Go renews push for OFW department amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020   •   467

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday reiterated his call for the establishment of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) amid challenges posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to migrant workers.

In a statement, Go said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the world economy, resulting in significant losses of jobs for Filipinos abroad.

Go has been pushing for the creation of a department that will manage the welfare and address concerns of OFWs.

“Noon pa lamang ay marami nang mga issues ang kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayang nagtatrabaho abroad. Ang paglipat-lipat ng ahensya ay naging pabigat na proseso sa kanila mula sa pagkuha ng kanilang mga permit, hanggang sa pagbigay ng tulong para maresolba ang mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ibang bansa,” he said.

“Mas lumala pa ngayon dahil sa hirap na dulot ng COVID-19 crisis. Kung mayroon pong DOFWs, mas mapapadali sana ang koordinasyon ng mga ahensya at may iisang departamento na tututok sa mga pangangailangan nila,” he added.

Go filed a bill seeking for the establishment of OFW department in 2019. The House of Representatives has passed its version in March this year while its Senate counterpart remains pending in the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

His proposed Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019 proposes to put government agencies dealing with OFW affairs under one umbrella.

The measure also aims to address perennial issues, such as the need to ease the coordination among offices concerned with OFW affairs; immediate legal assistance to OFWs in distress; lack of full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services; and lack of shared database system that contains all information of all OFWs to aid in tracking their status and fast track delivery of assistance to distressed workers.

Currently, services and information about OFWs are scattered throughout several offices.

“Madaming dinadaanan pang iba’t ibang ahensya bago makaresponde ang gobyerno sa mga OFWs na humihingi ng saklolo. Iba-iba ang concern, iba-iba ang kailangang lapitan pa mula DFA, OWWA, MARINA, at iba pa,” Go said.

“Nalilito ang ating mga OFWs sa pangkasalukuyang sitwasyon. Sa oras na kailangan nila ng saklolo, hindi na nila alam sino dapat lapitan kaya sa media o Facebook sila nananawagan,” he added.

If a department for OFWs will be created, Go said this will make government more efficient and responsive to the concerns of Filipinos abroad.

“If mayroon na tayong department for OFWs, iisa na lang ang lalapitan at iisa na lang ang makikipag-coordinate na departamento. Magiging mas maayos ang pagresponde sa mga krisis at mas mabilis nating matutulungan ang ating mga kababayang humihingi ng saklolo,” he stressed.

The lawmaker stressed that the challenges currently faced by OFWs and the difficulties experienced by the government in responding to their needs show the relevance of the proposal to establish a department with a sole mandate to handle the concerns of our “modern day heroes”.

“Nakita po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Napapanahon na talaga para magtatag tayo ng departamento upang mas maprotektahan ang kanilang kapakanan,” Go said.

OFWs displaced by the public health emergency have been repatriated to the country through flights facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment have extended assistance to qualified OFW beneficiaries under the government’s livelihood and other assistance programs.

The Maritime Industry Authority, for its part, is implementing its Seafarers Uwi Pamilya program where seafarers stranded in Metro Manila are assisted in going home to their families in the provinces, subject to quarantine and other health protocols.

Former PH envoy to Brazil back in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 3, 2020

Former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro has returned to the country, several days after she was reported to have been caught on video mistreating her service staff inside the diplomat residence in the South American country.

In a statement on Tuesday, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go confirmed that Mauro arrived in the country late Monday night after receiving information from the DFA.

Mauro was ordered to return to Manila to face an investigation into her alleged acts of abuse after CCTV videos of her berating and maltreating her household helper were shown by a Brazilian media in October.

The Filipina helper has already returned to the country last week.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said a team has been formed to investigate Mauro and the circumstances surrounding the issue.

“The DFA is expected to have an impartial investigation, relying on facts and not influenced by public statements for or against the Ambassador,” Go said.

Mauro has yet to issue a statement.

Duterte OKs probe on PH envoy accused of mistreating staff

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to proceed with the investigation into a Philippine envoy’s alleged maltreatment of her service staff in Brazil, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Thursday.

“In light of the gravity of the allegations against the ambassador, the President has given the green light to proceed with the investigation of the official concerned, as recommended by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” Go said in a statement.

The DFA earlier said it needed the approval of the president to conduct a probe against Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro who was caught on CCTV maltreating her unidentified Filipina household service staff on several occasions.

Section 51 of the Foreign Service Act states that “Chiefs of Mission who are commissioned by the President as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary shall not be investigated by the Board [of Foreign Service Administration] or separated from the service unless there is an express written directive from the President.”

“The President has always been firm – the protection and promotion of the rights, welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas is a paramount responsibility of our government,” Go said.

“Our ambassadors are duty-bound to carry out this mandate, no questions asked,” he added.

Go further stated that the “impartial investigation will be carried out consistent with relevant provisions of the law, particularly the Foreign Service Act of 1991.”

DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said a team has been formed to investigate Mauro and the circumstances surrounding the issue.

Mauro has been ordered to return home to face the investigation.

She has yet to issue a statement regarding the allegations.

Report on PH looming as SEA’s COVID-19 epicenter ‘speculative’, Testing Czar says

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Declaring the Philippines as the next possible epicenter of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Southeast Asia is speculative, the government’s testing czar Vince Dizon said Thursday.

Dizon issued the statement in response to a report from Singapore-based The Straits Times which claimed that the Philippines could soon become the new virus epicenter in Southeast Asian region due to the continued increase in COVID-19 infections.

The Philippines on Thursday reported 3,561 additional infections, bringing the total number of cases to 119,460. Of the total number, 50,473 are active cases.

Dizon pointed out that the increase in the country’s coronavirus infections is only “normal” due to improved testing capacity and increased contact among the public following the relaxation of community quarantine measures to reopen the slumping economy.

“Speculative ‘yun pero ang masasabi ko, dumami na ang testing natin. Tayo na ang pinakamataas sa Southeast Asia sa testing per day. Nasa halos 1.7 million na ang nate-test natin sa buong bansa. Mahigit 1 million diyan ay nasa NCR (National Capital Region) lamang at tuluy-tuloy nating gagawin ito,” he said during a press briefing.

“Habang tayo ay nagtetest, talagang marami tayong makikitang positibo. Pero mas importante ‘yun kasi kung hindi natin sila mahahanap at hindi natin sila mai-isolate e lalong kakalat at lalong dadami ang magkakasakit,” he added.

The government has re-imposed stricter community quarantine measures over Metro Manila and nearby areas until August 18 in the hopes of arresting the rising cases of COVID-19.

The move follows the call of the medical community for a timeout to recuperate from the exhausting battle against the pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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