Of Victims and Saviors: Government Rhetoric on OFWs on Death Row Abroad

Crisis communication is a strategy wherein governments (and other institutions) “feed” messages to media to persuade citizens they are taking action to keep crises under control (Baubion, 2013). Press statements and releases are among the most common forms of persuasive communication used to influence public discourse (Carbonero, 2013).

Spurred by the high-profile Mary Jane Veloso case in Indonesia in 2015, this study looks into Philippine government representation of cases of OFWs on death row abroad.

Results showed the persistence of the bagong bayani construction, with emphasis on personal choice and responsibility. That is, OFWs on death row were represented as victims of their own actions, thus constructing the cases as a migrant rather than a government responsibility. In contrast, the government was represented as an all-out and relentless savior, and strong it its policies.

Findings suggest the need for government to recognize these cases as part of the bigger human/drug trafficking problem-a government problem-as an initial step to a solution; and that media should be more critical in using press statements/releases and seek to broaden discourse by incorporating the views of migrants and advocates.