Senator Go touts creation of Department of Overseas Filipinos

Published November 4, 2020, 6:19 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has renewed his call for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOOF) amid maltreatment allegations against Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro.

Sen. Bong Go (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In an interview in Bacoor City, Cavite following the distribution of assistance to thousands of fire victims, Go reiterated that the government must create a separate department solely dedicated to address the concerns of overseas Filipinos.       

“Remember, there are more than 10 million Filipinos na nasa ibang bansa. Tinatawag natin silang bagong bayani. Bigyan po natin ng importansya na magkaroon sila ng sariling departamento na may Cabinet Secretary-level na timon din po,’’ he said.  (…in other countries. We call them new heroes. Let’s give them importance by having their own department headed by a Cabinet Secretary-level.)       

“What happens kapag uuwi na ang mga OFWs natin o kapag may krisis silang hinaharap? Hahanap sila sa OWWA, POEA, DFA, minsan sa Facebook, minsan nananawagan sa radyo, hindi makauwi, na-stranded, kailangan ng tulong… Kung mayroon pong departamentong nakatutok sa kanila, magkakaroon sila ng klarong lalapitan at kokontakin na in-charge mag-coordinate sa embassy at rumesponde sa anumang suliranin nila,’’ he added.  (What happens when our Overseas Filipino Workers return home or they’re facing a crisis? They have to look for OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) . POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency), DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and sometimes on Facebook, over the radio, they cannot go home, stranded, they need help…If there is a department of their own, they will have a clear contact to call on that will coordinate with the embassy and will respond to whatever concern they have.)       

“So ngayon, ang nangyari po ay mayroon na po akong na-file na enhanced version ng Department of Overseas Filipinos. At sumang-ayon dito ang Executive. Hopefully po, pumasa na ito sa Senado,’’ he explained. (I have already filed an enhanced version of the Department of Overseas Filipinos. And the Executive has agreed to it. Hopefully, this will pass now in the Senate.)       

The new version, Senate Bill (SB) 1835, brings together under one department the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the DFA, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE, and International Social Services Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).      

Once this is established, the DOOF will be responsible for the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipinos.       

The department will formulate, plan, coordinate, promote, administer and implement policies and undertake systematic national development programs for managing and monitoring the overseas or foreign employment of Filipino workers, among others.     

Based on the new bill, the POEA and OWWA shall be transferred from DOLE to the new department as its attached agencies.       

 President Duterte has already twice called on Congress to pass such priority measure in his 2019 and 2020 State of the Nation Addresses.       

Meanwhile, Go also welcomed the investigation being conducted by the DFA on the allegations of abuse committed by Mauro against a Filipino household staff member.      

 “I was informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, dumating na po ‘yung Ambassador na nanakit ng kasambahay kagabi at uumpisahan na po ang imbestigasyon para mapakinggan po ang kanyang panig,’’ he said.  (…the Ambassador that maltreated a household staff has arrived last night and the investigation will start so her side will be heard.)      

Go repeated his reminder to all public officials to comply with the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and other standards for civil servants, including the Foreign Service Act.      

 Public officials must lead by example especially those who carry the name of the country overseas, he added.