‘Philippines govt should look into plight of Filipinos abroad’; Lawmaker mulls renaming ‘domestics’ as caregivers KUWAIT CITY: “It’s about time that the Philippines government should look seriously into the plight of Filipino workers abroad especially those working as domestic helpers who are subject to various forms of abuses and harassment and we should start this at home by uplifting the image of Filipino workers,” disclosed on Saturday visiting Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr, 6th district of Manila who arrived in Kuwait on weekend to attend the anniversary of the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church and at the same time, to monitor the status of the more than 110,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait. Abante who is the current senior vice chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and the Chairman of the Committee on Public Information in the Philippine House of Representatives met with Philippine embassy officials led by Ambassador Ricardo Endaya on Saturday.

He informed them that he filed a resolution at the House of Representatives urging the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs to change the name of Overseas Filipino Workers to simply Filipino expatriates just like other nationalities working abroad and to change the name of the Filipino domestic helpers to caregivers. “By doing so, we would be able to uplift the image of Filipino workers and when the title of domestic helper is changed to caregiver, there would be different compensation packages for those caregivers working in the household and caregivers working in nursing homes,” he explained.

Investigate Abante has also filed a resolution to investigate in aid of legislation the alleged abuses, harassment and discrimination of domestic helpers in countries that are reported with such cases. “I’ve just been to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and consulted with the Philippine embassy officials in the Gulf region. We are now studying the possibility of selective ban on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to countries with high rate of abuses,” he stressed. During his meeting with the embassy officials, they also tackled some cases of minors being sent to work abroad with fake birth certificates and forged passports. “I will be filing a resolution in Congress to investigate seeming corruption in agencies that give fake birth certificates to minors and issue passports without the appearance of the applicants,” he pointed out.

Philippine Labour Attache Leopoldo De Jesus and Assistant Labour Attache Elmira Sto. Domingo also briefed Abante on the status of the distressed OFWs who are currently housed at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC). There are presently 208 distressed OFWs at the FWRC who are awaiting repatriation to the Philippines. They sought refuge at the FWRC for various reasons such as non-payment of salaries, overwork, verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment. “There is continuous repatriation of distressed OFWs with the help of the Kuwait Ministry of Interior but we also receive distressed OFWs everyday at the centre,” disclosed De Jesus.

On the issue on the strengthening of the Philippine peso in recent months that has adversely affected the value of the remittances being sent by the OFWs to their families back home, Abante advised the OFWs to remind the government about the prevailing corruption. He mentioned about the savings acquired by the government with the strengthening of the peso and the weakening of the dollar. He added that the huge savings of the government should be allocated and used properly to alleviate the plight of Filipinos at home. As a legislator, Abante vowed to rally the cause of the Filipino workers abroad as well as their families back home and do his best to help them in their plight.

By Michelle Fe Santiago Special to the Arab Times