PH top diplomat says to fight ban on deployment of Filipino health workers abroad

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2020 12:47 PM | Updated as of Apr 11 2020 01:58 PM

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Saturday he would oppose and raise before the Cabinet the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration's (POEA) move to suspend the deployment of Filipino health workers overseas while the country is fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. 

“Well I, as SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, object to it and fill up the silence of the DFA representative. I REJECT THIS ABOMINATION,” he said in a tweet.

“I want this on the agenda of the IATF meeting on Monday. No discussion. Long discussions spread COVID-19 as we have seen even via teleconference. Just a raising of hands—f or our people or against our people. Also no one talks who is not a Cabinet member,” he said, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force leading government response to the outbreak.

The POEA governing board recently issued a resolution temporarily halting deployment of Filipino health care workers abroad until the national state of emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 is lifted and “until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”

The deployment ban aims to "prioritize human resource allocation for the national health care system at the time of the national state of emergency," the POEA said. 

The moratorium took effect on April 2, said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Brigido Dulay.

Philippine hospitals have been overwhelmed by the need to respond to COVID-19 cases and suspected patients, so much so that the Department of Health had to call for volunteer doctors and nurses to join the fight. 

Locsin said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello had told him that the Department of Foreign Affairs representative at the POEA governing board “did not object to the resolution which made it unanimous.” 

He described the ban as unconstitutional, pointing out the constitutional right to travel, the inviolability of contracts, and the “punitive ex-post facto resolution.“

“The fight is not over. We will fight the ban in the IATF. We will fight the ban in Cabinet. We will fight s*** for brains,” he said. 

On Friday, Filipino nurses were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from returning to their jobs in the United Kingdom, where thousands of OFWs work in the National Health Service (NHS).

British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce has discussed the matter with Locsin and Dulay, hoping to resolve it so that the Filipino healthcare workers can return to their NHS jobs. 

In a tweet, Pruce said: “Thank you @teddyboylocsin and @dododulay for our contacts this morning. I do hope we can resolve this issue so that brilliant Filipino healthcare workers, already employed by the #NHS, can get back to the UK to carry on with their jobs.”

Locsin also took issue with the sudden issuance of the resolution without prior announcement and reiterated that the ban “cannot constitutionally apply to health workers with existing jobs abroad."

He absolved the Bureau of Immigration for implementing the “unconstitutional” resolution, saying the BI had nothing to do with.

“Here we banned our nurses leaving for existing jobs abroad and gave 0 hour notice. Why? Because the element of surprise in attacking an enemy is key to victory. Our enemy is our underpaid, overworked, thoroughly abused nurses who fled our country for decent paying jobs abroad,” he said. 

“This ban should have been announced weeks before its effectivity date unless we wanted to round up our nurses before they can escape to their constitutionally protected jobs abroad,” he said. 

“Ban cannot constitutionally apply to health workers with existing jobs abroad. Any lawyers wanna help?”

Locsin also asked if officials bothered to find out how many nurses, “especially those with existing jobs or completed job offers abroad,” are affected by the ban. 

“AND BY THE F#@KING WAY, how many nurses are affected by the nurses ban, especially those with existing jobs or completed job offers abroad? Huh? Do any of our officials know that? Did they even bother to find out?” he asked in a tweet.