(Updated 6:10 PM) 15.03.2012, RIYADH— The fight over the nomination of a new Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Board of Trustee, an agency that oversees the government employment program and protects the rights of Filipino migrant workers recently backfires with Philippine Embassy in Riyadh allegedly blocking the confirmation of Dr. Carlito Astillero in the POEA Board.
This is the first time that a true bloodied OFW from Saudi Arabia has been nominated to the post. The Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) nominated the multi awarded and MOFYA 2011 Awardee Dr. Astillero.
Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) is a network of thirty-six (36) non – government and people’s organizations, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, community based organizations, networks, and individuals who are involved on the issue of migration, human rights and development – particularly the empowerment of migrants, overseas Filipinos, their families and communities as social development actors, addressing the social costs of migration, optimizing the benefits of migration, and contributing to people-oriented Philippine development.
Dr. Astillero in a letter addressed to the newly designate Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said “please, investigate this matter and let the truth come out. Although I have no interest anymore to serve as board of Director of POEA, I want to clear my name of the report of your Embassy staff.” Dr. AStillero in his letter lamented that “If I have not done the best thing for our people in diaspora in Iran, Libya, and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia how come that former President Corazon Aquino awarded me Bagong Bayani in 1992 and President Fidel Ramos awarded me Outstanding OCW in 1994, and the same President Ramos again awarded me with Special Presidential Banaag and Sikat Award in 1996 and this not to mention my recent awards after retirement last July 26, 2011 the Model OFW Family of the Year 2011 Award (MOFYA) last December 7, 2011 and the Outstanding Balikbayan Reputation Award (OBR ) in December 9, 2011.”
It was alleged that the former hospital the good doctor was working, the Al Mishari Hospital did wrong doings to its Filipino staff and Dr. Astillero had not done anything to help resolved their cases of complaints by Filipinos working in the said hospital. “The truth of the matter, humbly speaking, and all cases of complaints involving our Filipino staff could not have been solved without my intervention.” The emotional letter says addressed to Ambassador Tago.
Community leaders in Saudi Arabia believed that the good doctor was framed by some other quarters opposed to the nomination. The nomination was blocked simply because of intrigues and to protect the Embassy staffs, POLO and OWWA’s from further humiliation for their negligence, failure, indifference and insensitiveness to resolve grievances of OFWs complaints with employers.
“It is sad to note that the blockade would come from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh” says Jun Aguilar, head of Philippine based organization Filipino Migrant Workers Group.
Aguilar, also in a letter addressed to Ambassador Tago said “This could had been the first time that a legitimate OFW coming fresh and directly from the ranks be appointed in any government line agencies serving the OFW sector had it not been blocked. The staff/official of our Embassy who is blocking the appointment could have shown some courtesy by contacting the nominee and asked his side on the alleged issue of his engagement with Al-Mishari Hospital.”
“The Sector was already celebrating upon hearing that Dr Astillero is to be appointed in POEA Board, we thought finally a voice in that very important policy making body would be represented legitimately. I just hope a fair inquiry/investigation be conducted and a report/explanation be provided to the Sector very soon”, Jun Aguilar added.
“The Embassy side had not received any request from the DOLE Secretary for background information or comment on your appointment as POEA BOD member”, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said, in an email reply to Dr. Astillero.
Ambassador Tago had just arrived from Manila and back in Riyadh two days ago.
“If my comment or opinion was asked, I believe you already know what I would have said. The embassy will verify if anyone from the other agencies in Riyadh had received such a request or sent an unsolicited comment or reservation on your appointment.” Ambassador Tago added.
OFW Congress President Alex Veloso Bello said, that he will convene the OFW Congress to address the issue, “this is unfair, if the Embassy is behind all these, therefore this is an insult to us seasoned leaders.”
If there was really a letter, verified coming from an embassy staff or its attached agencies and found to be just pure harassment to the nominee, the OFW Congress will write a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and fight for the expulsion of the Embassy staff and ask DFA that he or she should not to be posted in any Philippine diplomatic post abroad.
Engr. Robert Ramos, a well respected community leader in Riyadh commented “that seems there was a political reason behind which I’m also victim at one point of time.” Ramos was also nominated to the POEA Board but was deleted on the list due to a mere technicality of requirements.
Former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Rafael Seguis, now Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary promised to look into the matter and warn the community not to arrive into conclusion based on speculations, if there was indeed a letter from the Embassy, then we should look into it, verify and investigate, “I am sure he or she will be identified.” Seguis added.
“If the letter was sent through email and the sender hide his or her identity as Embassy staff then we can hire computer forensics experts to identify, dig deeper, analyze and trace who are those behind all these” said one Filipino community leader who is expert in IT based in Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Astillero has been endorsed in the past, as OWWA Administrator by Filipino organization around the globe and now nominated as POEA Board by PHILCOMDEV. –end- By: BongA