Pampanga's OFWs-A A +A
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
OVERSEAS Filipino Workers (OFWs) commonly tagged as modern day heroes. But plenty of heartrending stories on the plight of OFWs are reported -- war and disaster casualties, death penalty, hostage, human trafficking, illegal recruitment, physical and sexual abuse, and oftentimes taking the bull by the horns as mules or drug couriers to sustain the living and school allowance of their children.
Hereafter, the acronym OFW is spelled out as Oppressed and Frustrated Worker. It is unfortunate, however, that while we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolt -- which became the unprecedented symbol of inspiration and worthy of emulation around the world -- thousands of OFWs are displaced and harmed in the Middle East because of people power.
I read of a story about an international beauty pageant where a Filipina candidate was asked by a foreign judge how she feels that the word "Filipina" means "maid" in the US. To which the candidate replied, "If being a Filipina means taking care of your own children instead of you taking care of them, then I'm proud to be one." I hope every OFW would have the same stupendous spirit as her.
There are about 8.7 to 11 million OFWs worldwide, equivalent to about 11 percent of the total population of the Philippines. Each year, more than a million Filipinos leave to work abroad through overseas employment agencies, including government-sponsored ones. Others emigrate and become permanent residents of other countries. OFWs often work as doctors, physical therapists, nurses, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, architects, entertainers, technicians, teachers, military servicemen, students, caregivers, welders, domestic helpers and household maids. OFWs may be classified into three main categories: (1) Immigrants or permanent residents, or those who have acquired permanent residence or settled status in foreign countries, estimated to be about 3,187,586; (2) Contract-based workers, commonly referred to as OFWs, whose stay overseas is temporary on the basis of a work contract. Although temporary, many contract-based workers have stayed overseas for long periods of over 10 years or more. These are estimated to number about 3,599,257; and (3) Irregular workers, who are employed or engaged in gainful occupation but are not documented to work or live overseas. These are estimated to be at 1,297,005.
These all add up to a total of 8,083,848 or almost 10% of the total Philippine population. Immigrants or permanent residents are concentrated mainly in North America (the US and Canada), Europe, Japan, Germany, the UK and Australia. Countries with the highest number of contract based workers are Hong Kong (China), Saudi Arabia, Japan, Taipei and the United Arab Emirates. Undocumented workers are almost everywhere, but are preponderant in Italy, Japan, the US and Malaysia.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) released a 2003 data on workers deployed from 1998 to 2002, showing their regions/provinces of origin. Among the regions, the NCR had the highest number of OFWs at 574,756, followed by Southern Tagalog with 273,388, and Central Luzon with 243,748. By province, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Batangas registered the highest numbers.
In June 2007, an OFW from Guagua, Pampanga was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for the murder of a Pakistani driver in May 2002. Reynaldo Cortez, 41, was convicted by the Saudi Royal Court on May 30, 2005, but efforts to save his head proved futile. Cortez worked as a welder at the Al-Allah car workshop in Sinaya District, Riyadh. He left behind his wife and six children. Cortez had claimed he killed the Pakistani driver in self-defense after the Pakistani tried to sexually abuse him. It was learned that on December 22, 2003, the Riyadh Grand Court sentenced Cortez to 15 years imprisonment for the crime he committed.
Immediately, Cortez's lawyer appealed the ruling on the grounds that his client acted in self-defense. The Saudi Supreme Court saw the merit in the appeal, and reduced his sentence to 10 years imprisonment.
At the hearing of the compensation aspect of Cortez' case, the family of the Pakistani victim stated before the Court that they would not accept any amount of money as compensation. This, in effect, meant that they were seeking the death penalty for Cortez.
In October 2008, Kapampangan OFWs were sentenced to the death row for their involvement in what has become known as the Jeddah "chop-chop" killings in 2006. Saudi Arabia's Court of Appeals was said to have upheld the death sentence imposed by a general court in Jeddah on Edison Gonzales, his brother Rolando, and Eduardo Arcilla for murdering three fellow Filipinos. The victims in the case were fellow Filipinos Reno Lumbang, Jeremias Bucod, and Dante Rivero, whose bodies were chopped into pieces and disposed of in different parts of southern Jeddah in April 2006. The triple murders stemmed from a rivalry over gambling turf and unpaid debt. With the exception of Rivero, who is a Batangueño, all the convicts and victims are from Pampanga. All accused are from Pandacaqui in Mexico town, while victims Lumbang and Bucod are from Arayat town. The murder of the three surfaced when police found body parts scattered in garbage bins around the city.
In July 2009, 10 OFWs were killed in a chopper crash in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Filipinos, mostly Kapampangans, on board the aircraft which malfunctioned during takeoff and plunged to the ground were Leopoldo G. Jimenez, Jr. (Lubao), Mark Joseph C. Mariano (Floridablanca), Marvin P. Najera (City of San Fernando), and Noli M. Visda (Lubao). The DFA said these OFWs ended up working in Afghanistan notwithstanding the deployment ban.
In February 2010, at least three would-be Filipino drug mules were rescued from possible arrest and a death sentence in China after government agents busted a West African drug ring that recruited them in Angeles City. An article on the NBI website said Glorioso informed the NBI that a certain Liza was recruiting overseas workers to China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Ecuador without the needed permits.
Glorioso said they were promised a salary of $2,500 to $3,000 per trip in exchange for delivering a package. They were told to swallow the capsules and hide drugs inside their luggage.
Residents of Madapdap Resettlement Center have renamed their place as Barangay Iraq in memory of their neighbor, Raymund Natividad. Natividad was an OFW at Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq, 100 kilometers north of Baghdad. He died after being hit by mortar fire in May 2010. Barangay Iraq is also home to Ronald Dayao, 41. Dayao worked with Natividad at Camp Anaconda. In the same mortar attack that killed Natividad, Dayao was hit by shrapnel in his stomach that caused his intestines to protrude. After 74 stitches and after flying back together with Natividad's remains, Dayao is now recovering at home. Records show that 70 percent of OFWs working at Camp Anaconda are from Pampanga.
Barangay Iraq residents estimate that around 200 of their neighbors are now working in Iraq - and more are applying. The tragedy that has befallen Natividad and Dayao has not affected the desire of residents of Barangay Iraq to work in war-torn Iraq. "Mas delikado dito" they chorused, adding that "they would rather die working in Iraq than die of hunger at home."
Thousands of overseas Filipino workers from Pampanga, including their families has benefited the establishment of the Provincial Action for Overseas Filipino Workers' Concern (PACOC). Governor Lilia Pineda is working hand-in-hand with the Pampanga Inter-Agency Council for Migrants' Concerns (PIAMCO) and government line agencies, to closely monitor and uphold the welfare of the OFWs and their families. Since its creation, the said action center has played an active role in ensuring the safety and welfare of an estimated 100,000 Kapampangan OFWs from their recruitment, departure, actual employment abroad, repatriation and arrival as "balikbayans".
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 02, 2011.