Reports of human rights abuses against OFWs surge amid pandemic, says advocate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — There has been an influx on reports of human rights abuses among overseas Filipino workers since the pandemic broke, an advocate for OFWs said.

Susan Ople, president and founder of the Blas Ople Policy Center, revealed that their organization has received a surge of requests for OFW welfare assistance amid the coronavirus health crisis.

“Ople center has received a surge of requests for welfare assistance. Hindi po dahil may COVID, walang nabubugbog, walang nagagahasa, walang pinag sasamantalahan,” she said.

[Translation: Ople center has received a surge of requests for welfare assistance. COVID doesn’t stop abuses from happening like rape and other physical abuses.]

Ople told lawmakers on Friday that their non-profit organization has received around 117 referrals for search and rescue, and repatriation services in April alone.

The center assists distressed OFWs, and was named after the late Senate President and Foreign Secretary Blas Ople.

The daughter of the late senator said that it is possible that foreign employers may have been channeling their stress and anxiety brought about by the pandemic, towards their Filipino employees.

“Kung busy ang OWWA at ang DFA sa COVID, baka pwedeng POEA can have a facility that can be the repository of all these urgent human trafficking and extreme abuse cases,” Ople suggested to the solons.

[Translation: If the OWWA and the DFA are busy with COVID, maybe POEA can have a facility that can be the repository of all these urgent human trafficking and extreme abuse cases.]

At the moment, over 9,100 OFWs are billeted in hotels and undergoing self-quarantine.

Delays have also been reported in terms of the issuance of quarantine clearances to the OFWs. Some of them have been staying in their hotels and dormitories for two months and counting.

READ: Gov’t agencies urged to fix delays in issuance of quarantine clearances for OFWs

According to the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA), only the food and lodging expenses of these OFWs are being shouldered by the agency.

There is no other form of financial assistance for now for the Filipino workers, aside from the DOLE-AKAP program from the Labor department.

However, the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs has increased the proposed budget for the financial aid to be given to OFWs from ₱3 billion to ₱5 billion.