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Stop deployment to Saudi Arabia, gov’t urged

/ 04:37 AM September 30, 2021
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FILE PHOTO: Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III –INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s labor attaché in Riyadh has asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to suspend the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Saudi Arabia over the refusal of an influential retired official to release two Filipina domestic workers distressed in his employ.

Labor attaché to Riyadh Fidel Macauyag recommended a temporary suspension of deployment after retired Saudi Gen. Ayed Thawah Al Jeaid refused to turn over the OFWs on Sept. 27.

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“Secretary Bello is still weighing options and he is now appealing to the foreign and local [recruitment] agencies to work together for the safe return of our OFWs,” Department of Labor and Employment public information chief Rolly Francia said on Wednesday.

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Riyadh said the 16 OFWs who entered the general’s mansion as domestic workers over the past three years suffered constant beatings, various forms of abuse and unpaid salaries.

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Of the eight OFWs in the general’s employ this year, five were repatriated on Sept. 2 while another was brought to the Polo shelter this week.

Labor rights advocate Susan Ople, president of the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC), questioned how the retired general managed to hire OFWs despite his record of abusing household staff.

Ople claimed Al Jeaid was able to hire the Filipinos by using different names in separate job contracts, which were approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration through the assistance of different recruitment agencies.

Ople also lamented how the Filipino labor officials in Riyadh treated the cases of five OFWs as a labor-employer dispute instead of a more serious case of forced labor trafficking.

Upon their arrival in the country last week, the OFWs sought the assistance of the BOPC so they could hold accountable the retired general to prevent other OFWs from suffering a similar ordeal.

Ople said they hired a lawyer to handle the case of the OFWs as well as coordinate with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to look into the case.

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TAGS: Fidel Macauyag, OFWs, Silvestre Bello III, workers' deployment to Saudi Arabia
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