Bong Go pushes for establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, calls for impartial probe on ambassador over maltreatment

Amid maltreatment allegations against recalled Philippine Ambassador to Brazil, Marichu Mauro, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go renewed his call for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos.

In an interview on Tuesday, November 3 in Bacoor City, Cavite following the distribution of assistance to thousands of fire-hit residents, Go reiterated that the government must create a separate department solely dedicated to address the concerns of overseas Filipinos.

“Remember, there are more than ten million Filipinos na nasa ibang bansa. Tinatawag natin silang bagong bayani. Bigyan po natin ng importansya na magkaroon sila ng sariling departamento na may Cabinet Secretary-level na timon din po,” Go said.

“What happens kapag uuwi na ang mga OFWs natin o kapag may krisis silang hinaharap? Hahanap sila sa OWWA, POEA, DFA, minsan sa Facebook, minsan nananawagan sa radyo, hindi makauwi, na-stranded, kailangan ng tulong… Kung mayroon pong departamentong nakatutok po sa kanila, magkakaroon sila ng klarong lalapitan at kokontakin na in-charge mag-coordinate sa embassy at rumesponde sa anumang suliranin nila,” he added.

“So ngayon, ang nangyari po ay mayroon na po akong na-file na enhanced version ng Department of Overseas Filipinos (bill). At sumang-ayon dito ang Executive. Hopefully po, pumasa na ito sa Senado. And, I’m appealing to my colleagues, especially sa Chairman (ng Committee on Labor), kay Senator Villanueva,” he explained.

The new version, SBN 1835, brings together under one department the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment, the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE, and International Social Services Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Once this is established, the DOOF will be responsible for the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipinos.

The department will formulate, plan, coordinate, promote, administer and implement policies and undertake systematic national development programs for managing and monitoring the overseas or foreign employment of Filipino workers, among others.

Based on the new bill, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shall be transferred from DOLE to the new department as its attached agencies.

President Rodrigo Duterte has already twice called on Congress to pass such priority measure in his 2019 and 2020 State of the Nation Addresses.

Meanwhile, Go also welcomed the investigation being conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the allegations of abuse committed by Philippine Ambassador to Brazil, Marichu Mauro, against a Filipino household staff member.

“I was informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, dumating na po ‘yung Ambassador na nanakit ng kasambahay kagabi at uumpisahan na po ang imbestigasyon para mapakinggan po ang kanyang panig,” Go shared.

Go sternly repeated his reminder to all public officials to comply with the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and other standards for civil servants, including the Foreign Service Act.

He added that public officials must lead by example especially those who carry the name of the country overseas.

“At let me repeat, kaya nga po tinatawag silang ‘His or Her Excellency’ ibig sabihin ginagalang and, of course nirerespeto kayo, dapat respetuhin ninyo rin po ang mga kasambahay na kababayan ninyo. Hindi porket ambassador ka ay may karapatan ka na manakit ng kasambahay. Dapat nga mahalin at protektahan mo, dahil kayo lang po magkasama doon sa ibang bansa, sasaktan mo pa,” Go said.

The Senator hopes that the incident will not happen again adding, “kasambahay po ‘yan, mahalin mo ‘yan, nagseserbisyo po ‘yan sa inyo at may pamilya po yan dito na binubuhay.”

“Ako naman po, nagpadala ako ng kaunting tulong pinarating ko po doon mismo sa Mindanao sa pamilya ng kasambahay. Kaunting financial assistance lang po at kung kailangan niya po ng trabaho, I am more than willing to help you na bigyan ka ng trabaho at panibagong buhay dito sa ating bansa,” Go said.

The President has earlier given the green light to proceed with the investigation of the official concerned, as recommended by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Go, for his part, reiterated that the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of ordinary Filipinos are my utmost priority.

“Importante na mapangalagaan ang kapakanan at buhay ng ating mga kababayan na nandirito sa bansa o asan man sila sa mundo. Walang sinuman ang may karapatan na mang-abuso o manakit ng kapwa nating Pilipino. Kahit kailan ay hindi po natin iyan palalampasin,” he said in an earlier statement.

Go also emphasized that the DFA is expected to have an impartial investigation, relying on facts and not influenced by public statements for or against the Ambassador.

“Kung kaya’t babantayan natin ang imbestigasyon na ito at sisiguraduhin na mapanagot ang dapat managot. Hindi tayo papayag na pagtakpan o mapalampas lang ang nangyari at hindi mabigyan ng hustisya ang naaapi,” he said.

“Uulitin ko po — wala pong may karapatang manakit ng kapwa. Inaalagaan kayo ng maayos ng inyong kasambahay, alagaan ninyo rin naman ng maayos ang kasambahay ninyo lalo na’t kayo ang magkakasama sa isang bahay. Hinding-hindi tayo papayag sa kahit anumang pangmamaltrato sa kapwa nating Pilipino,” he added.