DFA warns OFWs against posting 'staged' COVID-19-related appeals on social media

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 24 2020 06:33 PM

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday warned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against posting "staged" videos on social media, saying a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia has been arrested for posting such video.

One of the OFWs who uploaded a video of OFWs supposedly scouring garbage bins for food during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has been arrested in Saudi Arabia, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said in a hybrid Senate hearing.

"It was staged... One of the people who posted the video was already arrested," Arriola said, without giving other details about the case.

"Please be careful with your social media posts. You cannot ruin the reputation of the company you are working for... They are very strict with cyber libel," she said when asked about the controversial video.

Arriola explained that the OFWs who claimed to be looking for food in garbage bins there already received "assistance for 5 to 6 times" from DFA posts in the Middle Eastern country.

Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto earlier tweeted that the said Filipino migrant workers had "resorted to theatrics to catch attention."

The OFWs in the video said they received food packs from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, but it was not enough. 

The workers also alleged they have not been paid for four months by their company.

As of June 24, there are about 158,633 OFWs in the Middle East seeking repatriation amid the global pandemic, according to data from the DFA.

Of that number, about 88,000 are based in Saudi Arabia.

Arriola said some repatriation efforts are taking time due to manpower constraints in foreign posts, especially in Saudi Arabia.

"Riyadh alone is bigger than the Philippines. So it's very difficult for foreign service posts to respond to needs of OFWs because of sheer size, lockdowns and also lack of manpower," she explained.

A Philippine labor office in Saudi Arabia has been shut down after 16 workers tested positive for COVID-19, the Undersecretary said.

"We are also having infections in Jeddah," she added.