TNT is a Filipino colloquialism which means tago nang tago, literally (those who) keep hiding. It refers to Filipinos who are abroad illegally – as in without proper documentation and legal clearance – and thus hide from the authorities in order to avoid being deported back to the Philippines.
With the way that the number of Filipinos seeking employment abroad doesn’t seem to be decreasing, despite president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s claims last year that more overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) are coming home due to a vibrant economy, the OFW issue, and along with it the issue with TNT’s, is a time bomb just waiting to explode.
Malaysia, according to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez, hosts approximately 700,000 Filipinos, of which he estimates nearly half could face documentation problems. And now the day has come, January 21, 2014, for the Malaysian government to start their crackdown on illegal immigrants, not just those from the Philippines, but from other countries as well.
Recall that in November last 2013, Saudi Arabia had also begun its own crackdown on illegal immigrants as part of a program known as Saudization – a policy enacted to encourage employment of Saudi nationals in their private sector. At least 15 undocumented OFW’s were reported arrested according to the Filipino rights group Migrante, which the DFA denied at that time.
The success of the crackdown and the Saudization policy, however, reportedly remains in doubt as foreign nationals, including Filipinos, keep coming back to the kingdom en masse.
Because the Philippine economy is, to a significant extent, dependent on OFW remittances to prop itself up – and it will most likely be that way for a long time – Filipinos need the issue of crackdowns on illegal immigrants and of misbehaving OFW’s like they do a bullet to the head.
As the population of the Philippines continues to grow, and as long as the Philippines remains largely a consumer market, nothing, it seems, is likely to stop Filipinos from seeking work abroad, risking life and limb, and circumventing the legal process for the ever-elusive better paying job.
What’s worse, it seems, is that both Filipinos and their government, in general, do not see this as an immediate cause for concern. OFW’s looking for employment outside of the Philippines is generally regarded as a stop-gap solution, and yet the inaction and apathy that one can readily feel from Filipinos and their government suggests that as long as they get their foreign goods, money, and cellphone load from their patron, then nothing needs fixing.
There is something horribly telling about a government that is largely unable to provide jobs for its native population, and all the more so about the electorate who routinely tolerate, and even encourage and propagate, such behavior.
Speaking of the government’s apathy towards the OFW’s, reports of abuse on the part of embassy officials persist. The slowness of the action on guaranteeing the safety of OFW’s when they are misplaced during times of conflict is well-known, and the ever-increasing fees imposed on them have led OFW’s to organize protests in certain places. In essence, the Philippine government is milking OFW’s as dry as they can, while simultaneously giving them the middle finger. So much for utang-na-loob (feeling of indebtedness) and for branding them as the new “heroes”.
What is the current solution that the Philippine government and Filipinos have to the issue with OFW’s, you may ask? It’s really simple:
Go overseas and beg some more.
The Philippines is a long way down its excessive reliance on OFW remittances to prop its hollow economy up. It is certainly not helping that the population of the Philippines continues to grow faster than the rate at which it is able to support itself. If Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are but the start of a trend of crackdowns on illegal immigrants in foreign countries, and if the trend is for countries to reduce the number of foreign workers in their country and to prioritize local employment, it will only be a matter of time before the Philippine government will be totally unable to sweep its humanitarian crisis under the rug.
But then again, we are talking about a group of people who have never grasped the need to solve issues before they become full-blown. We are talking about a group of people who have never understood what it is like to take responsibility for their own actions. They always externalize a problem instead of internalizing it, even when it is very clear that they had a hand in creating such a problem.
Wonder no more why problems hardly get solved in this fun place called the Philippines.
[Photo courtesy: Free Malaysia Today]
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