Since the recall of Ambassador Antonio Villamor, a political appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, no Philippine ambassador has been assigned to Saudi Arabia.
We would prefer to see President Benigno Aquino III appoint a career diplomat. The 1.2 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia deserve a pro-active, well-experienced career diplomat with strong credentials on OFW concerns.
We understand that it is the Aquino administration’s thrust to change the decadent government system. This must include the diplomatic posts abroad. The more reason P-Noy should deploy a career diplomat rather than a political ally as ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The OFWs in Saudi Arabia deserve genuine service from the government under his leadership. After all, the Philippines is also the beneficiary of the billions of pesos OFWs regularly send to their families; their remittances keep the economy afloat.
It’s almost four decades now since the deployment of the first OFWs to Saudi Arabia. They have long been deprived of genuine service, on-site services and welfare programs that would alleviate their deplorable conditions there. Most of them are domestic and construction workers, the most vulnerable among OFWs.
The seven to 10 reports on maltreatment cases (aside from illegal recruitment cases) that Migrante chapters in the Middle East get daily are a serious concern that the government must look into. It should be the first job of a highly qualified career diplomat as Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia to ensure that the OFWs’ well-being, rights and welfare are properly protected and upheld in that country.
—JOHN LEONARD MONTERONA,
Originally appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Opinion Section 10/18/2010