Focus on creating jobs for Filipinos, not for illegal aliens — Sen. Bam

Sen. Bam Aquino called on the administration to focus on generating jobs for Filipinos, and not for the Chinese, amid the reported influx of workers from China in the country.

“Gamitin sana ni Pangulong Duterte ang pagkasiga niya sa paggawa ng mga trabaho para sa mga Pilipino at mga nasa Pilipinas at hindi para sa mga dayuhan,” said Sen. Bam, who is seeking re-election under the Otso Diretso banner.

According to Sen. Bam, the government should prioritize the employment of Filipinos so they don’t have to seek greener pastures abroad for their livelihood.

“Ang daming Pilipino ang nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa. Ang panaginip ng kanilang pamilya ay dito na sana sa Pilipinas makapagtrabaho ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay,” said Sen. Bam.

The senator said it would be painful for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who have to leave their families in the Philippines to work abroad, to find out that many legal and illegal Chinese workers are making a living in the country.

“Masakit na mawalay sa pamilya ngunit wala silang magawa dahil walang mahanap na trabaho sa Pilipinas. Subalit mas masakit malaman na dayuhang Tsino pala ang nakikinabang sa mga trabaho rito sa Pilipinas na dapat ay para sa kanila,” said Sen. Bam.

While it is allowable for Chinese workers to work in the country, Sen. Bam said the government should first prioritize the employment of Filipinos before allowing foreign workers to seek employment here.

Earlier, Sen. Bam has committed to bridge the gap between education and employment through the Job Matching Bill, which will address the issues of jobs mismatch and unemployment.

Sen. Bam invites returning OFWs to Negosyo Centers

Sen. Bam Aquino encouraged returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and those affected by the deployment ban to visit the nearest Negosyo Center in their area to get the necessary assistance in starting their own business.

“May maaasahan kayong libreng tulong upang makabuo ng kabuhayan at negosyo. Inaanyayahan namin ang kayo na bumisita sa pinakamalapit na Negosyo Center,” said Sen. Bam, principal author and sponsor of the Negosyo Center law or Republic Act No. 10644, the Go Negosyo Act.

“Sa tulong ng ating Negosyo Centers, makakapagtayo ang ating OFWs ng sariling negosyo na maaari nilang pagkunan ng ikabubuhay para hindi nila kailangang iwan pa ang pamilya para mangibang-bansa,” added Sen. Bam.

As of last count, there are around 800 Negosyo Centers in different parts of the country, ready to cater to the needs of those who want to start or expand their own business.

The senator said that while this is not the ultimate solution to the issue, every agency and every Filipino with the opportunity to support our returning OFWs must do their part and lend a helping hand.

The Negosyo Center provides access to markets and financing for businesses, training programs, and a simplified business registration process, thus helping ease of doing business and fast-track government processes in putting up a business.

The law mandates the establishment of Negosyo Centers in all municipalities, cities and provinces that will assist micro, small and medium enterprises in the country.

The Go Negosyo Act was passed during Sen. Bam’s term as chairman of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship. It was the first of 19 laws passed by Sen. Bam in the 16th and 17th Congress.

In the 17th Congress, Sen. Bam filed Senate Bill No.  648 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Assistance Act to boost support for the OFW community and the families they leave back home.

If enacted into law, the measure will integrate programs on livelihood, entrepreneurship, savings, investments and financial literacy to the existing efforts of embassies to equip OFWs with knowledge to start their own business.

In a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) last September 2015, only 38.2 pecrcent of the 563 household-respondents said that a portion of the money from OFWs are set aside for savings.

Aside from the livelihood aspect, Sen. Bam’s measure mandates the Public Attorney’s Office to establish a help desk in every international port of exit in the Philippines to offer legal service, assistance and advice to departing migrant workers.

Sen. Bam: Ensure livelihood program for OFWs affected by Qatar crisis

A senator urged the government to create livelihood opportunities for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the deployment ban to Qatar amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis hounding the Middle East country.
“Ngayon pa lang, dapat nang paghandaan ang mga posibleng epekto ng krisis sa Qatar sa ating OFWs, lalo na sa kanilang kabuhayan,” said Sen. Bam Aquino.
“Dapat mabigyan ng pansamantalang pagkakakitaan ang mga naapektuhan ng deployment ban at iba pa nating mga kababayan na posibleng bumalik sa Pilipinas dahil sa nangyari,” he added.
Several neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar over allegations that it supports extremist groups, including ISIS. 
The senator also called on the government to prepare for any eventuality that might affect OFWs and other Filipinos residing in Qatar.
“Posibleng magkaroon ito ng epekto sa overseas Filipino workers at iba pang mga Pinoy sa Doha at iba pang bahagi ng Qatar kaya marapat na itong paghandaan ng pamahalaan,” Sen. Bam said.
“Dapat ding alamin ng embahada sa Qatar ang sitwasyon ng mga Pilipino roon upang matiyak ang kanilang kapakanan at mga pangunahing pangangailangan,” he added.
Sen. Bam filed Senate Bill No.  648 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Assistance Act to boost support for the OFW community and the families they leave back home.
If passed into law, the measure integrates programs on livelihood, entrepreneurship, savings, investments and financial literacy to the existing efforts of embassies to equip OFWs with knowledge to start their own business.
In a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) last September 2015, only 38.2 pecrcent of the 563 household‐respondents said that a portion of the money from OFWs are set aside for savings.
Aside from the livelihood aspect, Senate Bill No. 648 mandates the Public Attorney’s Office to establish a help desk in every international port of exit in the Philippines to offer legal service, assistance and advice to departing migrant workers.

Bam: Ingatan ang padala ng mga OFW, iwasan ang port congestion

Senator Bam Aquino called on concerned government agencies and private stakeholders to work together to prevent congestion in the Port of Manila to avoid delays in the arrival of products and packages, especially from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to their loved ones.

 “Maraming pamilya ang nag-aabang ng mga padala mula sa minamahal nilang OFWs ngayong panahon ng kapaskuhan. Sayang naman kung mabubulok lang ito sa ating mga pantalan kapag may congestion,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam made the call after an official of the Department of Transportation warned that port congestion may occur with the influx of goods and products from other countries as Christmas season approaches.

“If you remember, two years ago the port congestion was a big headache for Filipinos in Metro Manila – delivery of goods was delayed, cargo trucks caused traffic, and balikbayan boxes remained stranded in the port. We were able to solve the problem then, but we must guard against another port congestion,” the senator stressed.

During his term as chairman of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship in the 16th Congress, Sen. Bam initiated a probe on the congestion that occurred at the Port ofManila two years ago.

 After bringing government agencies and private stakeholders in one table, the problem was ironed out after several months of investigation.

But Aquino said that the heavy volume of containers from September to December may revive the problem.

“Sa ngayon, maaaring normal ang operasyon at maluwag pa ang ating mga pantalan pero baka maulit ang port congestion sa pagdagsa ng mga kargamento sa huling bahagi ng taon. Kailangan na natin itong paghandaan ngayon pa lang,” added Sen. Bam.

Senate Bill No. 648: Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Assistance Act

From the malls of Hong Kong to the souqs of the Middle East and even on massive vessels navigating through borderless seas, you’ll find talented Filipinos diligently working to build a brighter future for their family.

They aren’t only keeping their loved ones above water financially; they are also keeping the Philippine economy afloat with remittances reaching $16.21 billion or P764 billion from January to August 2015.

Even with their contribution, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) remain vulnerable to poor working conditions and abusive employers.

In addition, their employment abroad is no guarantee of financial success.

In a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last September 2015, only 38.2% of the 563 household-respondents said that a portion of the money from OFWs are set aside for savings.

There are still too many OFWs that come home without a plan for retirement. Keeping in mind our duty to empower and uplift every Filipino, the OFW Protection Act bolsters our support for the OFW community and the families they leave back home.

This measure ensures our OFWs safety by strictly monitoring and assessing accredited partner agencies and mandating the Public Attorney’s Office to establish a help­ desk in every international port of exit in the Philippines to offer legal service, assistance and advice to departing migrant workers.

Acknowledging the immense power in access to credible information, this measure orders effective and efficient information dissemination on labor, employment, and migration data through various mediums, including social media.

Lastly, to truly achieve prosperity for every Filipino family, this measure integrates programs on livelihood, entrepreneurship, savings, investments and financial literacy to the existing efforts of embassies.

This is our opportunity show our gratitude and appreciation to our overseas Filipinos while fulfilling our duty as public servants.


Bida Ka!: Protektahan ang mga Balikbayan Box

Mga Bida, nanggagalaiti sa galit ang milyun-milyong overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sa bagong patakaran ng Bureau of Customs (BOC) na buwisan at inspeksyunin ang balikbayan box na ipinapadala nila sa mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas.

Sa social media sites, kanya-kanyang pahayag ng galit ang ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa, hindi lang sa planong pagbubuwis kundi pati sa ginagawang pagbulatlat sa ipinapadala nilang package.

Batay sa mga larawang naka-post sa Facebook, makikita ang umano’y pagkalkal sa iniinspeksyong balikbayan box.
Marami ring OFWs ang nagreklamo na nawala ang ibang laman ng kanilang balikbayan box.

Mga Bida, hindi natin masisi ang ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa kung ganito ang kanilang nararamdaman sa bagong patakaran.

Marami sa kanila, ilang buwan o taon ang binubuno para mapuno ang isang balikbayan box. Todo ang kanilang pagtitipid para malagyan lang ng tsokolate, de-lata, kendi o ‘di kaya’y damit ang kahon para may maipadala sa mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas.

Ang katwiran naman ng BOC ay may ilang tiwali na ginagamit ang balikbakan box para makapagpuslit ng mga mamahaling gamit nang hindi nagbabayad ng anumang buwis sa pamahalaan.

May iba ring nagpupuslit umano ng armas at droga sa balikbayan box kaya nagdoble sila ng paghihigpit sa inspeksyon.

Totoo man o hindi, hindi pa rin ito katanggap-tanggap sa ating OFWs dahil dagdag na buwis ang kaakibat ng planong inspeksiyong ito ng ahensiya.


Marami ang hindi nakakaalam na ang puno’t dulo ng problemang ito ay isang patakarang nakapaloob sa Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines na huling binago noon pang 1957.

Ito ay ang tinatawag na de minimis, o ang pinakamaliit na ha­laga na puwedeng buwisan sa ipinapadalang balikbayan box o package ng ating mga kababayang OFW.

Sa ngayon, sampung piso lang ang de minimis sa bansa! Ito’y batay sa Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines na huling i­namyendahan noon pang 1957.

Ito ang pinakamababang de minimis threshold sa ASEAN. Sa buong ASEAN, mga Bida, ang average de minimis ay nasa isandaang dolyar na.

Noong August 26, 2014, inihain natin ang Senate Bill No. 2373, na layong amyendahan ang Section 709 ng Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines para itaas ang halaga ng de minimis patungong P10,000.

Sa paraang ito, mas mabilis at mas mura na ang pagpapadala ng balikbayan boxes at iba pang package ng OFWs, mga negos­yante at iba pang patungong Pilipinas.

Dahil mas mabilis na ang proseso, mas mabibigyang pansin ng BOC ang pagbabantay sa mga mahahalagang produkto para mapalakas ang koleksyon ng ahensiya.


Isa pa sa inirereklamo ng ating mga kababayan ay ang pagkasira o pagkawala ng laman ng ipinadala nilang balikbayan box matapos dumaan sa pag-inspeksyon ng Customs.

Hindi ito katanggap-tanggap, mga Bida. Hindi dapat pahirapan ang OFWs sa pamamagitan ng pagsusuri sa kanilang ipinadala na kadalasa’y nagreresulta sa pagkasira o ‘di kaya’y pagkawala ng mga produkto na kanilang binili para sa mahal sa buhay.

Sa ating palagay, ang dapat binibigyan ng atensiyon ng Customs ay ang malalaking smuggling sa bansa, tulad ng pagpupuslit ng agricultural products at mamahaling sasakyan.

Kaya kasabay ng pagtataas sa de minimis, dapat na ipagpatuloy ang pagsasamoderno ng sistema sa Customs upang mas ma­ging mabilis at maayos ang pag-iinspeksyon, bilang suporta sa mga pamilya ng OFWs.

Ngayong natuon na ang atensiyon ng buong bansa sa isyu ng balikbayan box, tiwala tayo na uusad na ang panukala na­ting itaas ang de minimis.

Gawin natin ito bilang nararapat na suporta sa ating OFWs na siyang matibay na haligi ng ating ekonomiya at mga bagong ba­yani ng ating panahon.


First Published on Abante Online



Bam Renews Call for Updated Fees for Balikbayan Boxes

Senator Bam Aquino renewed his call to update the current minimum fee threshold for balikbayan boxes, making it cheaper and hassle-free for 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to send their packages to their loved ones in the Philippines. 

Sen. Bam, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, issued the pronouncement after OFWs expressed alarm over the Bureau of Customs’ plan to tax and randomly inspect balikbayan boxes as part of the agency’s anti-smuggling campaign.

Last Aug. 26, 2014, Sen. Bam filed Senate Bill No. 2373, seeking to update the current de minimis threshold, or the minimal volume of declaration of goods in the customs for consignments, balikbakan boxes and other low-value and low-risk packages.

“Now that the spotlight is focused on the issue, we call on fellow lawmakers to hasten the passage of the measure to make it cheaper and hassle-free for 10 million OFWs to send their packages to their loved ones in the Philippines,” Sen. Bam said. 

Currently, the Philippines has the lowest de minimis threshold in the ASEAN, at PhP10 or US$0.23. The ASEAN average threshold is at a hundred dollars.

In his bill, Sen. Bam wants the de minimis level to increase to a more realistic and relevant figure of P10,000 by amending Sec. 709 of the Tariff and Customs Code.

Through this, Aquino said balikbayan boxes and other packages of OFWs, entrepreneurs and other individuals will be processed by Customs faster with minimum fees.

“The extremely low Philippine threshold has not been changed since 1957 and is clearly antiquated. It needs to be updated to be reflective of current prices,” the senator said. 

The lawmaker explained that thresholds for customs declaration signify increased documentation and processes for shipments at entry points in the country.

“Increased documentation leads to larger turnover and delivery time of goods, and larger administration costs that would yield lower revenue impact for both businesses and government,” Sen. Bam said.

“While we understand that random inspection is part of our efforts to curb entry of illegal goods, we should not burden our honest and hardworking OFWs by subjecting their packages to searches that result in damages, pilferages, and loss of goods, which they purchased and sacrificed for their loved ones back home,” he added.

“In addition to this reform, let’s continue to modernize our Customs systems to make our inspections more transparent and efficient, and supportive to our OFW families,” Sen. Bam, who also presided over the port congestion hearings.

Furthermore, Sen. Bam stressed that it will enable the BOC to focus its efforts in looking out for high-value, high-risk and high-revenue goods for collection and enforcement.

BIDA KA!: Pagkakaisa susi sa himala

Lumipas ang mga oras pero marami pa rin sa ating mga kaba­bayan ang hindi inalis ang tainga sa radyo at ang mga mata sa telebisyon.

Nagbunga naman ang matiyagang paghihintay nang bandang alas-tres ng madaling-araw ng Miyerkules nang ianunsiyo ng pamahalaan ng Indonesia ang isang malaking himala.

Ipinagpaliban nila ang pagbitay kay Mary Jane ilang minuto na lang bago ang nakatakda niyang pagharap sa firing squad.

Maituturing na malaking himala ang nangyari dahil ang ­lahat ng indikasyon ay tuloy nga ang pagbitay kay Mary Jane. Katunayan, itinuloy na ng Indonesia ang pagbitay sa walong iba pang drug convicts na nauna kay Mary Jane.

Nagbunyi ang buong bansa, pati na rin ang buong mundo, sa nangyaring himala.


Ngunit kung ako ang tatanungin, mas malaking himala ang nangyaring pagkakaisa ng iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan para mailigtas si Mary Jane.

Mula sa administrasyon, oposisyon at makakaliwang grupo, iisa lang ang naging pagkilos at iisa lang ang isinulong.

Matagal-tagal na rin bago ito nangyari. Isang Mary Jane Veloso ang kinailangan upang muling pag-isahin ang mga sektor na nahati ng pulitika, galit at marami pang isyu.

Palagi kong sinasabi na kapag naupo sa iisang mesa ang iba’t ibang sektor, may positibong resulta o pangyayari. Sa ­sitwasyong ito, malaking himala ang kanilang nakamit.

Sa sama-samang pagsisikap ng maraming sektor, muling napatunayan na walang imposible at maaaring makamit lahat.


Pagkatapos nito, mainit ang naging usapan kung sino ang dapat pasalamatan at mabigyan ng credit sa pangyayari.

Mga Bida, hindi mahalaga kung sino ang dapat pasala­matan. Ang mahalaga rito, pansamantalang nabigyan ng panibagong buhay si Mary Jane.

Sa halip na sabihing, “si ganito o si ganyan ang susi sa nangyari at dapat bigyan ng papuri”, mas mainam siguro na papurihan ang lahat dahil sa sama-sama namang kumilos.

Ito ay isang bihirang pagkakataon na lahat ay sama-­samang kumilos tungo sa iisang hangarin. Bakit hindi natin ito kayang gawin para sa mas nakararaming Pilipino?


Upang muling mapagsama-sama sa iisang mesa ang kaukulang ahensiya ng pamahalaan at iba’t ibang sektor, naghain tayo ng resolusyon na layong imbestigahan ang kaso ng mga OFW na nahaharap sa death penalty sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo.

Nais ko ring malaman kung bakit naaantala ang pag­resolba sa iba pang mga kasong may kinalaman sa OFWs, lalo na pagdating sa illegal recruitment at trafficking.

Sa huling bilang ng Department of Foreign Affairs, 805 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) ang nakakulong sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo. Apatnapu’t lima sa kanila ang nasa death row.

Sa nasabing tala, 341 sa kabuuang bilang ng kaso ay nasa Asya, 244 sa Middle East at Africa, 116 sa United States at 104 sa Europe.

Hangarin ng pagdinig na alamin kung hanggang saan ang tulong na ibinibigay ng pamahalaan sa ating OFWs, na nagpapasok ng $22 billion kada taon sa ekonomiya ng bansa.

Kung itinuturing natin bilang bayani ang ating OFWs, dapat natin silang bigyan ng sapat na suporta at proteksyon lalo na’t sila’y nasa ibang bansa.

Malaki ang kanilang kontribusyon sa kaunlaran ng bansa. Huwag natin silang pabayaan!


First Published on Abante Online

SRN-1266: Death Penalty Cases Involving Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW)


Whereas, under Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, it is a declared policy of the State shall, at all times, uphold the dignity of its citizens whether in country or overseas, in general, and Filipino migrant workers, in particular. Free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any persons by reason of poverty. In this regard, it is imperative that an effective mechanism be instituted to ensure that the rights and interest of distressed overseas Filipinos, in general, and Filipino migrant workers, in particular, documented or undocumented, are adequately protected and safeguarded;

Whereas, in its effort to protect the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Philippine government is committed to ensure accountability to and representation of migrant workers. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are at least 805 Filipinos facing drug-related cases worldwide (as of September 2014). Most of the cases are in Asia at 341, 244 in the Middle East and Africa and 116 in the United States, and 104 in Europe;

Whereas, based on data by the DFA, 45 OFWs are on death row, but their death sentences are not yet final as the cases are on various stages of appeal. The common occurrence is they get arrested and undergo investigation and trial without any representation or legal counsel from the embassy. Because of this, they are deprived of due process and go straight to jail without any legal assistance or intervention from the Philippine government;

Whereas, from January 2011 to August 2012, only 196 OFWs have received help from the DFA’s legal assistance fund and attributed this to the limitations under Sections 18 and 19 of Republic Act No. 10022 which amends the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.” The Legal Assistance Fund shall be used exclusively to provide legal services to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in distress in accordance with the guidelines, criteria and procedures promulgated in accordance with the law. The expenditures to be charged against the Fund shall include the fees for the foreign lawyers to be hired by the Legal Assistant for Migrant Workers Affairs to represent migrant workers facing charges or in filing cases against erring or abusive employers abroad, bail bonds to secure the temporary releases and other litigation expenses;

Whereas, funds for legal assistance for OFWs in distress have been slashed since 2010, even if at least P52 million in legal funds for OFs were unused since 2011. On the other hand, from 2010 to 2014, the average OFW remittances per year amount to $22 billion according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Based on news reports, Foreign , . Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that only P7,8 million ($174,000) of the P60- million legal assistance fund ($1.34 million) (LAF) available for 2012 was utilized. The average annual combined budget of the DFA and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the protection of OFWs is only $202 million. The annual budget allotted for the protection of OFWs is no even one percent of the total remittances they send each year;

Whereas, several studies had been conducted to address the problems of migrant workers. Countries of destination should consider providing technical and financial assistance in capacity-building projects. They also should consider developing mechanisms to protect the welfare of temporary workers by signing bilateral agreements or memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with countries of origin that explicitly address workers’ protection. Although the Philippines has signed 12 bilateral agreements with destination countries, these MOUs and agreements are merely generalities and guidelines on migrant workers; they do not give bases for enforcing compliance on wages and other terms of employment!

Whereas, there is a need to review the existing rules and regulations in order to protect migrant domestic workers. The government agencies concerned should be able to provide better recruitment regulation and improve the working conditions of the migrant workers. Moreover, it is crucial to provide legal aid and representation to distressed overseas Filipino workers, To this end, the government will be able to improve labor migration policies, administration and practices;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved to direct the appropriate Senate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the death penalty cases involving overseas Filipino workers and the delay in the disposition of overseas-related cases, particularly Illegal Recruitment and Trafficking.




The miracle of unity

The last-minute reprieve of Filipina prisoner Mary Jane Veloso by the resolute Indonesian government last April 29 was a welcome shock to the Philippine community and was heralded by many, including myself, as a miracle.

The miracle I found was not only in the inexplicable and seemingly supernatural shifting of circumstance but in the fact that so many individuals, government agencies, and civil society organizations, who are usually in constant conflict with each other, actually worked together for a common purpose – and succeeded.

This miracle is the best sort. It was borne out of compassion, hard work, and unity despite differences and animosity toward each other.

The President, Vice President, Department of Justice (DOJ), government agencies, human rights advocates, religious groups, leftist groups, Filipinos here and all over the world came together, even Manny Pacquiao called for, and worked to save the life of one Filipina.

And though short-lived, we were willing and able to join our voices and our efforts to create a collective force so strong and so convincing that it stopped the inevitable from happening.

Mary Jane struck a cord in all of us. She became a symbol of the Filipino, who, in desperation to provide a better life for her family, falls victim to abuse for nefarious purposes.

She is just one out of too many Filipinos suffering injustices to build a better life for their family. Her case of alleged drug trafficking is just one out of too many cases in the country victimized by drug syndicates, capitalizing on the poverty of the Filipino family.

She has brought to our collective consciousness the grave injustices suffered by Filipinos around the world. We have been made starkly aware of the tremendous risk our countrymen are willing to take in the hopes of a brighter future for their children.

But her reprieve also revealed that we, in fact, have the power to change the course of history when we set aside our differences and work for a common objective.

There are at least 7,000 Overseas Filipinos (OFs) incarcerated abroad. In their 2014 Annual Report, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stated that there were 80 death penalty cases being monitored, 45 of which are drug-related.

How many of these prisoners were unjustly arrested and imprisoned? How many of them were actually involved in the drug trade and deserve to be incarcerated and how many were unwitting pawns and scapegoats?

Clearly, there are thousands of Mary Janes out there with cases coursing through the justice system of other countries.

Recently, we filed a resolution to thoroughly look into the cases of our incarcerated overseas Filipinos and, more importantly, evaluate the ways in which the Philippine government can offer more support. At the minimum, we need to make sure they get sound legal advice and a fair and just trial.

We have to get over our deep-seated biases and political rivalries and find it in ourselves to come together to ensure that the rights of the thousands of our imprisoned countrymen are not violated.

First published on Manila Bulletin

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