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
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.