Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia on Thursday morning (Manila time) expressed their gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte for focusing on their concerns during a meeting in Riyadh.
Facing the Filipino community during the last day of his state visit in Saudi Arabia, Duterte allowed the Filipino workers to ask him questions, and some immediately grabbed the opportunity.
“Mr. President, your presence here is highly appreciated and thank you so much for paying so much attention to OFWs,” a woman said after inquiring about Duterte's intention to have a separate government department that will cater exclusively to the needs and concerns of OFWs.
“The creation of a department does not belong to me. It belongs to Congress. We have proposed a separate body... from the Labor [Department], ise-separate ‘yung OFW. So nakatutok ‘yan,” Duterte said.
One OFW took the mic but did not ask question to Duterte. Rather, she just expressed her gratitude toward him.
“Hello, Tatay. I have no questions at all. I just want to say thank you that you have given us hope. Thank you so much,” she said as the crowd applauded.
A nurse, meanwhile, said she believes Duterte is "god given."
“Mahal na Pangulo, una sa lahat, nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon. Kristiyano’t Muslim kami, ibinigay ka ng Panginoon sa amin. 1980 na kami dito. Barangay kami ni – ni [Ferdinand] Marcos. Kami po ‘yung unang mga nurses dito. That was 1980. Wala pong presidente talagang nakatulong ng malaki kundi kayo po,” she said as the audience once again cheered.
She then told Duterte about the need for a hospital and legal services for stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
“Ang hinihiling ko lang po dito, dahil matagal na po ako dito, kailangan po namin ng hospital para doon sa mga stranded. Dahil hindi po talaga tinatanggap ngayon sa hospital. Kailangang kailangan po ito. Number two, bigyan kami ng abogado. Abogado talaga na para ilaban,” she said.
At this point, Duterte called on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to make an announcement about the Saudi government’s amnesty program for those who have violated immigration laws.
“We are arranging a transportation for 250 OFWs, who hopefully will be back to our country in time for the return of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Bello said.
“Nais din naming hong malaman ninyo na yoong mga unpaid claims ng mga OFWs natin ay under process. And one of the efforts of our augmentation team is to determine the validity of their claims,” he added.
Another OFW also thanked Duterte for his nine-month-old administration's accomplishments.
“Una sa lahat, maraming, maraming salamat po talaga. I’m just an ordinary citizen but malaki pong kagalakan sa 'kin ito. Isa lang ang pwede ko pong-- Una sa lahat, thank you po for being the president of the Philippines. A lot of things that you have done and accomplished,” she told the President.
Saudi Arabia is home to 760,000 Filipinos. --KBK, GMA News