President Duterte (left) and Sen. Bong Go (right)
By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — As President Duterte expressed his grave concern for millions of overseas Filipinos affected by the pandemic in his final State of the Nation Address, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said it highlighted the need for the creation of Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino (DMWOF).
In a statement, Go said that the global crisis has resulted in Filipinos in distress seeking support from the government while others have no choice but to be repatriated due to loss of job opportunities abroad.
Go said that Duterte reiterated the significance of his bill for the creation of the DMWOF soonest to further protect their welfare amid global pandemic.
The Committee Report has been sponsored by Sen. Joel Villanueva in the Senate plenary as Chair of the Committee on Labor. The committee report is a consolidated version of related measures such as Go’s earlier filed bill that aimed to create the Department of Overseas Filipinos. This earlier version has been certified as urgent by the President.
As Go acknowledged the sacrifices of Filipinos working abroad, the Senator expressed his appreciation towards Duterte for always looking after the welfare of OFWs, and their families, particularly during these challenging times.
“Our goal is simple in this measure: to give our migrant workers and all other Filipinos abroad the best government service that we could give them,” said Go.
“Ito po ang ating ipinaglalaban — ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino kahit saan man sila sa mundo. Napaka-unfair naman na 10 percent ng population ay overseas Filipinos pero wala kayong sariling departamento,” Go added.
Senate Bill No. 2234, if passed, will establish a department primarily mandated to develop, recommend and implement national policies, plans, programs, and guidelines that protect overseas Filipinos, as well as promote their interests and effectively resolve issues concerning them.
In addition, the DMWOF will be responsible for providing fundamental social and welfare services, including insurance, social work assistance, and legal assistance, as well as administer reintegration and social service programs to overseas Filipinos.
“Sa panukalang batas na ito, tapos na ang panahon na pinapagpapasa-pasahan natin ang ating mga kababayan. Tapos na ang panahon na nauubos ang pasensya, pera at pagod ng kapwa natin mga Pilipino dahil sa burukrasya at bulok na sistema. Tapos na ang panahon na ang mga ahensya at opisina sa gobyerno na nagtuturuan [kung] sino ang dapat umako sa responsibilidad,” Go declared
“Napapanahon na po na meron din silang sariling departamento. Long overdue na po ‘yan, matatapos na po ang termino ni Pangulong Duterte, matagal na po n’yang ipinangako ‘yan. Ibigay na natin sa kanila ang para sa kanila. Mga modern-day heroes natin sila tapos wala pa silang sariling departamento,” he added.
Go, then, appealed to fellow legislators to continue to recognize the hard work of OFWs who continue to contribute and sacrifice for their families, as well as for the society, as he urged them to support advocacies that would cater to the needs of migrant workers, especially during the pandemic.
“My fellow legislators, nanawagan po ako sa inyo na tulungan po natin ang ating mga OFWs. Marami po sa kanila ang nawalan ng mga trabaho dulot ng pandemya. Apektado rin po ang mga pamilya na umaasa sa OFWs sa kanilang pang araw-araw na pangkabuhayan,” Go said.
“Matagal na po nating itinuturing na bagong bayani ang ating mga OFWs. Malaking tulong po ang kanilang kontribusyon hindi lang sa ating ekonomiya, kundi pati na rin sa pag-ahon sa kanilang mga pamilya at komunidad,” Go added.
Expressing President Duterte’s compassion for OFWs, Senator Go said that he is committed to bringing much needed support for migrant workers. Go is also certain that the President will continue to safeguard the welfare of Filipinos working abroad even after his term.
“To all our fellow Filipinos abroad, I want to emphasize that we are doing this for all of you. Para sa inyo ang lahat ng ito. Malapit kayo sa puso namin ni Pangulong Duterte. Kaya sa hangarin naming mabigyan kayo ng mas maginhawang buhay, sisikapin ko at ng aking mga kasamahan sa Senado na isakatuparan ang mga inisiyatibong ito para gumaan, kahit papano, ang mga pinapasan ninyo,” promised Go.
Last year, Go played a significant role in the subsequent grant of pardon to Roderick Aguinaldo, an overseas Filipino worker detained in Bahrain for four years after he was convicted for the death of a foreign national in the country.
He was also instrumental in the recent repatriation of overseas Filipino worker Malik S. Darimbang who had been stuck in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for six years after he got involved in a road accident which led to the death of a Pakistani national.
Much earlier, Go also assisted several OFWs from Kuwait, forced to engage in illegal sexual services in 2019, and who sought the Senator’s help after they were repatriated. Go specifically facilitated the provision of legal and medical assistance for those suffering from diseases related to forced sexual services while those looking for work were also extended the necessary help.
Part of his efforts to help distressed OFWs, Go extended assistance as his team conducted a series of distribution activities for struggling migrant workers. On March 31, Go gave relief to repatriated OFWs from Syria while, on June 25, similar assistance were given to hundreds of seafarers in Intramuros, Manila.
Last September 2020, Go particularly assisted Rose Policarpio, an OFW in Saudi Arabia who was acquitted of murder after being wrongfully implicated in the killing of her Lebanese employer by three men. The Senator played a key role in saving her from being meted with the death penalty and also assisted in her release, repatriation and subsequent job placement when she returned to the Philippine last year.
Go also earlier successfully appealed to the national government to include the overseas workers, including the seafarers, in the A4 priority list of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. The President also approved Go’s subsequent recommendation to allocate specific brands of vaccines for OFWs which are considered ‘acceptable’ in their countries of destination and ports of entry. (ai/mtvn)