Migrant group slams mandatory psychiatric tests for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines—The proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs
to subject all departing overseas Filipino workers to psychiatric
tests drew flak from a militant migrant group, which said the
government move “essentially typecasts OFWs as lunatics.”

Migrante International said it should be the DFA officials, not the
OFWs, “who should have their heads examined if they really believe
mandatory psychiatric tests could help prevent OFWs from snapping in
the workplace.”

“For the Arroyo government, those they have hailed as ‘bagong bayani
(new heroes)’ are lunatics,” complained Connie Bragas-Regalado,
Migrante chair said in a statement.

Regalado said the DFA should realize that deplorable working
conditions overseas; verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse;
torture and non-payment of wages are major factors that drive OFWs to
the brink of insanity.

“By refusing to acknowledge these realities and by conveniently
glossing over the fact that most of the time OFWs commit crimes to
defend themselves, others are just plain victims of frame-up; the
DFA, in essence, is condemning our OFWs,” Regalado said.

The Migrante leader slammed Vice President Noli de Castro and DFA
undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Esteban Conejos for even
considering such “a preposterous and anti-migrant proposal,”
adding, “It’s such a shame that those who are directly responsible
for pushing migrants’ rights are the ones who are blind and deaf to
the real issues OFWs face.”

“If we’re to follow the DFA’s rationale, then OFWs like Sarah
Balabagan, Mary Jane Ramos and Joselito Alejo are lunatics and not
heroes as they were hailed when they arrived home after their ordeal
overseas,” said Regalado, referring to OFWs who have been jailed for
committing crimes, but escaped execution because they were eventually
acquitted or pardoned.

The Migrante leader said a change of view was needed for both De
Castro, presidential adviser on OFWs, and Conejos, co-chair of the
Global Forum on Migrants and Development that the Philippines will be
hosting October 29-30 this year.

Regalado said Migrante will join other migrant workers groups from
other countries in a parallel International Assembly of Migrants and
Refugees, set for October 28-29, to challenge the GFMD “to face up to
the truth that migration can never lead to development. ”

– By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:25:00 08/22/2008


TUCP slams proposed psychiatric tests for OFWs

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: August 23, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Saturday denounced as “downright ridiculous” a plan to require every Filipino seeking overseas employment, particularly domestic helpers, to undergo a mandatory psychiatric examination.

The labor group said administering psychiatric tests on such a large scale would be problematic and might just turn into a racket victimizing overseas Filipino workers.

TUCP general secretary Ernesto Herrera said the number of foreign-bound Filipino domestic helpers with potential psychiatric issues was insignificant compared to the overall volume of OFWs.

Herrera said many actually develop behavioral issues on the job overseas, indicating that psychiatric problems were “largely environmentally induced, not necessarily organic.”

“This is mainly due to vicious foreign employers who practically enslave their maids, and force them to work and live under inhuman conditions,” he said.

Herrera said some abusive employers resort to detaining their domestic staff and denying them normal access to the outside world.

“Naturally, the maids risk developing behavioral issues over time,” he said.

The office of the undersecretary for overseas workers affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs has “strongly recommended” the mandatory psychiatric test to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration which licenses recruitment agencies.

It made the recommendation based on information that seven out of 10 Filipino maids on death row in the Middle East have had a history of mental illness.

Herrera doubted if any psychiatric test could be properly administered on a large scale, considering the volume of outbound Filipino domestic staff.

He said the country does not have adequate behavioral health care services so that there are not enough psychiatrists and mental health professionals to conduct the tests and process the results correctly.

“We simply do not have the competence. What will happen is that untrained personnel of diagnostic centers will end up administering and interpreting the test results,” he said.



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