Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday welcomed a recent statement by Senate President Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III for expressing his openness to support the establishment of a single department for overseas Filipinos.
“Nagpapasalamat ako kay Senate President “Tito” Sotto sa kanyang pahayag at pagsang-ayon sa kahalagahan ng pagtatag ng Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil),’’ Go said. (I am grateful to Senate President “Tito” Sotto for his pronouncement and recognition of the significance of the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipino).
‘’Creating DOFil is pursuant to our twin goals of rightsizing the government and improving the delivery of its various services,” he added.
In an interview given on December 19, Sotto said he was ‘inclined to support’ the Senate passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1949 which shall ‘rightsize’ the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Sotto also said he would discuss the matter with his fellow lawmakers once congressional sessions resume on January 2021.
Sapol ito eh… tatamaan mo pa ‘yong concern ng bansa, which is ‘yung mga OFW… Kaya medyo magandang pag-usapan dito. Sa lahat ng departamento na gustong gawin, ito ‘yong inclined ako na suportahan,’’ Sotto said. (It is encompassing… you are hitting all the cocerns of the country, which is the OFWs…this is something good to talk about. Of all the departments being proposed for creation, this is one I am inclined to support.)\
The Senate President, who is also pushing to streamline and rightsize the bureaucracy, previously pointed out that a significant bulk of the country’s annual national budget is used to fund the wages of government employees as opposed to government projects and programs.
In response, Go emphasized that the establishment of the DOFil would help ‘rightsize’ the bureaucracy by streamlining and rationalizing the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration.
“[It is] about time that we create a Cabinet-level, secretary-led department that will protect the rights and advance the interests and welfare of about ten percent of our population,” he stated.
SB 1949 is the third iteration of a measure filed by Go in 2019. The latest version of the bill ‘represents the unified position of the entire Executive branch of the government’ including the agencies which will be affected by the reorganization.
To ensure the efficient delivery of government services, the new Secretary has the authority to transfer, delineate, reassign or reorganize the functional areas or responsibilities of each departmental office or operating unit.
The measure also consolidates the Legal Assistance Fund and Assistance to Nationals Fund, which are administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), into a single fund that will be administered by the DOFil.
Moreover, SB 1949 notably improves the provision of the One Country-Team approach by putting all officers, representatives, and personnel of the Philippine government posted abroad, regardless of their mother agencies, on a per country basis, under the leadership of the Ambassador or the Consul General.
`The DOFil bill has been certified as urgent by President Duterte, thereby allowing the Senate to fast-track its passage. A counterpart measure has also been passed in the House of Representatives.
“My proposed measure, SB 1949, is in response to the long-delayed clamor of overseas Filipinos and their families and other stakeholders,” Go said.
“Kaya, patuloy ang aking panawagan sa aking mga kapwa mambabatas na aprubahan ang panukalang ito,’’ he added. (Thus, I continue to call on my fellow legislators to approve this proposal).”
Through a whole-of-nation effort initiated by Go, various concerned agencies and private donors, Malik Darimbang, an overseas Filipino worker who was stuck in Saudi Arabia for six years due to a legal battle, and was successfully repatriated last week.
“Masaya ako na makakapiling na niya ang kanyang pamilya…dahil sa suporta ng iba’t ibang ahensya at ng mga pribadong indibidwal na kusang tumulong sa ating kababayan,’’ he said. (I am happy that he is now with his family…this is due to the support from the different agencies and private individuals who voluntarily extended help to our countryman.)
“Pero sana, magkaroon tayo ng mas maayos na mekanismo para dinggin at rumesponde sa iba pang mga Pilipino na may hinaharap na problema abroad. Tungkulin nating protektahan at alagaan sila kahit nasaan man sila sa mundo,’’ he stressed. (I hope we could still have a better mechanism to listen and respond to other overseas Filipinos in distress.)
Go emphasized that the establishment of DOFil would strengthen government mechanisms in response to various crises being faced by distressed OFWs and further protect the rights of all overseas Filipinos, such as Darimbang.