“I will initiate as DSWD Secretary a process in which the spouse and children of OFWs being held or imprisoned in other countries can receive financial assistance under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).”
We can recall that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (PBBM) preferred to spend some time with orphaned children to celebrate his birthday meaningfully last month.
Those of us who went with PBBM saw up-close his genuine compassion for destitute orphans at the White Cross Orphanage in San Juan City, which included children of “persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).”
The President discovered that many children of prisoners in the national penitentiaries like the New Bilibid Prisons and inmates in city and provincial jails suffer tremendously under the care of a single mother who is unable to provide for their basic needs of food and shelter.
One can imagine the agony of the children of detained persons whose criminal cases are pending in courts even as they get exonerated after many months or years.
This is why many of the neglected or abandoned children end up in the streets, begging for food or foraging food in the dumpsters, and sleeping in public places.
PBBM realized that the children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) being detained abroad for various allegations have to endure the same ordeal.
The President is particularly concerned with the welfare of OFWs wrongfully accused in the Middle East, including women OFWs who were victims of rape or sexual assault.
“Kawawa naman ang mga pamilya ng ating mga kababayan na nangibang bansa para makapag-hanapbuhay pero nasangkot sa kung anong kaso. Paano na ang kabuhayan at pag-aaral ng kanilang naiwang asawa at mga anak?” PBBM said during a Cabinet meeting.
That is why PBBM directed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to work hand in hand in helping the distressed families, especially the children of OFWs detained abroad.
With a budget of P15 billion under the proposed 2023 National Budget, the newly-formed Department of Migrant Workers under the stewardship of Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople will play vital role in ensuring the protection of OFWs and promoting the welfare of OFW families back home.
In 2019, there were 2.2 million OFWs abroad, the bulk of which is composed of those deployed in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Tens of thousands of OFWs were repatriated during the height of the two-year COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the loss of billions of dollars in remittances that would have helped the economy stay afloat.
Unfortunately, updated post-pandemic figures for 2021 and 2022 are still not available from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA).
On the President’s order, I will initiate as DSWD Secretary a process in which the spouse and children of OFWs being held or imprisoned in other countries can receive financial assistance under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
PBBM also directed the DFA and the DMW to provide competent legal assistance for the defense of OFWs who are either facing litigation or for the possible appeal of those who have been convicted for criminal charges.
Unknown to many of us, the President and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos have long been actively involved in charity and civic work although they kept such activities low-key.
Although LAM is a very private person, people in dire need come to her through friends, connections in the law practice or the academy, and she turned out to be a truly helpful person.
I learned that LAM has also asked the assistance of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for “ayuda” or financial aid on hospitalization costs of ailing poor kababayans.
She also plans to visit the Bahay Kalinga in Valenzuela City, a facility operated by the LGU in partnership with the DSWD providing a temporary shelter for street wanderers, foundling children, and battered women recovering from spousal abuse.