The first head of the Department of Migrant Workers (DOMW) brings with him a rich experience in dealing with and addressing issues and concerns of OFWs
By EDD K. USMAN | @edd1819 | @bluestar0910 | SDN — Science and Digital news
Short link: https://wp.me/paaccn-h7i
(SDN) — It could not have been better!
The reference is President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s choice to head the newly-established Department of Migrant Workers (DOMW).
And the person appointed by the President as the pioneer head of the DOMW is no other than Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Muslim Concerns Abdullah “Dabs” D. Mama-o, who had been instrumental in resolving many issues that OFWs faced in their respective host countries.
Just what the OFWs’ ordered
Malacañang announced the Maranao leader’s appointment on March 9, 2022, along with Atty. Saidamen B. Pangarungan as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Atty. Guiling “Gene” Mamondiong as secretary/CEO of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), replacing Pangarungan.
Duterte also appointed many other personalities from Lanao del Sur, some of them as NCMF commissioners, judges, directors in some government agencies, etc.
It can be recalled the President signed Republic Act 11641, otherwise known as “An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers,” a pet legislation of Duterte having certified it as an urgent bill.
“The establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers happens on the celebration of Rizal Day. May we honor not only the exceptional love for country of Dr. Jose Rizal, but also the patriotism, excellence, courage of our modern-day heroes including our overseas Filipinos,” the President said upon putting his signature on the law on December 30, 2021.
The new government agency has been much welcomed, as well as the first man who will steer it ahead, what with over a million OFWs in the Middle East alone. Some of them at least facing various issues, concerns, even problems especially those working in the confines of homes.
Mama-o may just be the guy the OFWs have ordered.
Former diplomat Datu Omar Tahir Pangarungan likened Mama-o’s appointment as hitting the bull’s eye.
Mama-o a seasoned OFWs’ problems trouble-shooter
“The appointment of Secretary Mama-o as the first Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers was a perfect choice. He is a man of high calibre known for his competence, dedication and inimitable achievements in solving the problems of OFWs,” said Datu Omar Pangarungan, himself a savior of many OFWs when he was with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) posted abroad.
He said a man with tested calibre is what the new department requires as it focuses solely on addressing the needs and ensure the well-being of OFWs. “It needs a man of action well equipped with the knowledge on Muslim personal laws and Sharia Law.”
The President, he noted, made the right choice in putting his presidential adviser on OFWs as the new agency’s head “for he has all the qualifications required for the said position.
“Secretary Mama-o’s diplomatic skills was proven effective and successful, many times, the President dispatched him to the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to appease and heal strained relations caused by some petty squabbles.
“His prowess on diplomatic negotiations paved the way for the release of overseas Filipino workers abducted by armed men and the lifting of the ban for deployment household workers to Kuwait as a result of the killing of OFW Joanna Demafiles, a Filipina domestic worker in Kuwait,” Datu Omar Pangarungan, who was posted in some GCC countries, pointed out.
Abolition of KSA’s ‘kafala’ system
The GCC is comprised of the rich and oil-exporting Arab Muslim countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. In the GCC alone the Filipino migrant community is over a million-strong, with the biggest in Saudi Arabia with one million OFWs, more or less.
In 2016, during a Cabinet Meeting in Malacañang Palace and upon the strong recommendation of the DFA 3-Man Rapid Response (RRT) Humanitarian Mission to the KSA composed of Datu Omar Pangarungan, Ambassador Eric M. Endaya, Atty. Joel Peralta, President Duterte ordered the urgent deployment of a High-level Philippine Government Composite Mission from DFA, Department of Labor and Employment-Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (DOLE-POEA), Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Health (DOH), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to Saudi Arabia,
In the said meeting, the President verbally directed Mama-o to head the Philippine delegation with DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the then TESDA Director General/Secretary Guiling “Gene” Mamondiong, DFA Undersecretary Jesus I. Yabes, DSWD Undersecretary Hope Hervilla and other high ranking government officials from member agencies to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to OFWs stranded in work camps in Al Khobar, Riyadh, Jeddah, and nearby areas.
The President tasked the high-level delegation to conduct higher representations with the Saudi Ministry of Labor (MOL) and employers to facilitate early repatriation of the more than 11,000 stranded OFWs and early resolution of labor problems of these OFWs. They held a series of dialogue meetings with their Saudi counterparts that led to a follow-through bilateral meetings on labor issues especially on the complete abolition of the “kafala” system or sponsorship system!
BARMM recognition and commendation
Owing to Secretary Mama-o’s expertise on Sharia Law and Islamic Diplomacy, all his humanitarian missions to save OFWs in the Middle East countries have been greatly successful.
In 2018, Secretary Mama-o was sent to Kuwait by Duterte as special envoy to resolve a diplomatic row with the Kuwaiti Government involving the DFA and rescued Filipino OFWs. He was also involved in the extraction of distressed OFWs in war-torn Libya, and the payment of back wages by the Saudi Government to 11,000 Filipino workers amounting to US$4.6 billion.
“This is a victory for all OFWs abroad and their families, President Duterte’s legacy for the Filipino Migrant Workers,” said Datu Omar Pangarungan, who emphasized that “we share the same commitments to uplift the lives of internally displaced OFWs and that our shared commitments are inspired by our desire and mandate to protect the rights of OFWs and ensure their well-being through rigorous foreign representations with higher foreign authorities.”
Malacañang congratulated Mama-o on his appointment, with Palace Spokesman Secretary Martin M. Andanar saying: “His experience and qualifications in labor and diplomatic negotiations, among others, as the Presidential Adviser on OFW concerns will be invaluable to his position and to our migrant workers.”
The Parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which governs the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) headed by Chief Minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim bestowed an Award of Recognition and Commendation on Secretary Mama-o as expressed in Resolution No. 135 “as exemplar of Muslim leadership and Islamic diplomacy.” (/)