Protesting OFWs demand impartial probe, warns vs cover-up

DISTRESSED overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) numbering to 60 who have been occupying the Philippine labor office building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for more than a month now warned the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and its adjunct agency, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) of covering-up their officials from possible administrative sanctions for allegedly neglecting their case against their respective employers.

On October 24, a dialog was held between DoLE officials headed by Usec. Danilo Cruz and POEA chief Hans Cacdac with Migrante International officials and some of the OFW repatriates and their families. DoLE and POEA committed to form a team that will be sent to Saudi Arabia to probe the cases of the protesting distressed OFWs.

“OK sa ‘min ang pagpapadala ng DoLE at POEA team nila para imbestigahan ang kaso namin. Pero, binabalaan namin sila na hindi eto cover-up lamang para i-abswelto ang kanilang mga pabayang labor officials na pinabayaan ang aming kaso kaya tumagal (It’s OK for us that DoLE and POEA is sending a team to investigate our case but we warn them of cover-up just to absolve their labor officials who have neglected our case that’s why it’s taking long),” said Absalon Paat, leader of the distressed OFWs, in reaction to DoLE-POEA commitment of sending a team to Saudi Arabia.

On his part, Riyadh-based KGS-Migrante chairperson Eric Jocson said, “We are assisting the distressed OFWs in calculating their claims such as end of service benefits and unpaid salaries. The distressed OFWs conveyed their willingness to file administrative cases against PH Ambassador Ezzadin Tago and Labor Attache Albert Valenciano who, according to the distressed OFWs, have neglected them and if not of their mass actions inside the POLO building, will not bother to attend on their deplorable conditions.”

Though long overdue, Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona expressed doubt over the real purpose of forming a probe team by DoLE-POEA, which will be dispatched in Riyadh and is expected to arrive on November 11.

He, however, suggested that DoLE-POEA team should focus its investigation on the allegations by the protesting distressed OFWs against the alleged neglect and ineptness of labor officials.

“DoLE-POEA’s probe team must speak directly to the distressed OFWs. The investigation must be transparent as its purpose is doubted by the distressed OFWs,” Monterona averred.

On September 2012, around 200 distressed OFWs working for Al-Swayeh, Al Dalawi, Al Zahran and from two other companies staged a 1-day hunger strike. The following day, they peacefully stayed inside the POLO building in Riyadh to press the PH embassy and labor officials to attend on their legitimate demands from their employers such as release of their end of service benefits, unpaid salaries, and immediate repatriation.

Only 65 of them have been repatriated last month.

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