Filipino care workers head to Jerusalem to welcome President Duterte

Israel counts almost 28,000 legal and illegal Filipinos who work mainly as caregivers, according to the Foreign Ministry.

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September 2, 2018 21:50
4 minute read.

Filipino Community in Israel Ahead of Duterte Visit Sep 3 2018

Filipino Community in Israel Ahead of Duterte Visit Sep 3 2018

Over 1,000 Filipino care workers came to Jerusalem to welcome their controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, who arrived in Israel on Sunday evening for an official four-day visit. Duterte is the first Filipino president to ever visit the country.

Israel counts almost 28,000 legal and illegal Filipinos who work mainly as caregivers, according to the Foreign Ministry.

One of Duterte’s goals, reported by media outlets in the Philippines, is to evaluate the conditions of Filipino workers in the country and design a plan with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to regulate and expand the recruitment process. The latter is conducted by recruitment agencies both in Israel and in the Philippines, which can charge over $8,000 to arrange for them to come to Israel as caregivers (the only working-visa option available for Filipino workers). On average, it takes them two-and-a-half years to pay it off.

“We hope Duterte will bring change to our community here in Israel,” said Hernanita G. Mamangkas, treasurer of the National Alliance For the Philippine Communities (Nafilco), located at Tel Aviv’s central bus station. “Many workers want a better status – a permanent status,” she added.

Dressed in a long, fancy dress, Ms. Mamangkas said, “We’re all going to Jerusalem to see him.”

“She will sing a song for him,” said a co-worker in the office. Mamangkas laughed. “We’re very happy that he’s coming. I’m a strong supporter. He’s a wonderful man.”

In addition, Filipino media outlets reported that Duterte is considering buying modern equipment for the Philippine Coast Guard during his visit to Israel. On a visit to a local synagogue in the Philippines, Duterte urged the congregation: “Please, ask your people who are here to sell us arms. All of my equipment… I’ve always told the national security… Buy it from the Israel companies – because we are safe.”


THE POPULATION of the Philippines, according to the World Bank, is 105 million; Overseas Filipino Workers [OFW] account for 10% of that. Duterte won overwhelmingly among absentee Filipinos; they were one of the focuses of his campaign, in which he referred to them as a “pillar of society” and promised to raise their status in the Philippines.

“My children now have a future in the Philippines,” said Herminigilda Del Carmen, a caregiver in Hadera who helped to establish the OFW Global Movement for Empowerment in Israel. Last year, the movement campaigned for Duterte’s election and helped Filipinos to arrive at the embassy to cast their votes in the presidential election.

“I’m a divorcée with five children. My ex-husband was a drug addict who used to beat up my children. I had to take them to my parent’s house and later move to Israel to support them,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “Duterte’s taking care of it – of the drugs.”

Duterte has been in the spotlight for his “War on Drugs” – including the brutal killing of over 5,000 impoverished citizens and the arrest of 50,000 suspected of involvement with drugs and alcohol, and of opposing his policies in the drug-stricken Philippines.

Furthermore, Duterte’s outrageous statements have raised indignation both internationally and at home. He compared himself and his policy of executing drug dealers to Hitler’s execution of Jews, later apologizing in a speech to a local synagogue. Nevertheless, he stated that he only mentioned Hitler because he is willing to kill 3 million drug addicts—promising that he will do it.


AS IF that wasn’t enough, Duterte stated during his campaign that his voters should not worry about his mistresses because he keeps them cheaply in boarding houses; he has bragged about stabbing someone when he was 16 years old; he called the pope a “son of a bitch” for causing traffic jams during his visit to the Philippines; he told his soldiers that if they rape women, he will take the charges; he called his daughter a “drama queen” when she revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault; and recently, in Davao City where he had been mayor, he said that as long as there are beautiful women, there will be rape.

When asked about Duterte’s drug policies, his supporters nodded in approval, replying that “he’s cleaned up the country.”

“Gever gever,” (the Hebrew expression for ‘a strong man’) some replied; others raised their hands with clenched fists – a sign used by his supporters.

When asked specifically about Duterte’s indiscriminate killing of drug addicts from the poorest areas in the country, the reaction was one of denial. Some said that it was fake news and rumors from the opposition. Others, when told that Duterte compared himself to Hitler, said that was just his way of speaking.

“You see, the president jokes all the time,” said Ramón Bóligar, an OFW from Davao City. While boarding the bus to Jerusalem to welcome the president, he said in excitement, “that’s the way we speak in that region; we use very strong language and we joke all the time. But he’s a very good man.”

“As Duterte says – if needed, he will go to hell for turning the Philippines into heaven for us,” concluded Ms. Del Carmen.


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