“Critical Operations”

The move of the Office of the President to prevent DFA, DOLE and OWWA officials from attending the hearing of the Senate committee on labor has placed the entire evacuation plan and its implementing team under a cloud of doubt although these officials were actually prepared to attend the hearing. As a result, no one from the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Department of Labor was around to dispute the information shared by Philippine Ambassador Al Francis Bichara. More importantly, the senators were unable to get satisfactory answers about the operations and charter of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration. or OWWA.

In a letter which was read by Senator Jinggoy Estrada during this afternoon’s committee hearing on evacuation funds, Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said:

Dear Sen. Estrada:

This refers to your letter invitation dated 26 July 2006 (received by my office on 27 July 2006) inviting me and other government officials to a hearing on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 1:00 P.M. in connection with Senate Resolution No. 515 of Senator Richard Gordon entitled, “Resolution Calling for and Inquiry in Aid of Legislation on the Plans and Resources of Concerned Government Agencies for the Repatration of OFWs in Lebanon.”

We note, however, that the invitation:

1. does not refer to any possible needed statute that prompted the inquiry; and,
2. does not contain the questions relative to and in furtherance of the subject of the inquiry.

In view thereof, this representation, together with those invited from government agencies, would be unable to attend said hearing until the above information are furnished, and the undersigned is provided with sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.

Your Honor must be aware that all of the government officials invited to the inquiry are currently engaged in critical operations to get our OFWs in Lebanon out of harm’s way, and bring them home to the Philippines. It is in the national interest that such officials are allowed to do their job with undiminished time and attention.

Very truly yours,

(orig. signed) EDUARDO R. ERMITA
Executive Secretary

Of course, a press conference was held at the Kalayaan Hall of Malacanan earlier today on the same subject matter with the same officials who should have been there at the Senate hearing. And so sadly, it has come down to this – at least thirty thousand or more overseas Filipino workers are caught in a war not of their making, both here and in Lebanon.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • Chabeli

    Ermita should go and take a hike with the rest of those DFA, DOLE and OWWA officials!!!

    Why is Malacañan so SCARED when it comes to telling the TRUTH? They have NOT ANSWERED the question: WHERE ARE THE OWWA FUNDS?

    If the funds are intact as these officials CLAIM they are, why is gov’t relying on international organizations and the like, in evacuating our OFWs from Lebanon/Israel to Manila? Why is Salceda asking for money from the budget for the OFWs’ evacuation (some 500M, I understand)? Smells fishy, indeed! Simply put, GMA stinks!

  • Too much redtape is slowing down the evacuation. I cannot comprehend the process their implementing. This is pure stupidity. All support must be given to the embassy in Beirut. They are in the frontlines and therefore knows better. We don’t need to point at who’s suppose to handle what, this is an emergency that could lead to more human tragedy. The DFA and OWWA should just send and money and deal with the accounting later. Everyday that passes puts our OFWs in harms way, and to think the DFA, OWWA and Malacanang said that their main goal is to get our people to safety.

    The incident at Qana just shows us that nobody is safe anymore. Its imperative the benchwarmers and fencesitters in the administration haul their butts and start doing their jobs in earnest instead of giving lip service and press releases.

  • i actually know that the different agencies are really trying to do their best for our OFWs. this is why i view the senate snub as a great disservice especially to the men and women in the field. this is a difficult situation for everyone, and could have been a time for all of us to rally behind government and our OFWs. sayang, that the palace chose not to engage the public and our legislators outside the palace grounds. the net effect is that dfa, dole and owwa will have to bear the brunt of this alone, toiling under a cloud of doubt which was ironically created in the DFA’s backyard.

  • Hi Toots,

    “this is why i view the senate snub as a great disservice especially to the men and women in the field.”

    Malacanang and the Senate are having a “power struggle” (Hahah! sounds like JoMa Sison’s line!)