"The daughter of Rey Cortez lost her sanity due to the trauma caused by the beheading of her father last July 13, 2007. The Arroyo administration has turned its back on helping Rey's family to cope with the tragedy. If they heard the President's SONA, we are pretty sure that instead of the 126 times of applause, the Batasang Pambansa would shudder at the thunder of angry voices of OFWs," says Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.
Martinez was reacting to the SONA of President Arroyo when she defended her frequent trips abroad by claiming that these trips were spent to visit and to listen to the problems of overseas Filipinos as well as to talk to the host governments of countries where they are working. She also claimed that she was looking for opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos looking for jobs.
"Jenifer Beduya, Miguel Fernandez, Wilfredo Bautista, Antonio Alvesa, Sergio Aldana and Rey Cortez, the 6 OFWs who were beheaded under President Arroyo's term, must have turned in their unmarked graves in Saudi Arabia when she said that the billions of pesos spent in her lavish trips were done in their name. The question now is how many more are going to be beheaded in her remaining trips abroad?" Martinez chided.
Martinez blames the appointment of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo as Presidential Adviser for OFWs in 2001 as a major reason why government failed in saving OFWs from death row. The group asserted that it was during Mike Arroyo's stint that the government applied a new tact in dealing with OFWs facing capital punishments.
"Upon Mike Arroyo's appointment, the government adopted a policy of raising funds for blood money from the business sector instead of providing appropriate legal assistance to OFWs in death row. Paying blood money is tantamount to admitting a crime that relinquishes the innocence of the suspected OFW who was not even adequately defended in the legal process. This has become the signature of the Arroyo administration in its mishandling of OFW cases up to the present," added Martinez.
Migrante even reminded the President that three (3) of her fellow Capampangans are right now awaiting their execution in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The said OFWs are Edison and Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla who were sentenced to die by beheading by the Saudi courts for murder.
"The Gonzales brothers and Arcilla were tortured by the Saudi authorities to admit to crimes they have not committed. Up to now, the President continues to ignore the issue of torture perpetrated against the said OFWs. A brazen proof that what she said in her SONA are all self-serving lies," exclaimed Martinez
Migrante likewise claims that the plight of OFWs under the 9 year term of the Arroyo administration has become worse especially the situation of migrant women.
"We found it ironic that at the same time President Arroyo was boasting of her efforts to protect the welfare of OFWs during her SONA, Philippine Labor Attaché Josephus Jimenez was reporting that about 5 to 10 Filipina maids flee from their abusive employers in Kuwait daily. We challenge other embassy officials to belie the claims made by the President during her SONA and expose the real condition of OFWs under her term," Martinez dared.
Recently, Migrante revealed that cases of violence against migrant women have been increasing. An alarming trend of Filipina maids being abused in groups were also noted.
The group criticized the 9 year term of President Arroyo as a corrupt ridden administration that utilized OFW welfare funds for its own interest specifically during the 2004 presidential election.
"The only legacy that will be left by President Arroyo to OFWs is its shameless pilfering of OFW funds that were used to commit electoral fraud in the 2004 presidential elections instead of utilizing it to give assistance to distressed OFWs. Php530 million of the OWWA funds were transferred to Philhealth upon the prodding of then Philhealth President Francisco Duque. The said fund was later used to distribute free Philhealth cards during her campaign trail. This was done at the same time when hundreds of thousands of OFW contributors were disenfranchised from their benefits upon the imposition of OWWA Omnibus Policies in 2003," Martinez concluded.