The Hanging Fate of OFWs Buried in Debt

OFW applicants inside POEA on August 29, 2017

DOHA, Qatar/MANILA, Philippines – Greg* first started receiving threats from collectors of his lending agency 4 months after he returned to the Philippines from Qatar last December 2015.

Binantaan kami na kung hindi daw kami magbabayad ng loan ay ipapapublish daw ang mga mukha at pangalan namin sa Facebook, TV, at diyaryo para ikahiya kami ng aming mga anak at pamilya,” Greg said. He added, “Sabi niya (kolektor) na masama raw ang ugali namin dahil hindi kami marunong magbayad ng utang at ipinadala rin nila ito sa lahat ng taong inilista namin bilang character reference noong nag-apply kami ng loan.

(They threatened to post our names and faces on Facebook, TV, and newspapers so we would be humiliated in front of our children and relatives if we did not pay. The collector said we were bad people because we didn’t know how to pay loans and told this to all the people we placed as character references when we applied for a loan.)

Working as a waiter at an Italian restaurant in Doha, Greg is one of the 6,000 Filipinos who leave daily for work overseas.

Had Greg gotten his way, he would have chosen to stay in Qatar. Despite months’ worth of delayed wagescoupled with verbal and emotional abuse in his workplace – all came second to a fact: he had a loan to pay.

Tiniis kong lahat ang ginagawa sa akin dahil alam kong may obligasyon akong binabayaran sa lending,” Greg said in an affidavit. (I endured everything because I knew that I had an obligation to pay back my loan.)

With his salary withheld for months, Greg could not resign to look for another job. Under the kafalasystem, he would have to secure the permission of his employer before starting an application for other work.

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