Last week, I was alarmed to see that the brand-spanking new Aquino administration put OFW assistance on the chopping block to be cut. The Inquirer reported that last year’s P50 million legal assistance fund would be cut to a meager P27 million this year. Why was I surprised?
Because, as you may have noticed, I’ve been reading Anna Guevarra and Robyn Rodriguez’s book these past few months while I’m writing the book review for both books and I was thinking about what kind of labor brokerage system would cut its own institutionalized regulation of migration.
Yes, I know that neoliberal immigration policy requires the cutting of social services for any and everyone but I thought that the management of migration would top the list of a neoliberal state, such as the Philippines. Cutting assistance for their biggest money-making machine seems crazy to me. Why would they do that? Wouldn’t they want to have some contingency plan for the very migrants that are turning the wheels of long-failing national economy?
Of course, the response of workers is fury and outrage.
And then yesterday, on Bulatlat, I read some news that a group of Filipino women migrants in Dubai were jailed for their expired visas when their negligent employer abandoned them in inhuman conditions. These women who were brought to Dubai to work as “cleaners and office assistants” and trying to keep things together when their boss took off were called into question because male members of Filipino community were aiding them medically and with food.
The sad truth of the 46 women in Dubai is that their migration and deportation spins on the formidable axes of gender and unstable jobs in the informal labor. They got shipped to Dubai to work because they were women and they’ll get shipped back to the Philippines, essentially, because of their suspicious womanhood.
Perhaps the cuts on legal assistance, leaving a (gendered) migrant population vulnerable is complementary to the unstable, insecure, informal jobs that demand for their labor. That leaving migrant workers out there in the world without help, ensures the security of the Philippines as a permanent revolving door for global workers.