Senator Joel Villanueva sponsored a measure on Monday institutionalizing social welfare attachés as a permanent component of Philippine foreign posts in countries or jurisdictions with the highest concentration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) or cases of Filipinos being trafficked.
Villanueva, author and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1819 or “An Act Establishing The Office For Social Welfare Attaché”, stressed the immediate need for the country to deploy social welfare attachés amid the numerous cases of abuses against OFWs especially in the Middle East.
The senator cited the unfortunate fate suffered by some of our overseas workers in the hands of their employers abroad. Among these victims were Joanna Demafelis, Jakatia Pawa, and Amy Santiago who went through series of abuses or maltreatment that led to their death.
Data shows that from 2013 until the first semester of 2017, our Social Welfare Attachés served a total of 61,131 distressed OFWs who were victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, maltreatment, trafficking and marital conflicts, as well as abandoned or neglected children and other vulnerable sectors.
However, Villanueva noted that during the recent Committee on Labor hearing, it was revealed that only seven social welfare attaches in several parts of the world as of May 2018.
The figure is relatively few compared to more than 10 million Filipinos spread out in more than 170 countries.
“Dahil sa lumalalang kalagayan ng mga OFWs, na humantong pa sa pag-rescue ng mga distressed OFWs sa Kuwait, talagang kailangang magpadala na po ang gobyerno ng S.W.A.T. – hindi po 'Special Weapons And Tactics', kundi Social Welfare Attache Team para armasan ang ating mga overseas Filipinos ng lakas ng loob, tamang pag-iisip at desisyon, positibong pananaw, ispiritwal na paggabay, at psycho-social support para ma-empower sila at nang makaiwas sa anumang kapahamakan,” Villanueva said.
The Social Welfare Attaché Bill provides: a) adequate and timely social, economic and legal services to OFWs; b) deployment of social welfare attachés to manage cases of OFWs in distress; and c) ensures coordination among agencies and various groups to address the psychosocial needs of distressed OFWs.
“Kapag may permanenteng Social Welfare Attachés sa ating mga Philippine foreign posts, maiibsan natin ang mga kaso ng pang-aabuso at pagmamaltrato sa ating mga kababayang patuloy na nilalabanan ang kalungkutan at pananabik sa pamilya para lang matiyak ang magandang kinabukasan para sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay na naiwan nila dito sa Pilipinas,” Villanueva concluded.