In Search of New Heroes

Article excerpt

A mans reach should exceed his grasp, or whats a heaven for.

Robert Browning

IN a manner of speaking, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo exuded optimism that Philippine-American relations will remain firmly anchored not so much because of historical ties but, more importantly, because of the three and a half million Fil-American citizens who have not only been law-abiding community models but also because these Filipino emigres have generally made a good name and reputation for themselves in their respective localities and adopted country.

For these reasons, President Arroyo is confident that Fil-American relations will survive the stresses, the Angelo de la Cruz incident, and the withdrawal of the Filipino peacekeeping contingent from Iraq as aberrational bumps in the road, and fraternal disagreements in the two nations long shared history which have survived, among others, the traumatic non-renewal of the Bases Treaty in June, 1991.

Elsewhere in the far-flung four corners of the world, it has been roughly estimated that there are another four million Filipinos who are gainfully employed and remitting back to their Motherland US$6 billion to US$8 billion in hard currencies annually in the largest modern-day "diaspora" never seen since Moses flight from Egypt in Antiquity, and from the holocaust of Nazi Germany in the first half of the 20th century.

Indeed, these are the Philippines new heroes who are also, albeit a minority, the most exploited, the most abused, the most maltreated, and the least trained to manage their savings as they become the countrys instant middle-class.

It goes without saying that while the Philippines enjoys the benefits of OFW foreign exchange remittances and spending binges of balikbayans from the United States, Canada, and Australia, Philippine authorities have not done enough, neither have our embassy personnel abroad, to protect the contractual rights, security, and safety of workers, and womens human rights many of whom have been abused and maltreated beyond description and words.

Truth to tell, the majority of OFW female workers at some time or another have experienced physical abuse, humiliation, rape, and sexual harassment, not to mention loss of income due to false representation, arbitrary alterations of labor terms, and noncompliance of contractual obligations by abusive employers and corrupt recruiters as OFWs continue to expose themselves to grave risks and perils in strange lands. …