09 July 2004

Filipinos Forced To Face Unnecessary Perils

"Sasabak na lang kami sa kamatayan dun sa Iraq, kesa mamatay sa gutom dito!!!" Translated in English, this means: "We would rather endanger ourselves and die in Iraq, than die starving here!!!"

Thus spoke most Filipino workers who continue to apply for work in Iraq in spite of the disturbing news that a rebel Iraqi terrorist group threatened to behead captured Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz (see picture below). I caught this on late night TV news yesterday as I was returning home from the hospital.

ANGELO DELA CRUZ: Filipino Hostage in Iraq

Almost 2,500 Filipino overseas contract workers (OCWs) leave the country every day to seek work abroad and for them, "Iraq is just another means of escape from the poverty and unemployment that has turned the Philippines into a nation of migrants." [Reuters]

According to an ABS-CBN report, "at least 4,000 Filipino workers had been able to slip into Iraq without the knowledge of Manila since they were hired by US and British companies from their former workplaces in other Mideast countries."

Did you know that instead of being grateful to GMA for issuing an "immediate ban" on the deployment of workers to Iraq due to the hostage crisis, 120 Filipino workers waiting to fly to Iraq last night were shocked and angry when immigration officials told them they could not board their flight??? They were held at the airport for some time before officials conceded to let them fly to Dubai for the meantime.

This is how bad the situation is.

Manolito Dabasol, a 33-year-old father of two, and one of the 120 workers held at the airport was quoted by Reuters saying,
"I am willing to go. It (the hostage-taking) does not bother me. Just to support my family, I will go.
If you only saw the tension and the anger on the faces of those workers, you will see that they do not regard Iraq as a dangerous place at all, but some sort of haven. It was as if they were saying that any place other than the Philippines is definitely better!

I am saddened by these reactions.

As for Angelo Dela Cruz, ABS-CBN news last night said the time given to him by his captors is slowly slipping away. As of last night, he had 32 hours to live before he gets beheaded.

It took the government already one whole day to determine if he was Filipino and if he ought to be helped. Today they are sending a former Armed Forces Chief of Staff to Iraq to mediate. By the time the envoy reaches there, I think Dela Cruz will have less than 24 hours to live.

Are his captors bluffing? I don't think so.

Last June 22, South Korean Kim Sun-il was beheaded in Baghdad while pleading
"I don't want to die!." A month ago, American businessman Nicholas Berg, was shown beheaded by the same group that claimed responsibility for Kim's death. Their captors had the same request, the pull-out of South Korean and American forces in Iraq. The captors of Angelo Dela Cruz requests the pullout of the 51-man Filipino humanitarian team in Iraq.
Will she listen?

Let us pray hard for the safety of Angelo Dela Cruz.

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