Senator Risa Hontiveros during the hearing of Committee on Justice and Human Rights at the Senate in Pasay City on alleged extra judicial killings amid the government campaign against illegal drugs. Image Credit: INQUIRER

Manama: A Philippines senator has criticised President Rodrigo Duterte for calling on over 260,000 overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait to return home, saying that he was gambling with their lives and warning there was no job stability for them in the country.

“It is extremely reckless, shortsighted and uncaring,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Sunday, hours after the president’s speech in Singapore in which he told his fellow countrymen to come home as the crisis with Kuwait deepened.

“President Duterte should stop gambling with the lives and employment of thousands of Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and the welfare of their families, in a desperate attempt to break the diplomatic impasse with Kuwait. This is not a game. We are talking about the lives and future of our OFWs and their loved ones,” Hontiveros said in a statement, carried by the Inquirer.

The senator said that it was ironic for the President to call on the 260,000 workers in Kuwait to return home when Duterte could not even sign the Executive Order that addresses the concerns of workers in the country.

“Are we even talking about the same Philippines? President Duterte is promising our OFWs jobs back in our country when he can’t even sign an Executive Order (EO) to address labor contractualization and protect the workers’ security of tenure. His administration doesn’t even have an alternative economic strategy to the country’s labor export policy,” the senator said.

Duterte has reportedly said that he could not ban contractualization because it was allowed by the Labor Code. He said only Congress could amend the law and prohibit contractualization.

“Like any Filipino, I dream of the day that our kababayan will not go abroad just to earn a decent living. I want them to come home and end the Filipino diaspora. But I want them to return to a Philippines where regular and decent jobs abound, where their children can pursue their dreams and where peace not death reigns in our communities. Sadly, this is not the Philippines under President Duterte,” she added, quoted by the daily.

Hontiveros urged Duterte to think over his decision.

“I appeal to the President to think this through. This is not the time for cavalier diplomacy. I urge him to conduct extensive foreign policy and labor dialogues and consultations with his Cabinet, the Legislature, foreign affairs experts, labor groups and other stakeholders to find a truly diplomatic and sustainable solution to this crisis,” Hontiveros said.