Filipinos in Japan Slam Osaka Consulate for OFW Exaction and Neglect
Groups of migrant Filipinos in Japan are furious about the way officials at the Philippine Consulate General's Office in Osaka are handling cases of detained Filipinos charged with overstaying visa.
Nestor Puno, President of the Philippine Society in Japan, is irate about consulate officials in Osaka for its inaction and lack of concern for detained OFWs in Japan who are in need of consular assistance to expedite their repatriation.
He cited the case of Filipino couple, Reynante and Erna Villacora, who are under immigration detention since December 18, 2009 for overstaying their visa. Reynante requested the Philippine Consulate in Osaka through Filipino organizations in Nagoya to issue travel documents for his nine-year old son, Rey John Villacora so they can travel back to the Philippines together. Rey John was born in Japan and has no Philippine passport when immigration officials arrested his parents. He is presently under the care of a relative pending his parents' deportation.
According to Puno, there are many similar cases like the Villacoras in Japan. While some are repatriated immediately because they have valid travel documents, others languish in detention for months because often it takes months for the Osaka Consulate to process their documents.
Unfortunately, for the Villacoras, instead of providing immediate help, Assistance to Nationals (ATN) personnel in Osaka gave Puno a run around. Instead of expediting the process so that the family can swiftly return to the Philippines, they demanded additional documentation adding more injury to the Villacoras.
According to Puno, the ATN section of the Osaka Consulate demanded an SPA (special power of attorney) from the Villacora couple before they can issue Rey John's travel document. "We have had cases like this before, but it is only now that they are demanding an SPA," Puno says. "How can they be so cruel knowing the ordeal that the Villacoras are suffering inside detention," Puno laments.
Meanwhile, Virgie Ishihara, Executive Director of the Filipino Migrant Center, says that an SPA meant additional fees and longer processing time. "Considering how difficult conditions are inside immigration detention, consulate officials in Osaka are showing their true colors, burdening rather than helping migrants. The Villacora couple is in detention and without jobs for 4 months now," Ishihara says.
"It is saddening that officials in Osaka could only think of exacting money from the Villacoras rather than look after their current plight," said Ishihara. "What is the essence of the ATN if they cannot provide migrant Filipinos assistance like this," Ishihara opines.
What is worse, according to Puno is that when he tried to talk with Vice Consul Anna Marie Hernando, head of ATN in Osaka to follow up the request, she demanded that an immediate relative of the Villacoras instead should personally appear in Osaka before they issue Rey John's travel document. Osaka is about an hour and a half ride by train from Nagoya City and one has to shell out about US$120 to travel there and back.
"Such is the arrogance, incompetence and insensitivity of our officials in government," Puno reacts. "We contribute immensely to the economy through our remittances. Unfortunately, in our times of needs, we cannot count on our government for help. We are hailed as new heroes, but in practice, we are just milking cows in the eyes of the Arroyo government. This is our plight and misery as OFWs," Puno says.
The Philippine Society in Japan and other organizations of migrants under the banner of Migrante-Japan would file formal protest against Consulate officials who have been negligent of their duties and acting against the interests of migrant Filipinos in Japan.