OFWs unite! ‘A Test of Courage’

MANILA, Philippines– “11-MONTH OFW REMITTANCES HIT $13.1B,” bellows the Inquirer (1/16/08). The irony is that I am still flooded with e-mail from OFWs detailing their travails. Some propose interesting, commonsense ideas. For instance, white-collar professionals in First World countries should be exempted from obtaining clearances. In exchange, they will waive travel tax and terminal fee exemptions. Many ask why the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) has not devised online registration and issuance of clearances. If the Department of Foreign Affairs can process passports online, why can’t the POEA do the same?

Document reforms. There are many other suggestions. In contrast, my call for the POEA to reinvent itself, its processes and its personnel has been ignored. That is why I agree with Dr. Carmelita Ballesteros (from Singapore) that OFWs should unite. In this way, their grievances could be systematically documented and their suggested reforms collated, analyzed and presented to the proper authorities, especially the President. I ask OFWs worldwide to e-mail their gripes, stories and suggested reforms to Dr. Ballesteros (cochingcocarmelita@gmail.com), with copy to me.

Three days from today, I will also forward to her all the e-mail I have received. Should any of the letter-senders not want their mail forwarded, please inform me before Wednesday. By uniting and organizing, OFWs will get the care and service that befit them as our “bagong bayani.”

I have not heard anymore from POEA Administrator Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz. Other than the electronic ID card she is allegedly “negotiating with Globe and Smart – to replace the paper OEC,” it seems she has no more reforms to crow about; no program to teach good manners and right conduct to POEA personnel; no creative ideas to make OFW visits hassle free. This is sad. So, OFWs unite! Otherwise, your gripes will not be acted on and you will have no relief from your woes.

“A Test of Courage.” At 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, “A Test of Courage” will be launched at the Far Eastern University Auditorium. According to the authors, Ms Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano and former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, this book is a “tribute to the men and women of the Supreme Court, the Panganiban Court of 2006.”

Because I happened to head the Court at that time, Ms Feliciano and Senator Salonga heaped undeserved praises on me. I am humbled and honored by this accolade. However, the credit equally belongs to all the members of the 2006 Court; namely, Justices Reynato S. Puno (the present Chief Justice), Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio T. Carpio, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato C. Corona, Conchita Carpio Morales, Romeo J. Callejo Sr., Adolfo S. Azcuna, Dante O. Tinga, Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia and Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.

On behalf of my colleagues and on my own, I thank the authors and their collaborators—Kilosbayan, Bantay Katarungan, Regina Publishing and Far Eastern University, which is grandly celebrating its 80th anniversary—for this “registry of our history in print.”

I met Senator Salonga more than 50 years ago when he was my dean and professor at the FEU Institute of Law. Since then up to the present, he has been my lifetime mentor and guru not only in the labyrinths of the law but more important, on how to enjoy a life worth living.

On the other hand, I was formally introduced to Ms Feliciano quite recently, only on Aug. 14, 2007 during the launching of Senator Salonga’s “Not by Wealth or Power Alone” at the Lyceum of the Philippines. Earlier, I had admired her from afar after reading her “Enjoy the Sunset, Living Fully and Aging Well” (2006, OMF Literature Inc.).

The book can be bought during the launching ceremonies and, thereafter, at the Kilosbayan House, 7 First Street, Acacia Lane, Mandaluyong City. Tel. 534-5868 or 534-5889. The hardbound sells for P600 and the softbound, for P500.

GMA’s brownies. President Macapagal-Arroyo scored brownie points when she created a search committee to screen nominees for the vacant chair and two members of the Commission on Elections. But these gains were negated by her refusal to reveal the nominees submitted by the committee. The whole point of the screening was to give the volunteer poll watchdogs an opportunity to examine the credentials of the nominees, voice their comments and assist the President in making her choices.

By being secretive, Malacañang perpetuates the impression that it wants to sneak in less than credible officials, like Moslemen Macarambon. The President loses nothing; in fact, she gains credibility by being transparent. After all, she has the final say on appointments. Why not give the public an opportunity to comment before she makes her choices?

I have long advocated transparency in the appointment process of key offices like the Comelec, Supreme Court and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The President can repair her tattered credibility through an open and fair nomination process.

It is good to build roads, bridges, airports and other structures that public money can buy. But the more important legacies are those that money cannot buy, like strengthening democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law, and fortifying the core values of integrity, accountability and transparency. GMA has two and a half years more before she exits in 2010. She can still leave a lasting legacy. But she should begin now. Or never.

* * *

Comments Off on OFWs unite! ‘A Test of Courage’

Filed under Columns

Comments are closed.