Friday, August 21, 2009


It turns out that when the late Vice-President Salvador 'Doy' Laurel was foreign secretary during the term of President Corazon Aquino, he had issued Foreign Service Circular 221-86 requiring all foreign service personnel to assist any Filipino national, especially OFWs in need of help in a foreign country.

These personnel were required to submit a weekly report on Pinoys facing court charges and how they had been assisted by these foreign service personnel. They were also required to visit their countrymen who end up in jail, and see to it that they were given adequate legal assistance. The labor attaches were required to be on call at all times to serve OFWs in trouble and make regular reports of their activities to the DFA.

This circular was completely ignored when Laurel was canned by Aquino. The foreign secretaries that followed had a sorry history of ignoring our OFWs. President Arroyo would do well to order the DFA to resuscitate that Laurel circular and require strict compliance with it by all DFA personnel henceforth.

In asking for the revival of the circular, Arroyo could also order all chiefs of mission and other diplomatic officers to get rid of a common practice among DFA staffers of looking down, sometimes with disdain, on our OFWs who run to them for help. Most of these "diplomats" are more obsessed with rubbing elbows with officials of the countries they are assigned to and other diplomatic corps members, than spending time helping our OFWs. If they ever help at all, this would be at a minimal and mostly delegated to low-ranking consular staffers who are anyway also prejudiced against OFWs, in pretty much the same as their superiors are. Arroyo should order ambassadors and other chiefs of mission to personally attend to the plight of our OFWs under pain of separation from the service if they fail or refuse to do so. The President could order presidential monitors to report on the activities of our foreign service people and blacklist those found wanting in their assistance to our OFWs. She should recommend the dismissal of these people from the foreign service. The DFA has embassy inspectors of its own who are supposed to monitor our embassies abroad. Why have their mouths been shut for so long?

As a suggestion, all heads of diplomatic missions abroad should be lawyers or at least have a lawyer in their office to immediatly assure legal assistance to OFWs. There are too many OFWs facing criminal prosecution, and since they have no sufficient knowledge of the law, including customs and traditions of their country of employment, they almost always lose legal cases they face. When a Filipino abroad is investigated, a Filipino lawyer must assist the lawyer assigned by the foreign government. This will ensure that the OFW is not denied due process.

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