Repatriated OFWs all praises for 'Presidente Digong'
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who arrived home months after they were laid off in Saudi Arabia were all praises for President Rodrigo Duterte, who met them at the airport on Wednesday.
The OFWs — 129 in total — are former employees of Mohammad Al-Mojil Group (MMG), one of the first companies to reduce the number of its foreign workers in 2014 as a result of the slump in oil prices.
Many of the OFWs have yet to receive their long overdue backpay or benefits from the construction firm, and are hopeful that the Duterte administration will fulfill its many promises of assistance to them.
One of them, Roberto Carserta, thanked the administration for addressing their plight.
"Pasalamat ako sa ating gobyerno," Carserta said. "May nagpakamatay na nga po sa kasama namin sa Saudi. Hindi na niya makayanan."
Teodoro Panangan, a structural foreman who joined MMG in 2005, believes strict orders from Duterte will expedite whatever plans are underway for retrenched OFWs.
"Gagawa sila ng paraan, na ilaban, dahil gusto nga ni Presidente Digong na ipaglalaban para makuha ang aming benepisyo," he said.
Optimism among those who arrived on Wednesday soared after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who was with Duterte in welcoming them, said the team sent to Saudi Arabia to work on their benefits will not come home until their mission is accomplished.
Panangan said the retrenched OFWs had three options while waiting for their pay if they cannot be transferred to other companies.
OFWs may either completely stop work and stay at their dorms; agree to only accept 20 percent of their salaries; or, like him and his cohorts, file a case and protest until they get 100 percent of their salaries and end-of-service benefits.But some OFWs took the fourth option: to continue working for inconsistent, sporadic pay."Pasasahurin ka sa loob ng isang buwan, lilipas ngayon ang isang buwan, tatlong buwan, 'di ka pasasahurin, pasasahurin ka ulit ng isang buwan. Hindi continuous ang sahod," Panangan said.Carserta said it is hard to believe it took him and some of his colleagues years to come home and still miss the benefits they've been deprived of while in Saudi Arabia."'Di namin naisip na makakatatlong taon kami," he said.According to his co-worker, Isidro Angeles, 47 of the 171 OFWs in his group stayed in Saudi Arabia to push for their benefits.PromisesDuterte, in welcoming the OFWs, doled out P5,000 as financial assistance to them.In addition to the cash aid, Duterte also offered them temporary inclusion in the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program until they find another job..Carserta said he is hoping his co-workers who are still in Saudi will receive the same attention in their continued fight to secure their benefits."Sana po bigyan din sila ng pansin para makauwi na rin. Katulad sa amin, pinansin kami, sana po sila pansinin," he said.—KBK, GMA News