A NON-GOVERNMENT organization helping distressed Filipino workers abroad yesterday appealed to Filipinos in the Middle East to steer clear of political conversations and commentaries online amid tension in the region brought by the US air strike that killed top Iran military commander Qassem Soleimani.
The Blas Ople Policy Center headed by former Labor undersecretary Susan Ople said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should expect that social media sites to be heavily monitored by host countries in the region.
“The heightened security alert in the Middle East warrants the strict monitoring and monitoring of political noise, offline and online. An innocent post by an OFW even in the vernacular can easily be misinterpreted by the host government so it is best to stay silent and not to interfere or participate in political conversations,” Ople said.
Ople said emails of expatriate workers can be accessed and used as evidence by intelligence and security services in the Middle East.
Ople also urged the government not to take lightly the threat of Teheran to retaliate against Washington after the killing of Soleimani, adding that Filipino workers of US companies in the region should be extra cautious and vigilant.
“No one can predict when, where or how Iran will retaliate in response to the assassination of General Soleimani. Let us hope that this tension will soon ease because an extremely volatile Middle East affects not just our economy but also the lives of more than a million OFWs in the region,” Ople said.
The Middle East plays host to about 1.26 million OFWs, majority of them in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Ople also called on OFWs to familiarize themselves with hotline numbers and social media pages of Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East as well as heed travel advisories issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“OFWs should have their company IDs and passports in their possession, avoid unnecessary travels, and notify the nearest embassy or consulate in case of any perceived threat,” she added.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Filipinos who may be repatriated from Iran and Iraq will get benefits once they are in the country.
He reiterated the government’s readiness to repatriate the Filipinos in the two countries.
Bello said while Manila has no bilateral labor agreement with Teheran and Baghdad, still it is the duty of the government to provide Filipino workers with assistance.