DURING the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development on Monday, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go urged his colleagues to immediately act on the plight of millions of concerned Filipinos by continuing and prioritizing deliberations on one of the proposed measures that seek to create a Department of Overseas Filipinos.
Go appealed to fellow legislators to take into consideration the situation of overseas Filipinos and their appeals to make government mechanisms more responsive to their needs. He highlighted the urgency for the legislature to find a viable solution on how to better respond to the increasing concerns of overseas Filipinos.
“Marami namang concerns ngayon na dapat nating asikasuhin and this should not take a back seat. While we are financially constrained, this should not stop us from doing our job and looking for better ways to improve our government. Ituloy po natin ang diskusyon and let us see how we can improve further this proposed measure,” Go said.
During the regular session of the Senate in the afternoon of the same day, Go again emphasized that the bill must be prioritized by the chamber given the urgency of the matter it seeks to address and the fact that this is one of the priority measures of the Duterte Administration.
“The budget appropriated to agencies will be utilized for this new department and will no longer incur additional burden to our financial struggles — rather it will unburden our bureaucracy and streamline functions, so we can respond better and properly maximize the resources we need,” he manifested during the session.
He stressed that many overseas Filipinos, who comprise ten percent of the Filipino population, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to struggle to access government aid and find new economic opportunities.
“Simple lang po ang layunin ng batas na ito. Gusto natin na magkaroon ng isang ahensya ng gobyerno na magsisilbing timon para sa lahat ng concerns ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa. Para naman po ito sa ikabubuti ng mahigit sampung milyong Pilipino na nakikipagsapalaran po sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo,” explained Go.
He also cited the difficulties on the ground that various government agencies are dealing with due to the lack of a holistic mechanism to address the needs of Filipinos abroad.
“Kadalasan, hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta. Pinagpasa-pasahan sila. Huwag naman po sana ganito ang ating gobyerno. Suklian natin ang kanilang sakripisyo ng maayos at maaasahang serbisyo,” said the senator.
“Tinatawag nga natin silang mga bagong bayani natin. Mahirap po, kadalasan nananawagan sila dito sa Facebook, sa radyo, kahit saan na lang po sila humihingi ng saklolo at saksi naman tayo lahat diyan, lalong-lalo na po itong pandemyang ito. Kahit saan na lang sila humihingi ng tulong makarating lang po sa gobyerno ang kanilang mga hinaing at hinihinging tulong,” he lamented.
Go clarified that a series of consultations were conducted by the Executive Department, led by Cabinet Secretary Karlo B. Nograles, to coordinate and consolidate their concerns which resulted in a unified Executive position supporting the passage of the measure and addressing concerns raised by various stakeholders.
“Hindi po ito pagdagdag sa ating burukrasya. Rather, this is a measure to streamline government services and improve bureaucratic responsiveness,” said Go.
“Kaysa naman hiwa-hiwalay ang ating mga ahensya na nagsisilbi sa ating mga overseas Filipinos, hindi po ba mas magandang nasa iisang bubong na lang sila at iisang team, iisang mandato po?” he asked.
Go cited that the President had shown his steadfast position on the matter when he called for the creation of the proposed department in the last two of his State of the Nation Addresses and various other public pronouncements.
“Sana po ay alalahanin natin na sila ang pinaka-nangangailangan dito. Pakinggan po natin sila at intindihin natin kung saan sila nanggagaling. At the end of the day, para naman po ito sa kanila, sa kabutihan po nila, ang isunusulong nating batas,” said Go.
“Nandito po tayo hindi para maghain lamang ng mga batas na hindi kailangan. Nandito po tayo para magbigay po ng solusyon sa mga kinakaharap na problema ng ating mga mamamayan,” he argued.
Go also echoed what Cabinet Secretary Nograles has said that the proposed DOOF is a promise of the President to the people, whose primary purpose is the protection of the welfare of the overseas Filipinos and their families.
Nograles also explained in the hearing that the proposed department is not an unnecessary addition to the bureaucracy but is rather an amalgamation only where concerned agencies dealing with overseas Filipinos will simply be put under a single department.
“It consolidates the budgetary allocations to a single public entity to better and more efficiently serve,” Nograles said as he explained that the budget required to operate the new department will also be taken from the existing budgets of concerned agencies to be subsumed.
Senate Bill No. 1835, filed by Go on September 16, 2020, is the second iteration of SBN 202 he filed last year. It considers inputs from the concerned executive agencies and has been endorsed by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.
“Sana po ay bigyan natin ng importansya ang ating mga OFWs at iba pang overseas Filipino. Mahirap po mapalayo sa pamilya, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot. Bigyan natin sila ng importansya. Sana po ay maisakatuparan na itong Department of Overseas Filipinos,” Go said.
“Sa mga kasamahan ko po, sa mga colleagues ko, sana po ay tulungan natin, sana po ay mapag-usapan natin ito, sana po ay maisakatuparan na rin po ito.”