Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mandatory psych tests for domestic worker OFWs?

The Overseas Workers Welfare Admistration (OWWA) is reportedly considering requiring departing domestic worker OFWs psychiatric tests. The Inquirer reports that different migrant rights organizations are opposing the move.

Obviously this is discriminatory. Why not require mandatory tests for nurses, engineers and computer programmers and other so called professionals? Shouldn't doctors and nurses be psychiatrically tested? After all that makes for good program material in Crime Scene Investigation or Discovery Channel's "The Most Evil"? Dr Harold Shipman is the world's worst physician-serial killer. And Austrian nurses were implicated in a killing spree in a hospital. The proposed directive presupposes that a person's pyschiatric disposition is the root of the problem.

As the migrant organizations have put it, there are many aggravating factors that can push a person "over the edge", language, culture and of course the reality of being away from home. This cuts across social classes and is not limited to domestic workers. We had a Pinoy PhD student in Australia who came from a "conyo" background who had a nervous breakdown. But a member of the privileged Pinoy class flipping in a foreign country hardly makes the Pinoy press right? But a maid from Mindanao or the boonies who stabs her employer becomes tabloid fodder. Remember Flor Contemplacion? The only way a Pinoy Professional OFW who could be an alum of UP, Ateneo or De La Salle who has flipped to make the blurbs is for him/her to shoot people with an automatic weapon in a New York Starbucks! And I do know some UP, Ateneo and DLSU grads overseas who have flipped (fortunately none have considered raking Starbucks with automatic fire! They sought professional help!)

I say this to expose the class based hypocrisy that is present in Filipino society, the ruling class and the government.

The reader shouldn't presuppose that I have no idea of the life of an OFW. I was one once (the Academic OFW type) and having survived through many of the world's airports, I always have time to chat with OFWs especially domestics on how their life is. I have put these tales on paper which I hope to publish.

The conclusion from our lives overseas is simple. What the OFW with a PhD encounters is about the same what an OFW domestic worker encounters. The difference is only of place, the workplace.

The domestic worker I spent talking to for 4 hours in Frankfurt faced the same challenges that I faced. We have all a tendency for insanity. What the Philippine government is doing is making us tip towards that!

But at the rate the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government is running the country, more and more of us are considering to leave the country. Now many of us leave our families behind even in more uncertain times. One nurse told me that her 70 yr old mother has had to line for NFA rice.This laid heavily on her mind.

As for me, I do may take up the life of an academic OFW again.

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