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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'Why not invite us in the Congressional hearing?" migrant group asks Embassy officials, COWA chair

Upon knowing today that the members of the Congressional Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) headed by its chairman Akbayan Representative Walden Bello had arrived in Saudi Arabia, an alliance of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia said they have not received any invitation coming from the Philippine Embassy and from the COWA to attend on the said consultations.

On January 7, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello announced that from January 8 to 13, the COWA delegation will be going to Saudi Arabia “to look into the plight and conditions of overseas Filipino workers.”

COWA Congressmen is in Riyadh now, will go to Jeddah and Al-Khobar on January 11 and 12, respectively to meet the PHL embassy officials and OFWs and their organizations.

“We welcome the COWA members and its plan of conducting an investigation and consultations with OFWs and their organizations; but until now we have not received any invitation from the PHL embassy and from the COWA though we have known that they have already sent invitations to other OFWs organizations,” said Mario Ben, Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter chairperson.

Ben said like of the previous COWA hearing sometime on November 2009, Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia have never been invited.

“But because we insisted and went directly to the PHL embassy where the visiting COWA congressmen were there, we have met them and submitted to them the numerous cases of abuse and maltreatment including labor malpractices,” the veteran OFW Ben recalled.

On Friday, Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia kicked off the “Justice for murdered OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez and other Victims” movement through press conferences and signature or petition campaign to press hard the Aquino government to provide on-site assistance and protection to OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

OFW Eroy-Ibanez was murdered on September 2 inside the house of her employer in Al-Khobar. She was rushed to the hospitals and an hour later was pronounced dead. No formal case has been filed against the culprit as per the information received by Migrante-Saudi Arabia.

“As of 9:00am today, KSA time, we have already gathered 200+ signatures on the on-line petition, plus about 300+ actual signatures and 22 OFWs organizations supporting us during the kicked off ‘Eroy-Ibanez & other victims’ justice’ campaign last Friday,” said Eric Jocson, chairperson of the Riyadh-based Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, an affiliate organization of Migrante.

Jocson said his group, if invited, will present the signatures/petition campaign and the other pending and unsolved cases to the members of the COWA.

On his part, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator said the visiting COWA Congressmen and the PHL embassy ‘must be open and transparent of they really, honest-to-goodness, are investigating the worsening conditions of OFWs in Saudi Arabia,”.

“We warn them of issuing sugar-coated reports as the many cases of distress and abuse, run away and undocumented we are receiving averaging to 5-7 cases daily, are enough proof that our most of our fellow OFWs are in their deplorable conditions especially the majority’s domestic helpers and constructions workers,” Monterona added.

“We are hoping that the COWA investigation would lead a tangible result of a passage of a law that would provide genuine protection to OFWs and their families, and not just ‘pogi-points’ by pro-Aquino administration Congressmen like of Rep. Bello,” Monterona ended.

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