MANILA, Philippines – An alliance of migrant workers on Thursday expressed concern over the appointment of 2 senior career officials to the cabinet of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Migrante International said the appointment of Rosalinda Baldoz, former administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo would reflect the Aquino administration’s policy framework and perspective for the migrant sector.
Early this week, Aquino bared the names of his cabinet members. He appointed Baldoz to head the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) while Romulo was retained to his post.
Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, alleged that Baldoz was “incompetent in addressing labor-related concerns of OFWs during her time in the POEA” while Romulo’s re-appointment “seems to convey the message that no significant change is needed in the DFA.”
MC 04, Sentosa
Martinez said many anti-migrant policies ensued and numerous cases of unfair labor practices were unresolved under Baldoz’s watch at the POEA.
He cited Memorandum Circular 09 that bans direct hiring by requiring OFW applicants to first undergo training at POEA-accredited recruitment agencies.
“This resulted in loss of jobs and employment opportunities and imposed added exorbitant fees on OFWs,” Martinez said.
He also recounted another incident involving the 27 Filipino nurses and physical therapists who sued Sentosa Care for unfair labor practices and “involuntary servitude” in 2006.
The group of healthcare workers filed an administrative case before the POEA against Sentosa offices in Manila and its representatives. However, during a dialogue with the workers’ families, Martinez alleged that Baldoz “uncaringly dismissed the plight of the nurses”.
Meanwhile, the group hopes that Romulo’s re-appointment as DFA secretary is not merely “a payback” for the support he has given Aquino during his candidacy.
“We hope that this does not entail a continuation of the status quo. Urgent actions are needed. Endless cases of repatriation, countless OFWs in jail and in the death row that the Arroyo administration had failed to urgently address should be of topmost national priority,” said Martinez.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator, cited the need to deploy more qualified and efficient labor and welfare officials in the Middle East to address the worsening cases of rights and welfare cases involving OFWs.
“Dapat lang naman talaga bigyan ng tunay na pansin ang issues and concerns ng mga OFWs. Iyong on-site welfare programs and free services for OFWs and their families dapat i-prioritize ito ng Aquino administration. Ang OFW funds held in trust sa OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) dapat gamitin na ito for providing free social services sa mga OFWs,” Monterona said.
Monterona said that their group will keep a vigilant watch to see if the new administration will make good its promises.
The group is open to hold a dialogue with both the DFA and the DOLE to discuss cooperation and coordination to resolve OFW-related concerns and issues.