FORMER speaker and foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday welcomed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision to remove key restrictions on foreign workers, including Overseas Filipino Workers, calling it “a victory against oppression.”
Cayetano said the Department of Foreign Affairs’ anti-Kafala campaign in 2017 under his leadership finally paid off after the KSA announced last November 4 that migrant workers will no longer need their employers’ permission to change jobs, travel abroad, or leave the country permanently beginning March 14 next year.
“I’m especially thankful and proud of our OFW groups and NGOs (non-government organizations), the DFA and all those who kept the faith and fought the roots of abuse,” he said in a statement, citing the efforts of his successor, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. “who saw it through.”
The kafala system is used to monitor migrant laborers in Gulf Cooperation Council member states and neighboring countries, namely, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The DFA under Cayetano had campaigned against the system that he said is open to abuse and has resulted in maltreatment of migrant workers, many of them Filipinos.
Cayetano said Saudi’s move paves the way for the improvement of the OFWs’ condition, reducing the threat of “humiliation, physical abuse, and even death in foreign lands.”
Cayetano lamented that while the OFWs have been called modern-day heroes for decades, it is only now that they are being treated that way with the strong push to have the kafala system in the Middle East overhauled.
He expressed gratitude to President Duterte for giving a clear direction to prioritize the welfare of OFWs and for giving the department a “free hand” on how to approach the challenges.
The ex-speaker quoted the President as saying that the Filipino is “no slave to anyone, anywhere, and everywhere,” which, he said, became the DFA’s marching order in launching its anti-kafala campaign.
“It took the tapang at malasakit (courage and compassion) of the Filipino people led by our President, NGOs, our diplomats — and the millions of OFWs who had no voice, but whose painful silence inspired us to do better and to stand up to the powers that be and proclaim to the world that we have had enough,” Cayetano said.