Screenshot from @Yakamari12 on TikTok

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) head Arnell Ignacio has reminded Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to be careful in using social media following the case of Rolando Morales, Tristan Ibarra, and three other Filipinos working in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Sharjah police arrested the five Filipinos because of their TikTok video uploaded on March 12, 2023. The controversial TikTok video shows the accused joking in English and Arabic about “selling” themselves for a cheap price.

One of the five arrested OFWs pretended to be selling his companions in the viral TikTok video, which reached the authorities in Sharjah, UAE. They uploaded the video and had no idea it can get them into legal trouble.

“We are here in Megamall—this is how girl. Oh, see, they have no customer, no show today. You see, o? This is ate. This is new girl fresh from the Philippines. Come na,” one of the accused said on the popular social media site.

The video went viral and quickly reached the authorities in Sharjah, leading to the arrest of the OFWs.

Prostitution is strictly prohibited and considered a crime in the Middle East, so they were immediately charged.

According to Sara Advocates, the legal retainer of the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai, the case against Morales and his co-accused has been upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Ignacio expressed frustration and asked the five OFWs, who were arrested and seeking help from the Philippine government, how OWWA could remind them about what to avoid when working abroad.

“Sa mga OFWs naman natin na lagi na lang isinasangkot yong sarili nila sa mga kalokohan, nanadya na gawin basta gusto nila gagawin nila kahit alam nilang mapapahamak sila—utang na loob naman. Alam niyo, hindi na ho namin malaman kung paano pa kayo ireremind, paano ba kayo aasikasuhin, paano pa namin kayo pagsisilbihan,” a frustrated Ignacio said on his TikTok.

“Meron magpapanggap na mga prostitute, andyan si Sharjah—itiTikTok niyo pa. Ito na naman, syempre ano pang gagawin natin? Sasaklolohan kayo, yong iba makikipag-away pa dahil ipinagpipilitang mag cross country sila kahit na mapapahamak. Pag napahamak naman, magsusumbong na naman kayo sa lahat ng mga television station, radio, pagkatapos iibahin niyo naman yong kuwento,” he added.

According to Ignacio, OWWA’s ability to take care of them has been compromised due to their own actions.

Additionally, he mentioned an incident involving an OFW who was apprehended for shoplifting in Singapore. Ignacio said OWWA even received criticism for their decision to commence an investigation, as the Pinoy had already admitted to committing the offense.

“Ang rason sa akin, umamin naman, bakit kailangan pang imbestigahan. Ano ho ba tayo? Hindi ba tayo nahihiya sa mga pinaggagagawa natin,” he asked.

He admonished them, emphasizing that they represent their country as ambassadors when they leave and that their conduct can have consequences for the reputation of other OFWs and the Philippines.