Ex-AFP chief Cimatu, new Cabinet member: veteran in handling OFW crisis

April 24, 2017 - 12:46 AM
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MANILA – Former Armed Forces chief of staff Roy Cimatu is now officially a member of the Cabinet, holding a position that puts him at the center of OFW concerns, similar to his 2002 job of preparing the Filipinos in the Middle East ahead of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself confirmed he had given Cimatu a Cabinet position, calling “Secretary” during his speech at the opening of the Palarong Pambansa Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President had designated Cimatu, who served as AFP chief of staff from May to September 2002, as the Special Envoy for OFW Refugees.

When he visited the Middle East during the Holy Week, Duterte had revealed he was talking to the retired general for a possible Cabinet job.

The new position puts Cimatu right at the center of efforts to substantially ease the backlog in the thousands of OFWs stranded in various countries, mostly in the Middle East, on account of reasons ranging from immigration status problems, conflicts with the law, abandonment or abuse by employers.

The soft-spoken but tough general is not new to untangling problems of OFWs, especially those requiring mobilization, in the Middle East.

In the last quarter of 2002 and early 2003, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo named Cimatu special envoy to the Middle East. The job required him to go around the region and coordinate an interagency effort to prepare to evacuate thousands of OFWs in countries that could be affected as tensions rose with America’s announced plan to confront Iraq over supposed weapons of mass destruction kept by the Saddam Hussein regime.

This time around, his appointment comes on the heels of efforts by President Duterte to fast-track the processing of thousands of stranded OFWs, over a hundred of whom came home with him from Saudi Arabia. With Maricel Halili, News5