DUBLIN, Ireland – There are as many as 16,000 Filipinos or more living and working and earning just and good wages in Ireland. There are 4,265 that are nurses and thousands more are caregivers and other professions. They are welcomed, trusted and highly respected here and they send their hard earned money back to the Philippines to support their families. They are caring, trustworthy and dedicated to their profession and loved by the people of Ireland. They are key employees in the Irish health system. Many church communities are inspired by the Filipino choirs as most are faithful to their Christian faith and attend church. The Filipino Muslims abroad are faithfully going to the mosque.
Overseas workers endure the loss of being with their families in the Philippines but they sacrifice themselves to earn a living and support their children and parents. The Philippine economy is said to be growing at an estimated 6.4 percent although the accuracy of the figure is hard to confirm yet the unemployment situation is dire and millions of Filipinos have had to leave home to find a decent paying job.
Deplorably in the Middle East, some of them suffer abuse and exploitation by unscrupulous employers where they are victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and even murdered. There are 600 Filipinos in shelters at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait where they reside having been rescued from their places of employment by Embassy staff in a controversial move that angered the Kuwaiti authorities.
There will be an agreement signed soon between Kuwait and the Philippines whereby the rights and dignity of the 170,000 Filipinos working there will be protected and respected, we hope. How important it is for the government to protect the rights of the OFW. In every country in the world, working Filipinos are found and they are well accepted and respected by most. Filipinos working abroad send back as much as an estimated 14 billion US dollars to the Philippines every year. It is the mainstay of the Philippine government and economy.
Most of the foreigners in the Philippines are employees of multinationals or local business corporations or investors in sex bars and clubs that exploit Filipinos shamelessly. They seem to enjoy impunity from drug raids or rescue missions by government authorities. The women in Kuwait were rescued under the noses of the Kuwaiti authorities. Here in the Philippines, the abuse and exploitation of young Filipino women and children and drug use are generally tolerated. It is mostly non-government agencies that rescue and save some of the victims.
The other foreigners are those missionaries who have come to serve the Filipinos. They are unpaid volunteers and they too have sacrificed their normal lives of having a family and children and the simple comfort of their home country and relatives. They sacrifice their lives to work among the poor and the oppressed without pay and do so out of love and solidarity with the oppressed, abused, deprived Filipinos in areas of hardship. They risk their well-being and several have been killed and kidnapped over the years. They deserve recognition for doing the work of defending the exploited, abused and victims of human rights violations. This is the work of government social services, which is lacking, and this is where the charitable volunteers step-in by showing compassion, concern and bringing relief and help. They are branded as being engaged in “political activism.”
Sister Patricia Fox, 71, an Australian, 27 years serving the poor is superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion in the Philippines. She was arrested by immigration officials a few weeks ago and brought to the Bureau of Immigration for investigation and questioning. Her missionary visa has been revoked and she will be deported in thirty days. She is accused of engaging in “political activities” for being an advocate for human rights and the rights of oppressed farmers and indigenous people in Mindanao.
She was threatened with deportation when she was accused of “political activities” for being an advocate for human rights and the rights of oppressed farmers and indigenous people in Mindanao.
Opposition lawmakers made a statement that said, “Helping the poor is not a crime and joining peaceful activities to advocate peasant welfare and human rights is not against the law.” They called on the government to release her immediately. After some time, she was released and was not deported.
When serving the poor and protesting human rights violations becomes a crime and branded wrongly as political activity, then that is a black day for Philippine democracy and is a slide towards tyranny and greater oppression.
All who believe in mercy, compassion, and justice are called by their faith and their commitment to the values of Jesus of Nazareth to imitate him and take a stand against oppression and violations and speak out about the right and wrong of it. It is a matter of witnessing to our faith, by being prophetic and doing what our faith calls us to do. Faith without action is dead. Taking a stand for life is being alive and human. We must not be afraid to challenge wrongdoing or be intimidated by the wrong-doers.
The people that need to be investigated by the Bureau of Immigration are those foreigners who are overstaying, bribing officials and allowed to run sex bars and exploit young women and minors with impunity, not those missionaries who are serving the poor.