[Statement] CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the move to deport a Taiwan OFW over online criticisms against the government

Statement of CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the move to deport a Taiwan OFW over online criticisms against the government

The Commission on Human Rights notes that our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continue to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the consequences of lockdowns across the world. Many of these Filipinos, hailed as ‘modern heroes,’ are forced by current circumstances to head back home without any certainty of jobs to go back to.

In similar instances, our Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) are present in different countries as an extension of our government’s Department of Labor and Employment. Their primary mandate is to promote and protect the general welfare of OFWs.

As one of the direct contacts to the Philippine government, POLOs deal with an array of OFW concerns, including violations of work contracts while in host countries, providing temporary shelters when necessary, ensuring medical assistance, and assisting in the repatriation of workers, among others, especially in times of crises.

It is then a cause of concern when a Labor Attaché works towards the deportation of Filipina caregiver, later named Elanel Egot Ordidor employed in Yunlin County, Taiwan, over what appears to be an exercise of her right to express concerns on the plight of fellow Filipinos in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A statement of the Labor Secretary on Sunday, 26 April, assured that ’there will be an observance of due process.’ However, we equally stress that our Bill of Rights, enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, also guarantees the citizens’ freedom of speech, of expression, or the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievance.

We continue to remind the government that public service requires a higher tolerance for opinions and criticisms, especially that democracy works best when there are healthy discourses on governance; thereby, allowing greater accountability from our public officials.

While the government continues to cite that certain rights can be restricted in the context of public emergencies, we caution against the application of these restrictions beyond the allowable parameters of human rights law—that they should always be legal, necessary, and proportionate. Any overreach may result in human rights violations.

In the face of a pandemic which threatens almost every aspect of our life, we hope that the government, including its representatives here and abroad, can direct greater efforts in preserving the rights and dignity of Filipinos by finding ways to curb the transmission of the virus and cushion its impacts, especially to vulnerable sectors.

We continue to reiterate that laws, including the declaration of a national health emergency, are ultimately meant to protect rights. Holding public office grants powers, but also entails great responsibilities—to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.

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