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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

In waning years of Indonesia’s mass labor deployment to Middle East, President Widodo ordered dormitories set up for Indon domestics there as protective measure. With poverty as root cause of Filipino diaspora, recent law authored by Sen.Loren Legarda, granting free access to SUCs is best antidote to mass deployment in ME and should improve quality of life of Pinoy poor. .

Senator Loren Legarda,  principal author of the law opening up SUCs to provide free education.



Allegations of massive vote-buying in certain areas of the nation hounded the recent barangay and SK elections, but that's not surprising. With poverty across the country in pretty bad state, many of our countrymen are plainly susceptible to politicians who entice them to sell their votes. Figures quoted in media went from P500 to as much as P1,000 per vote. 

Shocking as it was, considering that those were merely local elections,  it’s difficult to moralize on this propensity of fellow Filipinos to sell their votes. With so  many inured in poverty, they couldn’t care less which grease funds come from which politicians. The fact is that with a few hundreds or a thousand pesos they can buy food for their families for a few days.

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This is, however, a double-bladed sword. After the politician buys his office, he or she would now be absorbed mainly in recovering political capital---until the next elections when he or she goes into a buying spree again. Ultimately, it’s the people who suffer because their politicians resort to corruption to recover their election capital and nothing much is accomplished for the poor constituents.  With some rare exceptions, many politicos are just interested in entrenching their dynasties and consolidating their wealth, so that they could remain in power for generations by distributing largesse come election time. 

It's a unending cycle in our political system especially in the more remote areas, and nothing much changes from election to election. It 's the politics of entrenched dynasties which merely take turns at seizing power, each with his or her huge retinue of followers who dispense dynastic largesse at the proper time.

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It’s very hard to moralize about the poor accepting bribe money for their votes, because they are often so steeped in poverty that they couldn’t care less about the politicians they vote into power.  Little do they realize that their lives are doomed because they elect lousy politicians. in an unending cycle. 

The  poverty of our people especially in the remote fastnesses of the Visayas and Mindanao is also the reason for the huge effort to latch on to jobs abroad, mainly as domestic helpers---but this is another problem that has caused a lot of trouble for the government, as we have seen in recent weeks in Kuwait.  

The shocking episode involving Ofelia Dimafelis, the OFW killed by her employers and stuffed into a freezer in an abandoned apartment for a whole year, has shaken our nation to its roots---followed by stories of abuses of our women by their foreign employers. But it is not only our women who are eager to seek jobs abroad---the menfolk are also lured by the relatively fatter salaries in dollars from abroad. Everywhere one hears of  fellow Pinoys seeking to raise funds among relatives, to fulfill the requisites for work abroad.

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Over the decades, overseas employment has jacked up our nation’s economy, but what sociologists call the “social costs” of such mass deployment of Filipinos overseas have also been high.  Back in the ‘90s, I was talking to an official of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Association (OWWA) in Italy and she decried such “expensive” costs of the Pinoy diaspora, in terms of broken marriages among overseas workers who work in separate countries.  

Meanwhile, back in "Pinas sociologists also point to the high rate of teenage pregnancies, drug addiction and school drop-outs among children of OFWs who are left to the care of aging grandparents unable to discipline them.

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The mass deployment of Filipinos seeking jobs abroad is as much a result of our graft-ridden politics as it is of the failure of our leaders to rev up the economy---having gotten entirely dependent on overseas deployment.. The great diaspora has held together our country through the decades, but it has been pointed out by economists that whereas Ferdinand Marcos opened the doors to mass deployment overseas---which has grown by leaps and bounds over the decades---Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew wisely modernized his little city-state, enticing corporations of the world to set up offices in Singapore. 

Simultaneous with this was the training of Singaporeans in various skills, to staff the foreign offices set up there. Thus, they needn't have left their city state. 

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Once upon a time, Indonesia rivaled the Philippines in deployment of its citizens overseas, including housemaids and yayas.  But over the decades, that country began to take a different turn so that now it has virtually stopped mass deployment abroad. 

Moreover, early on President Widodo devised a way to protect Indonesian women domestics abroad. He ordered the setting up of dormitories in assigned foreign lands, where Indonesian domestics were required by their contracts to retreat to after a full day’s work. No stay-ins with Arab masters, and with regulated hours of work for Indon DHs.

Ultimately, Indonesian women labor overseas began tapering off until today it has virtually stopped.

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Our Filipino labor, on the other hand, has continued its deployment overseas so that our country is the only Asian country still in this field. The heaviest concentration has been in Kuwait where out of 270,000 Filipino workers some 90% are women. Since the death of Ophelia Dimafelis and the cloak-and-dagger ”rescue” of our besieged workers in Kuwait, efforts have been made to regulate conditions for the tens of thousands working there. 

A most recent agreement forged between our two governments centered mainly on more regulated hours for our women workers, which we can only hope would be honored more in the observance than in the breach.

I point to this scheme worked out by President Widodo to protect  Indon female domestics, until their deployment began to taper off and eventually stopped completely. On the other hand, inasmuch as our economy still cannot survive without the dollar incomes from our OFWs, our government could perhaps set up similar dormitories for our female domestic workers, so that they could be better protected. 

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Training our people in higher education and/or technical kills would be infinitely better than any other scheme, certainly better than just being DH. The problem still is the eradication of poverty or at least, its gradual lessening---and this can only be wrought by education, STILL THE BEST MEANS OF UPLIFTING THE LIVES OF OUR VERY POOR FILIPINOS.  

Toward this end the recent passage of the law making education through state colleges and universities across the nation FREE FOR ALL FILIPINOS---principally authored by Sen. Loren Legarda---is a giant leap forward. Government economists are having a hard time funding this law, but all effort must be made---even if trimming has to be done on other budget items---as education is still the best and most lasting way to emancipate our fellow Filipinos from the clutches of generational poverty.

To be sure, not every one would qualify for higher education. Those who aren't equipped for it should be given adequate skills training so that they could be more productive in life. Or if they are bent on going overseas, with better skills they could command better pay and more respectability--- infinitely better than shipping them to Kuwait as toilet cleaners. 



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