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Friday, July 29, 2011

The President’s grave sin against OFWs

Written by : RENE Q. BAS | Published : Thursday, July 28, 2011 00:00

EVERYTHING I have written so far about President Aquino’s governance and speeches has been positive and even laudatory. This time I must criticize him and that contributor to the State of the Nation Address who condemned Overseas Filipino Workers. That part of his speech was a grave injustice. The utterances were those of a mean-hearted person which I pray the President is not. I was an OCW in Hong Kong for two decades. My income supported my parents’ household in the Philippines in addition to my own family. I am hurt for myself and for my relatives and friends who are OFWs, some of whom are in Hong Kong and members of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE HK). The latter issued a press release-statement on Wednesday July 27 which begins with this paragraph:
“HK Pinoys hit Aquino’s ‘contempt for OFWs’ in SONA”

“We detest the implication that OFWs chose to serve foreigners instead of their countrymen. We protest the underlying contempt of President Aquino towards migrants who had no choice but to work overseas, separated from our families and communities, because the past and the present administration failed miserably to provide jobs and livelihood and denied basic social services to the Filipino people.”

Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE HK), made that declaration reacting “to the insinuations made by President Noynoy Aquino in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.” This is what the President said in Tagalog:

Kung magkasakit ka at makita mo ang nars na nag-aruga sa iyo, sa halip na magserbisyo sa dayuhan kapalit ng mas malaking suweldo, pakisabi rin po, ‘Salamat po.’ (If you get sick and you see the nurse taking care of you, instead of serving foreigners in exchange of a higher salary, please also say ‘thank you.’)

I was applauding the President most of the time as he spoke on Monday. But I felt the pain that OFWs the world over must have felt when they heard those words. And the following:

Bago ka umuwi galing esku-wela, lapitan mo ang guro mong piniling mamuhunan sa iyong kinabukasan kaysa unahin ang sariling ginhawa; sabihin mo, ‘Salamat po.’(Before you go home from school, approach the teacher who chose to invest in your future instead of prioritizing her own welfare; say ‘thank you.’ ”)

The mentality behind these parts of the SONA is one contemptuous of Filipinos who are working abroad. It presumes that the OFWs are slaving to serve Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Arab, American and European employers because they unpatriotically love themselves more than their fellow Filipinos back home.

The President’s sentiments?
Is it one of the speechwriters who has this unjust—and wicked—misconception of Filipinos forced to work abroad to be able to support their wives, children and parents? Or are these President Aquino’s own sentiments? I hope Secretary Coloma was just building up the President’s image when he told us in the roundtable here at The Times on Friday that it was the President himself who actually wrote the speech. What possessed Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino to utter those words—even if someone else wrote them?

Those words condemning OFWs became more painful because they were in that part of the SONA in which the President was asking us Filipinos to turn away from negativism.

This is the translation of what he said in Tagalog: “Let us end the culture of negativism; let us uplift our fellow Filipinos at every opportunity. Why are there people who enjoy finding fault in our country, who find it so hard—as though it were a sin—to say something nice? Can we even remember the last time we praised a fellow Filipino? “Let us stop pulling our fellow man down. Let us put an end to our crab mentality. Let us make the effort to recognize the good that is being done. “If you see something right, do not think twice—praise it.”

So why pull down the OFWs?
Other presidents praised the OFWs as heroes. Heroes not only of our economy. But heroes also to their children, spouses, parents and other relatives.

Now, it seems the President wants us to see our sisters, daughters, mothers who are OFW nurses as people who must be despised because they would rather wash the bottoms of foreigners in hospitals abroad than stay in the Philippines where there are no jobs for them.This is a grave matter. It is a sin that in Biblical times would have called for the king to put on sackcloth, sit on ashes and pray for forgiveness.

The President must make amends to the OFWs. He must explain to them that it is not his policy to treat OFWs as bad persons who must be condemned instead of being thanked and treated with affection. He and his Cabinet members must reiterate the established official recognition of OFWs as heroes of our Republic and our families.

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