Press Release
August 17, 2022

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano's interpellation on Senator Raffy Tulfo's privilege speech on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)

"Minsan kulang sa empathy yung iba nating mga opisyales, parang alam nila yung nangyayari pero parang statistic na lang sa kanila yung mga nangyayari sa mga OFWs natin. But we do have good people who really care, and you showing the video (of our OFWs who suffered abuse) is a vivid requirement. Hindi statistic ito, tao ang bawat isa na nandito."

Sen. Cayetano asks Sen. Tulfo whether he can pose his questions and "magsumbong kay Tulfo". He cites his version of the Department of Migrant Workers Bill (which includes the proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos and Foreign Employment). He says they can work to improve the law. Sen. Cayetano points out that workers in Hong Kong and mainland China are safer than those working in countries with the Kafala system.

"Yes, Filipinos have to go out of the country to look for work, pero bakit sasaluhin lang 'pag may problema na? Bakit hindi tayo humanap ng trabaho para sa kanila na less ang trabaho at pang-aabuso?"

Sen. Cayetano mentions that in Hungary, there's scholarship, employment opportunities. He suggests that Senate committees can pressure government departments to refer Filipinos to employment opportunities in places where it is safer to work.

"We can pressure our departments to have job openings in places where it is safer to work. Maraming places around the world where in demand ang Pilipino!"

Sen. Cayetano recalls speaking with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said the Russian people treat Filipinos very well.

"Maganda ang turing sa kanila. We are not beggars in terms of saan ipapadala ang Pilipino."

"Kung ang mga departamento sa umpisa pa lang mamimili na ng mga bansa at mga trabaho na less ang abuso, magiging less ang problema natin."

"In Bahrain, the grandson of the king speaks Filipino and Bisaya. The king told President Rodrigo Duterte that it is because his nannies are Filipino. They may be nannies pero mataas ang tingin sa kanila. The next generations of royalties, mataas ang tingin sa kanila. Pero may bansa din na mababa ang tingin sa atin."

Sen. Cayetano asks: Is it correct - among the more or less 10 million Filipinos overseas, yung mga nagsusumbong, is there a trend where many OFWs are complaining? Sen. Tulfo replies: It's UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Cayetano asks: May napansin ba kayong trend sa inaabuso, kung anong klaseng trabaho? Sen. Tulfo says trend is domestic workers, and rarely the skilled, highly-educated.

"Paano umabot ang OFWs natin sa point na napapahamak na sila? Nagkukulang sa imbestigasyon, tapos padala pa tayo ng padala. We should really study out where Filipinos are most at risk."

Sen. Cayetano says Sen. Tulfo's show is like Pulse Asia, in the sense that it reflects what's happening on the ground. He asks whether DMW, including OWWA, studies whether there are areas where we should ban sending OFWs; and if there are certain jobs that are too dangerous to allow our kababayans to go? Sen. Cayetano cites war-torn Libya and Iraq, where a number of Filipinos are still based.

"Should the new Dept. of Migrant Workers study whether or not there are areas where we should really ban sending OFWs kung delikado sa kanila? And are there certain jobs too dangerous to allow our kababayans to go?"

Sen. Cayetano recalls the experience of some OFWs in Kuwait, where recruiters in the Philippines and Kuwait charged them exorbitant fees.

"Kahit gumastos ka (foreign employer) ng malaki, hindi mo dapat saktan [ang OFW], hindi mo dapat abusuhin. Feeling nila (foreign employer) sa laki ng perang binayad nila, 'Amin ka'."

Sen. Cayetano cites that during his time as House Speaker, Congress increased the Legal Assistance Fund for OFWs to P200 million and the Assistance to Nationals Fund to P1 billion; thanks USec. Arriola.

"The assistance to foreign nationals was increased from P40 million to P1 billion -- so the problem is hindi yung pera, ang problema yung Kafala system."

Sen. Cayetano says the problem now is not money but the Kafala system and exorbitant fees.

"Sa laki ng binayad, they think of OFWs as property. Problema din, yung Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar, in some countries hindi pinapayagan, so nagkukulang ang mga kababayan natin sa orientation."

"Alam ba ng mga OFWs natin ang phone numbers ng mga embassy natin? Umaalis ang mga kababayan natin na ang alam lang nila ay yung number ng recruiter nila at yung sasalong recruiter sa destination country nila. There are simple things that we can do to make life abroad safer para sa mga kababayan natin."

"Gaano ba kahirap na isaksak natin sa passport nila na may emergency numbers or website para naman kung may kailangan, alam nila [saan tatawagan]. There are very simple things that we can do that are not being done."

Sen. Cayetano says he hopes Sen. Tulfo can bring together all government departments concerned with OFW affairs and get them to cooperate.

"I'm hoping now, through your Committee (Senate Committee on Migrant Workers), na lahat ng ahensya that has to do with OFWs would be able to find a home and a venue with you na sila'y magka-usap-usap."

"I know people listen to you, good senator, and I know people at the Department of Migrant Workers will listen to you, and I agree with you that Secretary Toots Ople is such a great choice to head that department. This is a battle some people think is unwinnable, but she will win with your help."

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