Migrant workers issues have always been close to my heart, thus, the reason for me voting for Migrante in my first national elections. My father worked in Saudi Arabia for four years. For a time we lived comfortably but within our means but as the usual OFW story goes, we didn’t invest on anything except for education. He returned home almost totally blind from a strange disease we all think he got from there. My father who’s 62 now is already retired and is receiving a measly P1,000 from his monthly SSS pension.
My eldest brother went to Kuwait with a dream of sending his four kids to private schools. He went home four months after for reasons too heartbreaking to talk about here. He’s waiting for another chance to leave this country and to work overseas.
This week, 179 OFWS who were detained in Saudi Arabia returned home after being detained for crimes, mostly petty, they allegedly committed. Mrs. Arroyo is of course readily taking credit for this but should she?
Hearing their individual stories has been too much to take. Some of these workers have been hollering abuse by their employers in varied ways and knowing that their only comfort would be our kababayans in the Philippine Embassy, they seek refuge there, only to find out that they’d be put to jail instantly.
When asked about these cases, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gilberto Asuque could only but reply that they couldn’t do anything because these workers have breached their contracts with their employers. The only way was to bring the case to court. In the meantime, our workers have been languishing in jail, with mearly water and bread to eat. What a way to treat our modern-day heroes!
The most shocking yet totally expected thing is that when asked whether these former detainees would want to work abroad again or even return to Saudi Arabia, some of them are more than willing to do so, despite and inspite of everything.
I’m telling you, there’s something too screwed up about this.