We caught up with Mr. Orion and spoke with him about why he wrote what he wrote.
In his original post (which has now gone viral), he urged his fellow Filipinos not to retaliate against their host-country, and more importantly, called on his compatriots to divert their anger and frustrations to the Philippine government instead.
Orion, 40, is an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) IT professional who has been working in Singapore since 2000. Despite the recent negativity surrounding OFWs in Singapore, Orion sees this as a silver lining to finally drive the real issues across.
To him, the insensitive rants on social media by a few OFWs are partly a product of their resentment towards having to leave (short of being “forced to leave”) their home country for better employment opportunities abroad.
The real questions to ask then should be, “Why did they have to leave the Philippines in the first place and who is to blame for this?”
The Philippine government, according to Orion, should be the one held responsible for the lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines. At 6%, the Philippines has one of the highest unemployment rates among all the ASEAN countries (Singapore is at 2%) – surprising for a country with abundant natural resources and a large able-bodied work force.
(6% is the official unemployment rate quoted by the Philippine government, but estimates by outside sources often claim that real unemployment figures in the Philippines may actually be as high as 30% to even 45% of the total working-age population.)
Which leads to another question, “Why is that so?”
The root of the problem
The Philippines has a presidential system of government which, according to Orion, is a cumbersome and gridlock-prone political system that is not very conducive to having the most competent people leading the country, and in addition, the Philippines also has explicit economic restrictions in the 1987 Constitution that actively discourage foreign investors from investing in the Philippines.
In a nutshell, with a constitution that is better-written than the defective 1987 Constitution, the Philippines could have had more foreign direct investors, which would have led to more jobs within the country, thus minimising the need for ordinary Filipinos to seek employment abroad.
In fact, Orion himself has been campaigning for a reform of the 1987 Constitution’s economic and political system provisions though the CoRRECT™ Movement [link to: www.correctphilippines.org] (short for “Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation”), a constitutional reform advocacy movement and website which he established in late 2010 to educate and inform Filipinos (and non-Filipinos) about the social and political issues that are hindering the Philippines’ economic growth and progress.
“The government needs to make these changes to their policies and to their constitution so that things will become better, and Filipinos will NOT have to keep on going outside the country and flooding into other societies like Singapore,” says Orion.
Since launching his site four years ago, Orion and his team have compiled and published numerous articles detailing the flaws and shortcomings of the highly protectionist and anti-foreign investor economic system and the unitary presidential system of government which have resulted in massive unemployment, massive poverty, and other problems such as poor infrastructure and poor distribution of resources, to name a few.
However, the sad truth is that the Filipino masses question these issues only in times of tragedy. According to Orion, traffic to his site peaked during Typhoon Haiyan because of an article he published on the site analysing the Philippine government’s inability to respond to the typhoon emergency appropriately. Despite the grim timing, the article inadvertently reached out to more people, and the movement has since been growing from strength to strength.
Spread the word
Until the Philippine government wakes up to their idea, the influx of OFWs will persist not just in Singapore but in other countries as well. Orion believes that knowledge is the key that will pave the way for future reforms to tackle the migrant worker deployment issue, but while Filipinos are still guests at various countries, they should also learn to integrate and assimilate into their host-societies.
Pressure, perhaps, may be a good motivator for OFWs to be more aware. “Singaporeans can help out by disseminating [the pro-Constitutional Reform agenda] information to as many Filipino friends, colleagues and contacts, because nothing compels a Filipino into action more than when a foreigner tells him about it,” says Orion.
“The greater the pressure, the bigger the impact,” he adds.