirma: Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Congo, El Salvador, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Palau, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkey, and Venezuela.

May narinig ba kayo diyan na mga naririnig nating may karanasan tayong naapi ang mga kababayan natin? Meron ba diyan?

[Sen. Tulfo responds]

Thank you, sir, for that. Pero actually, sir, hindi naman po ang convention ang tutulong. It is not an entity, it is an agreement. So, ang dapat magbigay buhay dito sa convention ay ang mga signatories ng convention. Kaya mahalaga dito na alamin natin sino ang pumirma. Yung nga po ang mga binanggit ko, yung mga pumirma ng Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families ay yun ding mga kapareho nating bansa na naaapi.

So aware man tayo doon, hindi naman natin ma-enforce itong convention sa mga bansa kung saan kilalang maraming naaaping migrant workers, kasi sila ho ang hindi pumirma. So in a way, it's not really on our OFWs to know this, [but] it's a global obligation.

To point out a few [provisions of the convention], it protects our migrant workers with respect to the right to liberty and security of persons - so yung mga binabanggit niyo na nasaktan, kinulong, hindi makawala - that directly affects the liberty and security of persons. That is Article 16 of the convention.

And then migrant workers and members of their families shall be entitled to effective protection by the State against violence, physical injury, threats and intimidation, whether by public officials or by private individuals.

To add to that, Mr. President, I emphasized in that conference I attended with European Union members of parliament, who claimed to be, and I believe that they personally intended to help us protect migrant workers, [but] they also were not aware that they were not a signatory of this convention. What I emphasized there is one of the key provisions here is migrant workers shall enjoy treatment not less favorable than that which applies to nationals of the State of employment in respect of remuneration.

And then it has a couple of things: conditions of work, overtime, hours of work, weekly rest, holidays - what does that mean? That means pag OFW ka, kailangan ang treatment sa 'yo, patas lang, not less favorable. In other words, pwedeng 'more favorable' pero 'not less favorable.' So hindi pwedeng ang local doon na local hire na housekeeper eh iba ang kanyang hours of work. Iba ang overtime pay, iba ang holidays. This goes din syempre sa welfare ng ating mga kababayan.

And then on other terms of employment, that is to say, minimum age of employment, and any other matters which, according to national law and practice, are considered a term of employment.

Anyway, your honor, my objective really was to bring to the attention of this body the importance of this convention and perhaps with his honor's leadership, we can ask Sec. Toots Ople [Department of Migrant Workers], who is a good friend of mine, to find out what are our hopes of getting the [convention signed by more receiving countries]. I recognize from his honor's answers in the interpellation of other colleagues na gagawin niya ang lahat na masigurado na ang pinupuntahan ng ating mga kababayan ay safe sila doon. So pinapaalam ko lang na isa ito sa tools na magagamit natin para ma-ensure po na safe sila.

One other thing that I'd like to mention is the Social Security Agreement. Under this convention, it is recognized that parties can enter into such agreements. So with this kind of agreement, it is possible that the OFWs would also get those kinds of [social security] benefits in other countries.

And for the information of the body, we also have signatories, countries that have signed social service agreements with our country. It is a shorter list but thankfully it actually includes [receiving] European countries: United Kingdom, Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.

Ang naalala ko sa mga kwento ng kapatid ko na dating Secretary of Foreign Affairs, katulad din ng experience ng ating Chairman, less ang narereport naman sa mga ganitong countries. Mas doon sa tatlong binanggit, I think UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi. So parang wala pa atang SSA but I am double checking with my staff, umiiling ang staff ko, wala tayong SSA. So maybe those are other things that we can find out, Mr. Chairman.

I agree with his honor. Also on record I am calling for the ban.

I'm thinking lang your honor na that could be a stepping stone to ask [these countries] if they would be willing to sign the convention. Kasi at the end of the day, if you enter into a bilateral agreement with another country stating the same, it's still a step in the right direction. And I understand your frustration na baka mamaya, even if they are [signatories], what assurance do we have?

I'll leave it at that, your honor. I will end with commending his honor on this topic and I wish him all the best in the pursuit of justice to protect our OFWs.

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