Binay: I still help OFWs after resigning from Aquino Cabinet

Mara Cepeda
Binay: I still help OFWs after resigning from Aquino Cabinet
Vice President Jejomar Binay visits the home of former abused and undocumented OFWs Juanaria and Mario Jucutan, whom he helped repatriate back to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay said that even after his resignation as presidential adviser on the affairs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), he still extends help to OFWs.

Yes. Kasi ‘di naman porket nag-resign ako, wala na ‘kong pakialam. Trabaho ko pa rin ‘yun (Resigning doesn’t mean I don’t care anymore. It’s still my job), ” the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard-bearer told reporters on Thursday, April 7, after visiting the Quezon City home of former undocumented OFW Mario Jucutan.  

Binay resigned from the Cabinet of President Benigno Aquino III in June 2015 to protest its supposed “crooked justice and leadership” as well as the administration’s alleged implementation of “selective justice.”

The Office of the Vice President (OVP), in coordination with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), assisted Mario’s return to the Philippines on April 5.

Mario and his wife Juanaria first became migrant workers in 2007, with the couple employed as driver and domestic worker, respectively, for a family in Riyadh.  

They fled from their employers after 3 months and became undocumented OFWs instead because they were being abused.  

IN TEARS. Juanaria shares her experience when she and Mario were being abused by their former employers. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Sinasaktan po kami tapos di po ako pinapakain. Kapag may trabaho po kami, ‘di po nila pinakikialaman kung may kinakain po kami, at saka di po namin alam kung nasaan ‘yung isa’t isa sa amin sa nagtratrabaho po, kasi nasa farm po kami,” recounted Juanaria.

(They would hurt us and they don’t feed us. When we were working, they didn’t check on us if we had eaten, and we had no idea where the other was working since we were employed in a farm.)

‘Only Binay’

ABUSED AND UNDOCUMENTED OFW. Mario cries as he listens to wife Juanaria recount their experience under their abusive employers in Riyadh. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

In March 2011, Juanaria gave herself up to the authorities and was imprisoned by the Saudi Arabian government for working as an illegal migrant employee. She said she was able to return to the Philippines after 3 months.

Mario was left behind, however, because the couple needed to pay off their debts. 

In 2014, he started suffering a series of mild strokes that, a year later, impaired his speech and motor skills, making him unable to work. 

Juanaria said she would then send money for her husband’s daily expenses, who at some point had to live in an empty van with another undocumented OFW due to lack of funds. 

She said she had approached the DFA to help repatriate her husband, but the process took too long because of Mario’s undocumented status. 

In August 2015, Juanaria sought the help of the OVP to fast-track Mario’s return.

Nung na-stroke na po sa ganun, nakilala ko na po ‘yung isang taong tumutulong po sa amin. Naramdaman po namin na ‘di kami pinabayaan hanggang ngayon. Nandito na po. Nag-iisa po siya.  Siya po, siya po – si Vice President po. Akala ko noon po hindi ko na siya (Mario) maiuuwi nang buhay,” said a crying Juanaria, who even hugged the Vice President upon his arrival at their house. 

(When my husband suffered a more serious stroke, I already met someone who would help us. I felt he wouldn’t abandon us. He’s here now and he is the only one who helped – the Vice President. I thought I wouldn’t be able to bring my husband back alive.)

Two days ago, Mario was finally able to return to the Philippines. UNA said the embassy and the Department of Social Welfare and Development provided medicine for him.

Binay’s trip to the Jucutans’ house was the latest in a series of visits this week to the different sectors that he had helped as former Makati mayor, public housing chief, and presidential adviser for OFW concerns. (WATCH: Binay zeroes in on gut issues)

The Vice President’s numbers in the latest election surveys are dwindling: In the latest The Standard poll, Binay slid to 4th place as Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte shared the top spot with Senator Grace Poe. (READ: Making sense of Duterte’s rise in The Standard poll

Another ABS-CBN survey showed Binay tied in second place with Duterte, following frontrunner Poe. 

Binay also hit Duterte for the first time during the presidential race on Thursday, criticizing the Davao mayor’s willingness to kill criminals. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.