Numerous OFWs are overjoyed whenever they are addressed by this seemingly magical phrase – modern heroes of the land.
And they are driven into a mass hysteria and frenzy if they are fed key phrases apparently aimed to give them a euphoric high not necessarily fueled by marijuana or shabu.
OFW Pension, OFW Livelihood, OFW Center in Every Barangay, OFW Hospital, OFW this and that and everything OFW.
Overseas Filipinos qualified to vote are being bedazzled by ultra-sweet and very tall promises of OFW benefits in every shape and form in some distant and remote horizon.
Those courting OFW votes have a common refrain: Vote for this party list candidate and you’ll get all sorts of OFW benefits. Vote for this other party list candidate, and you’ll get other OFW-related moolahs.
Let’s make a critical assessment of some of the election promises of certain party list candidates. As always, let’s use basic common sense in this assessment.
Why will a returning OFW be given a lump sum amount upon returning home if he or she didn’t bother building up savings while earning good money abroad? Why give a lump sum to a returning OFW when he or she has all the chance in the world to build up savings while at work abroad?
As shown by the different OFW reintegration programs now run by OWWA, Land Bank and other government agencies, returning OFWs have little chance to set up their own livelihood projects unless and until they use significant savings that they meticulously built up while at work abroad. Simply put, no sizeable free money or grant will reach an individual returning OFW. Not now, not in the past and not in the future even if some OFW party list candidates make it to Congress in May this year.
OFW center in every barangay
This campaign promise is as ridiculous as this candidate trying to outswim crocodiles in a crocs-infested river in Palawan that this writer once saw. Why will a town mayor waste precious scant resources to set up an OFW center in areas with little or no OFWs? And so what if such centers are set up? What meaningful services can they provide if they are located in poor municipalities? Are these centers more for show than anything else?
Makabayan bloc against OFW bloc in Congress
The current congress has a so-called Makabayan Bloc comprised of 12 cause oriented or Left-leaning party list congressmen. Though mostly eloquent and spirited in their stances on various issues, the group hardly made a dent in law making in the 304-member House of Representatives.
Even if three or four OFW party list candidates become congressmen in the May elections, how can they make a difference in the next Congress when even the bigger 12-member Makabayan bloc failed in its objectives?
From where I sit as a long-term keen observer and advocate of OFW rights and welfare, representation in Congress is not the best strategy to champion and advance the myriad causes of OFWs.
More than Congress representation, a much better strategy and course of action is to set up a credible OFW Think Tank that will holistically, intelligently and comprehensively subject to incisive analyses the most pressing issues confronting OFWs. It should then come up with the best possible solutions to identified problems and be able to eloquently and intelligently present its findings and recommendations to lawmakers and senior policy makers.
This OFW Think Tank should go well beyond shallow and high-profile sloganeerings on Facebook, FB groups and other social media that are often bereft of incisive, intelligent and holistic analyses and discussions of pressing OFW issues, such as the lack of a substantive OFW reintegration and sustainable long-term savings programs for returning OFWs.
If properly led and run even by a small team of dedicated OFW rights advocates, this OFW Think Tank can easily do much more than individual OFW rights advocates in the Middle East and elsewhere.
How so? Individual OFW rights advocates in the Middle East focus only on extricating victims of some of the horrific work and living conditions. They confine themselves to glaring symptoms of abuses of OFWs, but they don’t tackle the root causes of problems.
In sharp contrast, the OFW Think Tank’s first order of the day for is to dissect the different aspects of a major OFW problem, including its root causes. Following this meticulous analysis, it will then draw up a comprehensive blueprint to attack the different problems identified during the analysis.
This approach and strategy, in my view, will be far more superior than what’s being employed today by senior government officials.
The folly in the current OFW development strategy is seen, for instance, in the OFW Hospital in Pampanga. How can OFWs in Mindanao, Visayas and even Bicol provinces avail of its services?
Contact this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org