Hontiveros hits 'reckless' Duterte appeal for OFWs to leave Kuwait
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for urging overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait to come home, saying he is "gambling with [their] lives and employment."
Duterte had made the appeal on Saturday, April 28, as the Philippines and Kuwait are locked in a diplomatic row over the rescue of abused OFWs from their Kuwaiti employers' homes. The President claimed there are now many jobs waiting for the OFWs in the Philippines.
For Hontiveros, however, asking the OFWs to return home is not the solution to the diplomatic row.
"What is so 'Solomonic' about a solution that actually cuts the baby in half? It is extremely reckless, shortsighted, and uncaring.... This is not a game. We are talking about the lives and future of our OFWs and their loved ones," the senator said in a statement on Sunday, April 29.
Hontiveros added that while she hopes there would come a time when Filipinos would no longer need to go abroad, that time is not now.
"Are we even talking about the same Philippines? President Duterte is promising our OFWs jobs back in our country when he can't even sign an executive order to address labor contractualization and protect the workers' security of tenure. His administration doesn't even have an alternative economic strategy to the country's labor export policy," she said.
Senator Nancy Binay shared the view that OFWs cannot go back home just yet.
"At this point in time, ang pag-a-abroad 'di 'yan career improvement but rather of necessity pa rin. Siguro at this time, parang 'di kakayanin na ma-absorb ng Build, Build, Build 'yung mga kababayan natin sa Kuwait," said Binay.
(At this point in time, Filipinos go abroad not really for career improvement but rather still due to necessity. Maybe at this time, the Build, Build, Build program would not be enough to absorb our countrymen who are working in Kuwait.)
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) also said there are "no opportunities" for OFWs here.
"There will be chaos and anarchy here in our country if we take back all the 260,000 OFWs from Kuwait now," said ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay in a statement on Sunday.
"Government should rather have [a] transition and reintegration plan first before they are actually repatriated."
Support for Duterte's appeal
At least two senators, however, sided with the President.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III noted that Duterte was not ordering all of the OFWs to be repatriated, but was merely encouraging them to return.
"'Di naman ito ginagawa para sa kita, kundi para sa safety at dignidad ng Pinoy. 'Di naman puwedeng tratuhin tayo na parang hayop o modern-day slave," Pimentel said in a dzBB interview on Sunday.
(We're not doing this for the salary, but for the safety and dignity of Filipinos. They can't treat us like animals or modern-day slaves.)
"I support the President's decision to repatriate all OFWs currently deployed in Kuwait.... The Philippine government must stand strong and demand from the Kuwaiti government concrete action to safeguard the fundamental human rights of OFWs in their country.... Our OFWs do not deserve to be treated like slaves!" also said Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
Earlier on Sunday, Duterte said the Philippines' ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait would remain "permanently."