Republic of the Philippines
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
First Regular Session
Privilege Speech, “In Memory of Romelyn Eroy Ibañez”, REP. RAYMOND DEMOCRITO C. MENDOZA
Trade Union Congress Party (TUCP Party-List)
September 28, 2010
Mr. Speaker and Honorable Representatives, Good
Today I rise to speak about an Overseas Contract
Worker, one of the millions of Filipinas who go into the dangerous, lonely and often fatal path of overseas work. Her name is /ROMELYN EROY IBAŇEZ- a Filipina domestic helper who recently died in Saudi Arabia. She was apparently murdered. She was single and just 22 years old.
My family personally knows Romelyn Ibañez. We fondly called her “Yaya Bing-Bing”. She was the nanny of our only son Emilio Ramon. She was the
third of the four off-springs of a driver and a housekeeper in Arakan, North Cotabato. She came from a poor family but I knew that there was something special about her. I noticed that she spoke and read English well.She was also adept in using a computer, and sometimes when my wife and I were abroad,we used to communicate with her through a technology called Skype. I found out
from her stories that she had a 2-year degree in catechism. She was teaching religion in one community school. She originally wanted to become a nun.
We were so glad that we found an educated and caring woman who would not only be able to take care of our son but also had the capability to teach and could influence him in correct and proper ways.
Like all other working parents,we wished to have a good, learned and caring nanny for our son. We were so grateful to God/ when he granted our request by giving us “Yaya Bing-Bing”.
She was part of my family.And we tried everything to encourage her to stay with us even when we learned that she had a plan to work in Saudi Arabia as a nursing aide. Mr. Speaker and Distinguished Colleagues, the contract she signed herewith PRA SOLIDWORKS MANPOWER RESOURCES AND PROMOTION stated that she would work in Saudi Arabia as a nursing aide in the DR. SULTAN AL
OTAIBI MEDICAL POLYCLINIC.Instead, she found herself as a domestic worker for an employer named MUSFER YAHYA MUSFER AL-ABBAS.
When my wife Lala and I read the report of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) we were emotional. It said that on September 10, 2010, “she was found at the kitchen area of her employer’sresidence. She was found to have penetrating knife wounds in her neck,abdomen and wrist. She also had acid burns on her mouth area,arms and legs. She passed away in the hospital. Her internal organs reportedly could not sustain the effects of the acid.”She allegedly was forced to drink sulfuric acid Mr. Speaker!
Mr. Speaker and Distinguished Members of Congress, Romelyn Ibaňez is just one of the millions of Overseas Filipino Workers who found themselves in dangerous and deadly situations abroad in their pursuit of better lives for themselves and their families.
Today, there are around 10 million OFWs in almost all countries in the world. They remitted more than 17 billion US dollars in 2009, and it is expected that they will send more than 18 billion US dollars this year to their loved ones in the Philippines. This huge amount of hard cash remitted by our OFWs keeps our economy afloat, accelerating the Philippines’ real estate development, commercial and tourism businesses, as well as boosting other sectors of the economy. Because of those large foreign exchange earnings coming from the blood, sweat and tears of our OFWs, many children are sent to school, concrete and decent houses are built, health needs of relatives are met, and families
particularly in the rural areas were able to lift themselves from poverty.
Mr. Speaker,there are only two kinds of OFWs. Those who leave the country legitimately, with highly valued skills and know-how, and in the care of employers that value them and vice-versa — these are the lucky ones. There is a darker side to overseas employment — where job applicants are recruited with false promises, made to sign contracts that have no meaning at all abroad, and thus become the subjects of abuse, exploitation, and even cold-blooded killings.
Mr. Speaker and dear colleagues, this representation from the labor Sector has the following recommendations:
1.For the appropriate committees of this august chamber to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation/ into the cold blooded murder of Romelyn Ibañez.Specifically, I would like to know how SOLIDWORKS Manpower Resources was able to deploy her as a nursing aide when she was actually hired in Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker. Did not the labor attaché and our own POEA verify and approve this contract? How many more Filipinos are being deployed for jobs much lesser and more vulnerable than what is written in their contracts?
2. I also call on Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to form an independent team composed of a DoLE Undersecretary with representatives from the trade union and civil society sectors to look into the rules and regulations of the Philippine
Overseas Employment Administration. Why a composite team, Mr. Speaker? I think that it is important to include representatives from the trade union and civil society sectors to ensure that all angles are looked into, and no one is spared. If an IIRC was formed to look into the deaths of 8 Hong Kong nationals,why not form a smaller but similar IIRC to look into the murders and anomalous deployment of Romelyn and other similar victims of reprocessed job contracts?
3. I urge our colleagues to remember Romelyn and others like her as we discuss and deliberate on the budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I ask that we put up a united front against any move to slash the budget of the DFA. For 2010, the DFA had a budget of P12.69 billion.
Next year,the budget for the DFA,as proposed by Malacanang, has been reduced to only P10.98 billion. Is this how we treat our OFWs — the
saviors of our economy? For us in the TUCP and in the labor sector,cost-cutting at the expense of our OFWs is a bad policy — it is inhumane, unjust, untimely,and even anti-Filipino.
4.As a labor representative,Mr. Speaker, I believe thatit is time we create and offer decent opportunities/ for all Filipinos, most especially for the poor and underprivileged, to find decent work here at home. Right now, we have children of OFWs also dreaming of going abroad, even when they are so young and innocent.I propose, Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, that we in the Lower House spearhead a no-holds barred forum with labor and trade experts to identify,once and for all, the reasons for our jobless growth, and
the continuing rise of underemployment and unemployment in the country. For so long, we keep hearing the phrase “job mismatch” where available jobs cannot be filled because our workers lack the right skills. If this is the diagnosis,then what is the solution? And is this solution actually embedded and recognized in the 2011 budget? Only an in-depth and candid assessment of our own domestic labor situation can provide the answers.
The ultimate message of this humble representation is this — unless we do our utmost best to remove the obstacles to full and sustainable employment in our own country, we lose the moral authority to ask our people to stay put, and wallow in hunger and poverty.
For the longest time,we have failed to make our nation a land of better, if not the best, opportunities. Romelyn Ibaňez had an academic degree. She was a former teacher. Yet she could not find a better job in the country that will give her decent income to support herself and her family. The chances for personal and professional growth remain limited.
Social mobility is limited by feudal class systems. Only very few Individuals who come from the poor have been able to change their situations for the better. The rest, tens of millions of poor Filipinos, just live and die impoverished, deprived and miserable.
Mr. Speaker and Honorable Legislators, we will fail as a country, if We cannot give every Juanand Juana Dela Cruz the chances to transform their lives of poverty to one of decency and fairness.
Mr. Speaker and Fellow Representatives, we cannot keep our Countrymen from leaving the country ecause they also have their own dreams and aspirations that they want to achieve. But I can assure you that many more Romelyn Ibaňez will grace our headlines in the futureas long as our country remains a land of limited chances and opportunities.
For far too long, the millions of OFWs were nameless and faceless statistics to me. Tonight, they have a name and a face to me. And for the rest of my life, I will remember them in my heart. Mr. Speaker and Honorable Lawmakers, I hope that the story of “Yaya Bing-Bing” will help us enlarge our concept of family beyond our immediate kin.
In the spirit of compassion, I ask the DFA and OWWA to make sure that Romelyn’s family is being cared for,that Yaya Bing-Bing’s remains will be repatriated as soon as possible,and that proper charges will be brought to bear against her killer, as well as the agency that deployed her.
I deeply mourn for “Yaya Bing-Bing”, and my family grieves with her family for their loss. I pray that she rest in peace.
[In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, may I request you and our colleagues to stand up and join me in offering a minute of silent prayer to our fallen hero, and my family’s beloved Yaya Bing-Bing, Miss Romelyn Eroy Ibaňez of Arakan, North Cotobato.]
Thank you Mr. Speaker,/ thank you honorable representatives.