MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Friday lashed out at a former District of Columbia mayor for his comments on immigrant nurses from the Philippines who are working in US hospitals.
Binay, in a press statement, said District of Columbia council member Marion Barry should be reminded that "the United States is a nation built on the sacrifices of immigrants."
During a council hearing on Monday, the Democrat politician 9 said hospitals in D.C. should start hiring more local residents instead of immigrants from the Philippines.
"It's so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines and no offense, but let's grow our own nurses so that we don’t have to be scrounging around in other kinds of places having to hire people from somewhere else," Barry told the council.
Binay, who is also Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' Affairs, said he found Barry's remarks offensive.
"The statements by former Mayor Marion Barry are most unfortunate. I am sad that a public official had expressed it," he said.
Binay said Filipino nurses have helped providing healthcare to millions of Americans.
"Filipino nurses are recognized for their dedication to their work and the special care and attention they provide to their patients. Public officials like the former mayor should recognize that," he said.
The Office of the Vice President said Barry was earlier criticized for saying Asian businesses in Ward 8 are "dirty" and "they ought to go."
Barry urged to apologize
The Philippine embassy in Washington D.C. has issued a statement calling on Barry to apologize to Filipino nurses.
"He owes Filipino nurses an apology for his recent tirade," said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr.
Cuisia said it was not the first time that Barry made "intolerant and narrow-minded comments."
"Councilmember Barry’s penchant for blaming Asians, who only want to work for their American dream, fuels racism, discrimination, and violence. Such rhetoric does nothing but harm relations among community members, when the times call for developing relationships and finding solutions to common challenges," he said.
"Filipino nurses are known to be competent, hardworking, caring, and possess good work ethic. These are some of the reasons why most patients prefer and trust them. Like many good citizens, they pay their taxes and contribute to the American economy," he added.
Asian-American groups have also launched a petition urging Barry to say sorry.
In New York, Filipino nurse Michael Tagadaya, who has been recognized by the New York Times for excellence and leadership in nursing last year, said Barry is fueling racism and discrimination.
"This is one person who is notorious for breaking the law, who I believe is in the twilight of his professional political career, so my reaction afterwards, after finding out who he was, it’s a joke, something that I should not take seriously," Tagadaya said.
"The more people put us in a negative light, the more we prove them wrong. We Filipinos have a purpose here and in general, our intentions for society are good," Tagadaya added.
The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that Marion Barry had no plans to apologize for the statement he made. - with a report from Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau; Balitang America