Make migrant concerns an election issue

Dec. 16, 2015

By May Anne Love Deseo, Davao Today Intern

DAVAO CITY – Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) seamstress Judith Reyes sought help from the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) after she she had been discriminated while working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, due to non-renewal of her residence permit or “iqama”.

A mother of five boys, Reyes was no longer receiving salary in Riyadh for the whole year of 2009, and found herself imprisoned for five months because her employer did not let her renew her residence certificate.

“Nag-OWWA ko pero wala gyud nakatabang ang OWWA sa Riyadh sa akoa. Bisan gani og nakulong ko og 5 ka buwan kay gipasagdan sa akong amo ang akong iqama (I tried the OWWA but the OWWA in Riyadh did not help me. Even when I was imprisoned for five months, my employer neglected my iqama),” said Reyes.

She was detained in May 2009 and released on October 18 that same year.

“One month na pagkaayo sa akong residence certificate sa Riyadh, nangita ko og trabaho for one month. Sa akong pagtrabaho gikontrata ko sa akong amo na magbayad ko og 300 riyal a month kada magkuha ko sa akong sweldo (One month after my residence certificate was fixed in Riyadh, I looked for a job. When I started working again, my employer handed me a contract to pay 300 riyal a month every time I would receive my salary),” she said.

Reyes would ask her employer to buy her a ticket from her withheld salary. But her employer would always turn it down.

She said that among four Filipinas who sought government assitance, she was the only one who went to the embassy “to fight for justice for all I had worked for”.

“Sakit gayod kaayo nga molayo sa pamilya pero tungod sa kalisod, naningkamot ang usa ka OFW, nga makatrabaho para sa iyahang pamilya (It really hurts being away from family, but because of the challenges, an OFW works hard for his/her family),” she said.

“Wala gyud nako nakuha akong gusto unta makuha sa akong pagtrabaho (I never got what I wanted out of work),” she said.

Inorisa Elento, executive director of the Davao City-based Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions (MMCEAI) said there are a number of OFWs like Reyes in Davao City “who have remained quiet and have been neglected by the government in availing OFW programs and services”.

Elento said that Reyes’ plight, and the issue on migration “should be taken seriously both in the context of international labor and local migrants”.

“This has been delayed for so long, 2008 up to now. How many years has it been? Seven years. There are no clear programs and services?” Elento told a press conference on Monday.

She said that electoral candidates should make the OFW ordinance as part of their political agenda “because there are many OFWs and OFW families in the city”.

“When discussing about migration, we have to include the children and family who are left alone,” Elento said.
On Wednesday, the group holds a public forum to start the week-long observance of the International Migrants Day.(

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