"The aggravation makes no sense at all to me. It’s double jeopardy."
It’s been five days since President Duterte issued yet again another ultimatum – this time for the release of thousands of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from quarantine in Metro Manila and the suburbs.
After being held for a month more than the mandatory 14-day quarantine, over 9,000 OFWs billeted at various hotels and about as many seafarers aboard ships docked in Manila Bay have left for the provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
A few are still in process, including pregnant women at a quarantine facility in Quezon City.
Their agonizing detention has been blamed to red tape, particularly in the issuance of their Certificate of Quarantine, which serves as their clearance or proof that they have tested negative for COVID-19.
The Department of Health (DOH) admitted the slow process of encoding the test results and then the failure of the Bureau of Quarantine caused further delay in the printout of the said certificates to be handed out to the OFWs.
Why, this sure replicates the despicable inefficiency in the distribution of SAP cash assistance to the poor.
But the OFWs ordeal did not end in the chaotic release from the hotels and transportation to the NAIA and the bus terminals.
Unfortunately, many of them ended up having to undergo another 14-day quarantine period in their respective hometown as required by the local government unit (LGU).
Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ańo said the LGUs have the prerogative authority to impose quarantine on the OFWs to ensure their safety and well-being. Hey, it was three Chinese tourists that brought COVID-19 in the country!
Understandably, the helpless OFWs were devastated, having to bear two more weeks of separation from their families, so near and yet so far.
Just imagine the horror of losing their job and escaping the killer COVID-19 pandemic in a foreign country, being stranded until they got repatriated and having to be stay in quarantine for four to eight weeks in Manila.
Meantime, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned the LGUs against barring the entry of the OFWs in their hometowns. This is clearly illegal.
So just before they could reunite with their loved ones after repeatedly testing negative for COVID-19 infection, they’ll just have to stay in isolation at some run-down hotel or apartelle in their hometown.
Such instances, which were reported occurring in Dagupan City, Pangasinan; Cagayan de Oro City, Naga City and Zamboanga City. Such an aggravation makes no sense at all to me. It’s double jeopardy.
It’s a shame we are witnessing these prejudice and discrimination against the 2.3 million OFWs who have contributed so much to the country economy, helping keep it afloat all these years.
The government, particularly the LGU and the barangay officials, should strongly recognize such and should not allow form of harassment to be committed against the OFWs, as we expect the exodus of tens of thousands more of them to return in the days to come.
Instead of being inhospitable, we must welcome them home just before our kababayan OFWs lose their trust and faith in the government and in their own people.