The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is scheduled to send a Composite Team to Malaysia in order to validate reports of human rights violations, especially abuses committed against women and children, allegedly perpetrated by Malaysian deportation authorities.
According to CHR Chairperson Leila M. De Lima, the objective of the Mission is to gather firsthand information on alleged beatings and maltreatment, as well as the overall condition of overseas Filipino workers or OFWs, particularly women and children, who are under detention in Sabah and Sandakan in Malaysia.
"We have received complaints of this nature from the deportees themselves from our Regional Office in Zamboanga. And as an independent constitutional office mandated to protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of every Filipino, whether residing here or abroad as a result of their work thereat, we are duty bound to look after their welfare and well-being as well," the CHR head said.
The CHR Special Mission Team, the CHR Chief added, will be headed by Commissioner Norberto Dela Cruz, a lawyer and a respected Public Prosecutor before he joined the Commission. He will be joined by Atty. Jose Manuel S. Mamauag, CHR Region IX Director, as well as lawyers and special investigators.
Last October 7, 2008, the reported abuses were also brought to the attention of the CHR by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus S. Rodriguez during the Congressional deliberations on the proposed budget of the CHR.
The conduct of the investigation and eventual assistance to Filipino nationals will be fully coordinated with the Commission on Human Rights of Malaysia.
According to the statistics obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), as of December 2007, there are at least 244,967 Filipinos in Malaysia with the following category: (1) permanent or those who have already migrated to Malaysia because of marriage or other factors; (2) temporary or those workers processed by the POEA; (3) irregular workers or non-processed by the POEA also known as undocumented workers. The latter category is the most susceptible to abuses, Chairperson De Lima said.
According to Chairperson De Lima, it has been a common occurrence that the irregular workers are lured by unscrupulous agents or recruitment agencies through illegal, back-channels. These agencies smuggle Filipinos into Malaysia by sea because of the proximity of Zamboanga, as well as other places in Mindanao, to Malaysia.
"Whatever the circumstances that have brought them there... it should not be [permissible for] Malaysian deportation authorities, or any host country for that matter, to abuse or maltreat migrants. They should be respected as any individual should be-- they should be given equal dignity as any other citizen of the world," Chairperson De Lima said.
Malaysian authorities are very strict with regard to its immigration rules. Sometime in the early 90's they conducted rounds in churches and houses arresting illegal or irregular workers including Filipino nationals.