The Commissioner on Human Rights (CHR) has picked up the cudgels for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Health Care Workers (HCWs) who have been stranded in their work stations abroad due to restrictions spawned by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Instead of banning their return, CHR Focal Commissioner on Migrant Rights Gwendolyn L.L. Pimentel-Gana suggested that the government come up with ways to let the stranded OFWs and HCWs make a safe return.
“The government should reconsider its imposition and allow Filipinos to come home to their families, even if it meant imposing stricter quarantine procedures upon their arrival in the country,” she said.
Pimentel-Gana cited Article 8.2 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, to which the Philippines is a state party. It states that “migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right at any time to enter and remain in their State of origin,” she said.
She also pointed out that Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
“We recognize the plight of our migrant workers, who may grapple with the loss of their income, may experience fear and suffering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and may suffer from the emotional distress of not seeing their families,” said Pimentel-Gana.
At the same time, the CHR urged the government to raise the standards of compensation for HCWs, to provide them with a competitive salary, and to ensure the protection of their general well-being.
These benefits would hopefully encourage HCWs to find employment in the country instead of seeking jobs abroad, she said.
Also, she said, the CHR is also looking into the deliberations on proposed legislations relevant to the rights and welfare of OFWs and members of their families.
She stressed the CHR wants to ensure that these are all in line with the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and Conventions of the International Labour Organization relevant to migrant workers.
“The CHR remains vigilant in guaranteeing that immediate and proper assistance is given to all Filipino migrants,” she said.
“We will continue to coordinate with other agencies of the Philippine government as well as National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in receiving and transit countries to ensure that our OFWs who are stranded or are in distress have access to remedies,” she added.