DAVAO CITY, Philippines– A migrant group here has urged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to strengthen the protection mechanism of the migrants and their families instead of creating a policy that would prohibit mothers to leave young children to designated guardians while working abroad.

Inorisa Elento, executive director of Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. said that OWWA should identify the needs of overseas Filipino workers.  She also said that OWWA should ask first the consensus of the OFWs on the matter before it will propose a policy “that’s too ideal.”

“The first time you hear it, it’s good but it’s not actually. It does not cater the migrants’ needs at all,” Elento said of OWWA Region 11 Director Eduardo Bellido’s proposed policy.

Elento said that OWWA should strengthen the protection mechanism of the people working outside the country and to their families who are left here.

“This proposed policy of the OWWA is an ideal situation for the OFW,” she added.

In the wake of the death of 2-year-old John Earl Cagalitan, Bellido said he is open to a policy that would prevent mothers from leaving their young children to designated guardians while working abroad. The boy died after being beaten by his guardian.

“What we want to look into here is to have a policy that would prevent mothers from going outside the country, especially those who have just given birth. We want to look at the emotional upbringing, and the care that only a mother could give,” Bellido said previously in a press conference.

Bellido said, however, that this would still be subjected for legislation.

But Elento said  John Earl’s mother, Erlinda, works abroad to sustain the needs of her two remaining children.

“It is easy for them to say that they can create immediately those kind of policy, can they provide work for Cagalitan that is decent and can provide the needs of her two children?” she asked.

Cagalitan, who was also present during the press conference said that she does not want to leave her children including John Earl but because of poverty and unemployment she was forced to go abroad.

“It is a need for me to go abroad to answer the needs of my children, if you only know it’s really hard for me to go there but I don’t have a choice because I need to work,” she said.

She said that if she has a choice, she would prefer staying here in the country.

“I was not given a chance to take care of John Earl instead I was busy taking care of the children of my employer,” she said.

Elento pointed out that it is not Cagalitan’s fault to leave her children here since she has responsibility to address the needs of her family.

Protection mechanism

Elento said the children of the OFWs must be in an environment were they can be protected against abusive relatives or guardians.

She said the barangay council for the protection of children could be a protection mechanism for OFW children.

“In a recent summit, OFW children voiced out that they wished to have a particular center to help them and other children who were left by their loved ones who worked abroad,” she said.

But Elento said there is a need to re-orient the councils in the protection of children in several barangays as she observed that these councils were inactive.


Public forum for migrants

Elento said they will submit a substantive agenda tackling the issues of OFW including health and employment in  a public forum for migrants on Dec. 14 at the Ateneo de Davao University.

The forum, she said, will include be attended by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is also the government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The event aims to gather around 500 migrants and their families. (davaotoday.com)

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