LANI (not her real name) was drugged and raped by a Bangladeshi national in Saudi Arabia in 2009. Instead of the perpetrator being punished Lani was sent to jail by her employer “for having an illicit affair.” She was ordered released a year later after receiving 50 lashes.
It was not, however, the end of Lani’s ordeal. When her rapist was caught last July Lani was again summoned and sent back to jail. Today, Filipino officials in Saudi Arabia do not know the whereabouts of Lani.
Lani’s case is just one of the many forgotten cases handled by Philippine officials in the faraway kingdom in the middle of the desert. Migrante International said the government should be held directly accountable for gross disregard and neglect of the welfare and lives of OFWs.
The organization is calling on President Aquino, who is now in Vietnam attending the Asean summit, to act on Lani’s case and on the other cases involving Filipino overseas workers.
Migrante said Aquino should push for the completion of the regional instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers and “to have the moral and political ascendancy to do it.”
The Asean Committee for the Implementation of the Asean Declaration for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers has been drafting the Instrument to define the rights of migrant workers and outline the obligations of sending and receiving states.
The drafting of the Instrument has come to an impasse since 2009 after members of the committee from receiving countries failed to agree with provisions proposed by sending countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
Migrante said the meeting in Vietnam is an opportunity for Aquino to compel labor-receiving countries to abide by universal conventions and policies with respect to the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.
The Philippines is one of the top labor-sending countries in the world, next only to China and Mexico.
In the Philippines, Migrante said it receives an average of 1,500 cases of abuse, exploitation, labor and human rights violations and complaints against erring and negligent government officials despite the enactment of the amended Migrant Workers’ Act and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Migrante said: “How can we expect receiving countries to uphold and respect the rights of our OFWs when our very own government fails to do so?”
Just this week, for instance, Agnes Tenorio, an OFW in Hong Kong, complained of the alleged rude behavior of Labor Attaché Romulo Salud. Salud’s “scolding” has been recorded.
In Jordan, about a 100 Filipinos have complained of “state-sponsored human trafficking” after their employment certificates were authenticated by the Philippine Labor Office there despite of a deployment ban. The Filipinos are still awaiting repatriation.
It’s time for Aquino to shine in Asean. He should push for the implementation of the Instrument to protect OFWs like Lani and Agnes. Joe Torres