February 25, 2018, 5:56 am
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Cozying up to OFWs

IN the euphoria of his Bahrain visit last week, President Rodrigo Duterte cozied up to overseas Filipinos workers and promised a separate department of the Executive branch exclusively for them. In the same breath, mariners and seafarers will also have their another separate, specialized department to attend to their needs.

Duterte must have spoken unnecessarily early again. He himself realized this, for in subsequent statements, the President said he would need Congress to pass laws to effect what he promised.

Aside from perorating on his favorite subject of illegal drugs and addiction, this Chief Executive was not unlike others who came before him, in the sense that Presidents have this propensity to announce extra privileges to any specific sector of society that comprises his audience at the time.

We could just imagine how our Filipino workers in the Middle East boisterously applauded the President when he said their luggage would not be inspected when they arrive at airport. The OFWs would be given the VIP treatment at NAIA heretofore reserved only for politicians like Duterte. Well, let’s see how other Filipino travelers who are not OFWs would make sense of this new rule.

Loosening of security rules just to give additional privileges to Filipinos who work overseas smacks of a violation of the equal protection provision in the Constitution, which gives all Filipinos the same rights.

The President has just given another pressure to bear on immigration and customs officers working at NAIA, for he advised returning OFWs to make a scene at the airport if their bags are opened.

Better if Duterte could permanently solve the “laglag bala” racket, even make good on his word to force unscrupulous perpetrators to literally eat the bullet, rather than tweaking airport security procedures for certain sectors. 

At a time when the Muslim insurgents Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups are already making headway in Bohol, out of their usual lairs in Basilan and Sulu, the most logical thing to do for the government is tighten security at the airports and ports. Digong’s no-inspection rule for OFWs many of whom are traveling from the Middle East is the last thing we need.

Of course, we should give our modern heroes, the overseas workers, the respect and gratitude that they deserve for sacrificing for the nation. The government can do this in so many ways. One is by strengthening the mechanisms on how DOLE welfare officers can better assist OFWs in distress. Another is by removing corruption in the overseas labor offices, where Filipino domestic helpers are sometimes asked to give money or sexual favors to officials before having their problems attended to. 

Forget the token relaxation of security rules at the airport that most likely will be taken advantage of by criminals and terrorists. It is just absurd.
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