Canlas: The OFW bank: A saving grace

SEEING the President on Television expressing outrage on the abuses inflicted by Kuwait nationals against their Filipina household workers speaks of his fatherly instinct. For as he unfurled and glanced at the photos of those maimed bodies, it is unmistakable that the President feels the excruciating pain as though forced upon his kin. At that moment, the President sees the entire Filipino womanhood as his very family which physical well-being, honor and dignity must be depended whether the molester is from within or otherwise.

By any civilized standards, the inflicted wounds are demonic acts. For they simply symbolize the numerous abuses, e.g., physical and sexual abuse, extended work hours, underpayment of salary, forced custody of worker’s passport by foreign employer, to mention a few. These abuses are reminiscent of the slave trade that flourished in certain parts of the Middle East, South America, Europe and North America. Slavery is enforced servitude which thrives upon society’s recognition that the master has ownership rights over the slave and his or her labor. In fact, there were times when slaves were used for political or military purposes as when slaves were used by the Nazis in World War II and the Soviet labor camps.

Today, slavery is condemned by the United Nations under the universal Declaration of Human Rights. Anyway, the British abolished its own slave trade in 1807, while President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in 1863. In 1962, Saudi Arabia officially ended serfdom. However, some wealthy families in the Middle East still practice some form of slavery by treating their foreign-hired household workers as chattel or commodity, which can be used or abused at their pleasure. Such that when these long-condemned uncivilized acts are made to bear against our women by their Kuwaiti employers, no Filipino worthy of his glorious heritage and as custodian of the honor and dignity of Filipino womanhood can fail to react with indignation.

It is against this backdrop of kinship and racial affinity that the President’s emotional display of displeasure against the government of Kuwait must be viewed. Many times, emotion-induced resentment by Heads of States against their counterparts in the World Community are passed upon as breached of diplomatic niceties. Even then, such outburst must not be construed, as in this instant case, as a call to severing economic, social, trading and trading ties with Kuwait. Far from it. Indeed, negotiation between the Philippines and Kuwait is now underway to come-up with a bilateral agreement that will promote best the interest of our workers in Kuwait, particularly our household workers and their employers. When this is done, it is believed that the present total ban on sending our workers to Kuwait will be lifted.

In addition to the paternal show of support, is the assurance of financial, livelihood and employment assistance to those who heeded the call of the President to come home. In the faces of these returning compatriots upon touching base is the glee of home-coming to be with their loved ones.

But beyond this show of paternal solicitude to the honor and dignity of our Women, there is no greater achievement under President Duterte that genuinely manifests the gratitude of our countrymen to the sacrifices of our Overseas Filipino Workers than the establishment of the OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS BANK. With their huge dollar remittances and their own savings now to be coursed and entrusted to their own Bank, the real opportunity for our 10 million OFW’s to pool their resources and raise capital to establish and operate their business enterprises, e.g., shopping malls and housing projects, among others, is just a heart-beat away. These envisioned enterprises, aside from being source of additional income for OFW families will also serve as fallback employment back home in the event that the vicissitudes of foreign employment brings them home.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with his signature political will and patriotism can make this happen. In which case, the newly-created OFW BANK will be the saving grace for our overseas workers and ultimately a windfall for the Filipino people.
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