MANILA, Philippines – Many overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who complain to Philippine posts abroad about their employers often endure another abuse, this time from discourteous embassy and consular officials who think “lowly” of migrant workers.
Lawyer Bernard Gregorio of the non-government Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, said abused OFWs often remain quiet about the alleged impoliteness of the said officials.
“OFWs simply charge the whole thing to experience,” Gregorio told GMANews.TV on Monday.
Although Filipino migrant workers have every right to complain and even sue discourteous Philippine authorities under the Civil Service Rules, OFWs often do not file a case because they think it will cause them major inconvenience, according to Gregorio.
“They would normally ask the media’s help but they won’t file formal complaints in the Civil Service Commission. Well, one, because it is such a hassle,” Gregorio said.
“Filipino workers who remain in the custody of the Philippine Embassy keep quiet about their ordeal with these officials in fear that their petition to return home might not be approved,” the lawyer added.
He said Filipino migrants also believe that their complaints will be dismissed anyway, thus they just regard discourtesy and indifference as “normal attitude” among embassy officials.
Gregorio cited the case of a former domestic helper in Singapore who asked a Filipino official’s help after her Singaporean employer failed to give her monthly salary of $400.
Instead of hearing the OFW’s complaint or at the very least recording the incident, the Philippine official reportedly insulted the domestic helper, Gregorio said.
According to Gregorio, the consular official reportedly told the woman: “Eh inilagay lang naman sa kontrata ‘yan para tumaas ng konti ang tingin sa inyo (That salary rate was only put in your contract so that they would not think so lowly of you).”
Josua Mata, secretary-general of Alliance of Progressive Labor, a union-forming organization, echoed Gregorio’s view.
“These officials have an attitude problem toward migrant workers, especially domestic helpers” Mata said.
This is also the view of Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “Just look at how OFWs see Philippine officials abroad and that’s your gauge of their service.”
According to Enriquez, Filipino officials need to undergo more training in human relations to better equip them in dealing with various complaints from OFWs.
Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz in an earlier report urged OFWs to expose discourteous Philippine embassy and labor personnel in their work sites so they could be punished.
Baldoz, who had worked in the overseas labor sector for several years, said errant and discourteous Filipino officials could face disciplinary actions that range from warning to permanent dismissal.
She also said the two-month immersion period of Foreign Service officers under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and labor and welfare officers under the Labor department should require an intensified human resource component. – MARK JOSEPH H. UBALDE, GMANews.TV