Administration Senator Christopher Go pressed Congress Friday to frontload passsage of his bill creating a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) even as he prodded prosecutors to ensure justice for a Filipino worker murdered recently in Abu Dhabi.
“Creation of DOFil will help protect Filipinos abroad,” Sen. Go said, indicating he was “not losing hope” the bill will eventually be passed and signed into law under the Duterte administration.
Airing a positive outlook, the Senator said his bill creating the DOFi will be “acted upon by the Senate soon to provide better services, and further protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipinos abroad.”
“I am not losing hope,” Go said, noting that Senate Bill 949, to be known as the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) Act of 2020 once enacted into law, is now under consideration at the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development following the greenlight by the Senate Rules Committee on Rules for committee deliberations.
“It was referred to the Committee on Labor to start public hearing on the bill,” he said, adding that the panel set a hearing on the proposal on February 15.
According to Go, the bill has been certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte and was listed among the top twenty priority legislations by both houses of Congress this year.
As proposed, Sen. Go said the bill provides for the creation of DOFil to be initially composed of the Office of the Secretary and four Undersecretaries for Administration and Finance; Foreign Employment; Assistance to Overseas Filipinos in Distress; and Policy and International Cooperation and Special Overseas Filipino Concerns.
He added that “the new department shall also subsume the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Social Welfare Attaches Office under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, International Labor Affairs Bureau under the Department of Labor and Employment, and Commission on Overseas Filipinos. Additionally, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will serve as attached agencies of DOFil.
Moreover, Sen. Go said the bill also “aims to implement a one country-team approach of government offices and personnel posted abroad.” He adds that “it will require all officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment, in protecting the rights and advancing the welfare of Filipino migrant workers there, with guidance from the DFA and the Philippine Foreign Service Posts.”
The administration lawmaker added that the DOFil is also aligned with the objectives of rightsizing the bureaucracy by streamlining and rationalizing the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration into one department. “Mayroon tayong ten million Filipinos abroad. Sinasabi nating heroes sila kaya bigyan natin sila ng importansya, bigyan natin sila ng departamento na para sa kanila,” he stressed.
Sen. Go’s Senate Bill 1949 is the third iteration of a measure he filed in 2019, noting that the latest version of the bill “represents the unified position of the entire Executive branch of the government and will include agencies which will be affected by the reorganization.”
At the same time, the Senator aired concern on the recently reported death of an overseas Filipino worker, reported missing since March 6, 6, 2020, and whose remains were recently found in the hotel in Abu Dhabi where she was working as receptionist. Mary Anne Daynolo’s remains arrived on January 30 and were immediately autopsied by the National Bureau of Investigation. “Ako po, bilang isang mambabatas at malapit kay Pangulong Duterte, sisiguraduhin natin na mabibigyan ng hustiya ang pagkamatay ni Mary Anne,” Sen. Go said.
The Senator asserted the suspect must answer to the crime he committed, noting that according to reports, the suspect is “a Ugandan national identified only as “Paul”, who admitted to the crime and led the investigators to the place where Daynolo was buried.”