By Rudy D. Liporada
Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) had called President Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte their ‘Ang Huling Baraha’ or their Last Card – their only hope. This is because during his campaign for the presidency, he promised that “This is the last generation of OFWs.” He promised that he will revive the steel industry and generate employment in the country so the OFWs can come home, expecting to be employed and be with their families.
They, the OFWs, loved him.
Three years into Digong’s presidency, there is no revival of the steel industry in the offing, unemployment has worsened, and Filipinos still fly out of the country in hordes every day to add to the estimated 15 million already working in over 100 foreign lands. From a record low of $6 Billion in remittances in 1989, according to the Central Bank of the Philippines, the remittance from the OFWs shot to $31 Billion in 2018. This represents 10% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Philippines.
For this, the OFWs are hailed as heroes for their sacrifices in leaving their families; enduring cultural shocks they are not used to; suffering abuses from their foreign employers; and wallowing in loneliness as they miss their families, norms, and the general way of life they had to leave so they could provide for their families.
With the GDP of the Philippines steadily plummeting but the remittances increasing every year, one wonders who else the OFWs are providing for. One has to wonder how Digong could afford a jet that is worth billions, how he can increase the pay of his Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers and police, how the senators can allot themselves personal pork – without any visible improvement in income generating industries in the Philippines.
It would appear, as it shows that there are really no steps being taken for Digong to bring home the OFWs, that it is really beneficial for the GDP and for those who have access to the OFW remittances, for the OFW system, sending them abroad to earn for the country, to remain.
Yet, they, the OFWs, still love him.
The trolls come to mind.
Away from the mainland and not feeling the fangs of hardships of mainstream Filipinos and lulled by their relatively ‘big’ income and their families being relatively above poverty, OFWs’ minds could be easily clouded with what is being fed in social media. The social media, being the only window of the OFWs, with the trolls dominating their attention, the OFWs still love Digong. Never mind about the transportation crisis, never mind the ever-increasing prices of goods and services, never mind the devaluation of the peso (which the OFWs actually like because their foreign currency increases in value).
Yes, they still love him.
As in his campaign, Digong has fashioned an army of trolls. They use the power of the social media where the strategy popularized in the computer industry in the US is known as FUD for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – a disinformation that spreads false or fake information. Former activist and ex-ABS-CBN sales chief Nic Gabunada admitted that he headed Digong’s social media trolls. He built the network with Php10 Million with up to 500 volunteers. They were organized into four main groups: OFWs, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Each of the 500 handled from 300 to 6,000 members with a largest group of 800,000. Their mission: Deodorize Digong and attack all those who criticize him and his pronouncements and executions. A troll could be paid up to Php100,000.00 and month for churning fallacious statements and produce disinformation, basically, fake news.
Of late, Digong has recycled the mother of Philippine fake news, Mocha Uson, to be the deputy executive director of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Digong needs to shore up his apologists and attack dogs to distract not only the OFWs but all Filipinos from the continuous spiraling down of the socio-economic conditions facing the millions of Filipinos. Mocha who transferred the Mayon Volcano from Albay to Naga and not a qualified civil service employee has now an easy reach to the hard-earned money of OFWs to be used against them in making fake news and unnecessary junkets. Note, too, that she featured in a publicity stunt that endangered the lives of OFWs in a ‘rescue mission’ in Kuwait last 2018.
Yes, with the help of trolls, OFWs still love Digong.
But truth will always prevail in the end because OFWs could only be fooled for so long. # nordis.net