By Abner Galino
Neophyte Philippine Senator Sherwin Gatchalian held a town hall meeting on Wednesday (December 27) at the Philippine Consulate General Office here in Los Angeles wherein he expressed his views on the several issues affecting the country and kababayans.
Gatchalian started off by bringing up the plight of Filipino overseas workers who are victimized by unscrupulous recruiters and human traffickers.
“Ang masakit pa, ang mga kababayan pa natin mismo ang bumibiktima sa kanila (OFWs),” Gatchalian lamented.
The senator urged the Filipino American community to help identify and prosecute those who are victimizing fellow Filipinos.
At one point during the discussion, Gatchalian said the export of human resources is bound to continue despite promises by political administrations of supposed domestic job creations to keep Filipino workers at home.
“I don’t see it’s in our way to see Filipinos back home. I don’t see it’s in our way to have enough jobs for Filipinos to stay. Sana meron, it’s been the policy of every administration. Kapag papakinggan n’yo ‘yung campaign promise nila, sasabihin nila we will create enough jobs para wala ng umalis na Pinoy. But everyday 5,000 Filipino workers go abroad,” Gatchalian explained.
The trend, the solon added, is not going to change for at least “10 to 15 years down the road.”
At the moment, according to Gatchalian, the government could only help by making sure that there are enough “mechanisms” to protect the Filipino workers abroad which numbers to about 10 million (both documented and undocumented) around the world.
The senator praised the freshly passed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2017 for supposedly being progressive because it will grant free tuition fee on public colleges and will raise the base pay of policemen and soldiers by 100 percent.
Gatchalian went on to drumbeat for a supposed improved peace and order situation in the country. And urged the audience to help promote Philippine tourism. Expectedly, the issue of extra-judicial killings was brought up during the discussion, which the senator downplayed.
The comic relief came when the name of the controversial and newly appointed Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office director Sandra Cam was mentioned.
Prior to this, Gatchalian said he would prefer that the PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan resign as a result of the uncovering of the scandalous P10 million Christmas Party of the said agency.
“I think it (the act of organizing the Christmas party) was insensitive,” Gatchalian said.
But when asked whether he approved of Cam replacing Balutan as PCSO general manager, Gatchalian simply smiled and said: “Wala po tayong alam diyan.”
Gatchalian said he was on a personal trip and that the town hall meeting was his way of trying to connect with Philippine officials abroad and the expatriate community.
“We want to know their pulse and find out what we can do to help,” Gatchalian said.