COMMENTARY: Low Blow and Profound “Debt of Gratitude”

Duterte’s payment of “debt of gratitude” poised in two levels with his visit to the three Middle Eastern countries; Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. One level is a low blow; the other, profound.

The low blow was the inclusion of three personages; Mocha Uson, Imee Marcos Manotoc and Sandra Cam. People say, their inclusion reeked with wanton waste of money at the expense of the taxpayer.

For Mocha Uson, the administration’s rationale was, she has lots of fans in the Middle East. Her presence, the administration might have thought, could launch a promotional coup for the country.

For Imee Marcos, she was as if the rah-rah cheerleader for the team of the Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello nosing around the conditions of her Ilocano constituents working in the Gulf.

Three times, Imee Marcos was part of Duterte’s entourage during his foreign trips. Well, it’s payback time for Imee, because she was the only governor in the North who supported Duterte in the last election.

For Sandra Cam, she is a part, too, of the retinue duplicating the rah-rah role of Imee for Silvestre Bello’s team. She said, she would help in the repatriation of the distressed OFW worker. A reporter asked her, in what capacity? She quipped, “He doesn’t have to know”.

To the people’s mind, the reason given on their inclusions in the Middle East trip is a lame excuse; an irritant to the people’s sensibilities. No matter how they sugar coat it, it’s plain and obvious; it’s payment for Duterte’s “debt of gratitude.”

The low blow is the gall of these people having a thick skin, yet flaunting it.

However, Duterte’s trip to the three countries in the Middle East poised also on the “profound” level.

None of the elected Presidents ever graced to the Middle East countries and showed the sincere effort of paying “debt of gratitude” for the OFWs for what they did for the country, except Duterte.

Previous administrations from Cory to PNoy recognized, praised, and sang hosannas of the OFWs’ contributions to the country’s economy buoyed by their dollar remittances. They even say they are the modern-day heroes’, blah…blahs. Yet, the services the government provides for the welfare of the OFWs remains still much to be desired for until now.

One of the reasons, perhaps, is that those top managers managing the OFWs’ concerns get their positions through nepotism, political influence, and bureaucratic patronage, and not necessarily highly qualified. That contributes to the sorry woes of the OFWs — which lingered on and on for years and years.

There was even an instance when the previous administration dipped its hand, as a matter of policy, on opening the OFWs’ Balikbayan boxes en route to their love ones. All hell breaks loose. An emotional tinderbox of the OFWs flared up. As a result, Duterte got the OFW votes.

If the likes of Mocha Uson, Imee Marcos, and Sandra Cam, Duterte paid his dues for their effort, albeit, sowing intrigues, then how much more should Duterte pay for the “debt of gratitude” to the OFWs?.

And so Duterte did.

In October 2016, after assuming office, because of the serious financial problems faced by the Saudi Oger, the Binladins and seven other big Saudi companies which employed Filipino OFWs, who got affected, Duterte released funds for them. The OFWs were repatriated, and got financial aid, too, to lessen the impact of their forced unemployment and income displacement. More than 4,100 OFWs benefited from this. That was a clear manifestation of Duterte’s paying of  the “debt of gratitude”.

Then Duterte followed it up with his recent April 2017 visits to the three Gulf states. He personally thanked the OFWs living there. Duterte brought home with him $925 million worth of investment, and tagging along with him were 150 distressed OFWs amnestied by the Saudi Arabia. Also, Duterte forged accords on investment, culture, health and technical education in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Truly, this is a “profound” level of Duterte paying his “debt of gratitude”.