Community News and Views


By Jonathan E. Canchela

Inconvenient Reality

IMIE Belanger and Sol Pajadura at the press conference
on Oct. 6 in Vaughan .


Jocelyn Dulnuan's body was repatriated and arrived in Manila last October 18. After a five-day wake in her province of Ifugao , her body was finally buried on October 24. But, I am sure her spirit would continue to stay among us until the day when people responsible for her brutal and violent death are brought to justice. It seems that the struggle for justice has only just begun and it will not be a walk in the park.

Maybe the repatriation issue was over, but it still reminds us about one inconvenient reality which is how bureaucratic our Philippine government officials have been doing when dealing with OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) issues. The government is good for sending its people out of the country, but when problems arise the government seems to crumble around and use any technicalities available to fence off themselves away from their own people. Poor Filipino migrants. It is they who toil very hard in a foreign land to help their family and country. It is they who toil very hard in a foreign land away from their family to help boost the economy of their country. But when they need help from their government they have to go through a maze-like process. Why?

Indeed, the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration has been consistently sending Filipino workers out of the country. Calling the OFWs as “new foreign investors,” the current government has even made its policy to send at least one million Filipino workers overseas every year in order, what else, to generate more remittances to keep the economy afloat. It's becoming a routine for some government officials to praise the OFWs every time the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) makes its announcement that remittances from Filipino migrants have reached an all-time high.

In fact, the Philippines is the fourth biggest receiver among developing countries of money from migrant workers in 2006. This is based on a recent report by the United Nation's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) entitled “Sending money home: Worldwide remittance flows to developing countries,” that showed the Philippines received $14.6 billion remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) last year. Undeniably, the OFW dollar remittances have been a big factor for the Philippine economy.

So, if your people working abroad are essential to growth of your country, you don't make their life miserable by imposing laws and other technicalities unfavorable to them. You have to help them in their needs. If your people are working hard away from home, you don't make their life miserable by telling them “you're undocumented so we can't help you.” You have to tell them that whatever happens, you are our people, you are Filipinos, and we are here to help you because it's our duty to do so. If some migrant workers forgot to renew their Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership, you don't make their life miserable by telling them “our hands our tied” so we refer you to DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) maybe they could help you. You have to tell them right away what to do, and how to renew their membership to OWWA so that they would still be eligible for benefits.

I said it before and I say it again: So why is it that the government seemed passing the buck to Filipino organizations and to the Filipino migrants themselves whenever a situation or problem such as what happened to Jocelyn comes up? Still I ask, why?

It makes sense what the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) said in a statement that “Malacanang has money for bribery and corruption but not for welfare needs of OFWs in distress.” The APMM of course was referring to gift-giving involving bags of crisp peso bills to some governors and other local officials happened right inside the seat of power where the President is residing. Truly, it's a mind-boggling indeed. Then you read that Malacanang said they had nothing to do with the dole out. Then we can say that if money is overflowing inside Malacañang, why not “for welfare of OFWs in distress”? Again, you would read that they had nothing to do with it. Flip flopping seems a favorite recipe by government officials.

Speaking of flip flops, here's one. After telling Jocelyn's cousin and a neighbor that they would do what they could do but there's no guarantee and after suggesting that they fundraise, the Philippine Consulate General-Toronto declared in a statement (Philippine Reporter, page 6, October 16-31 issue) that funds were sufficient after all. This statement was different from the one read during the fundraising event at Patricia Kemp Community Center . The pronouncement then was the consulate had already made a request for funds from Manila office, and that they still were waiting for the response. In other words, there were no funds available that's why they made the request for funds from their Manila office.

If funds were sufficient then, why did they, according to report, only pledge $5,000 for the repatriation? And, why did they, according to report again, accept the offer from Ontario government to shoulder the other $5,000 for the repatriation? If the funds were sufficient indeed, why did they not shoulder the whole amount for the repatriation?

Anyway, thanks to the mainstream media that reported what the Consulate had called “misleading and incorrect statements and information,” and the pressures from Filipino community that worked tirelessly in raising funds for Jocelyn's family back home. Sad to say, there are some people who have tried to sow vindictive intrigues over the issue of fundraising. I understand that the Jocelyn Dulnuan Support Committee (JDSC) and other Filipino organizations have worked hard, and they deserve to be praised for their unselfish commitment. Indeed, they deserve to speak out if they want about issues involving the Jocelyn Dulnuan case. That's their reason-for-being.

As I've said the struggle for justice has only just begun. In this case, the JDSC should continue to stand vigilantly and be ready to speak up. And if some people want to put their mouth shut, they should resist it in the name of justice and truth.

By the way, has Jocelyn's employer ever extended a word of sympathy or compassion to Dulnuan family? True enough, I never heard anything. Ah, inconvenient reality.


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