Lawmaker wants RP embassies converted to OFW defense centers

Published by rudy Date posted on April 5, 2011

A member of the House of Representatives yesterday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to consider “converting embassies and consulates worldwide as OFW defense centers first and foremost” in an environment of changing global landscapes and huge numbers of Filipinos seeking employment abroad.

According to Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, “diplomatic posts should now no longer just limit itself on diplomacy work or enhancing trade relations with nations but focus more on ensuring legal rights of all OFWs are respected and defended.”

“Are the legal rights of those waiting in death rows in various countries given appropriate legal defense or are they now in death row because their rights were not defended in a foreign country whose legal system may not be similar with the Philippines?” Enrile asked.

Enrile stressed it is urgent for the Aquino administration to clearly define the country’s foreign policy as well as its interests in evolving global social order and the DFA should be reorganize to reflect that foreign policy that gives primacy on supporting and protecting OFWs.

“The Philippines has survived economic meltdowns due to the remittances of OFWs.  Based on government data, remittances from overseas Filipinos coursed through banks amounted to $4.339 billion from January to March this year or $282 million higher than the $4.057 billion registered in the same period last year or up by 7%,” Enrile said.

“We have heralded them as new heroes and yet they languish in various jails, probably undetected, undocumented, surprising us when they reached final judgment. We cannot be caught flat footed again so DFA should conduct an inventory by country and determine the situation of jailed Filipinos,” he added.

The solon also questioned the training and preparedness of ambassadors and consular officers in handling OFW concerns.  “When one passes the FSO exam, most of these individuals were trained in diplomacy, on protocol but not in handling the sudden influx of OFWs visiting our embassies and consular offices seeking assistance.  The You Tube video of a shouting consular officer is proof that officers are not used to it,” he stressed.

Enrile raised these issues in the aftermath of the execution of the 3 Filipinos in China. 

“Let us not raise false hopes that our country can stop an execution but let us ensure that even before it reaches such stage, we defended the rights of Filipinos.  DFA and OWWA will have to sit down and get their acts together when because at the rate of flashpoints in various nations, more and more Filipinos will return to our country,” he said. –Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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