Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Artist Record Book (ARB)

I remember that a couple of years ago, the Japanese government said that they will no longer honor the Artist Record Book (ARB). The ARB is an official Philippine document issued by TESDA authenticating that the holder is a certified performing artist. It is a highly-valued document and seen as a ticket towards a lucrative overseas contract for Filipino dancers, singers, band members and other performing artists, most especially to Japan. Before anyone can qualify for an ARB, one has to perform before a panel of professional artists at TESDA.

Enter the enterprising Pinoy. Someone in TESDA started selling the ARBs (some say as high as P50,000) to unqualified and untalented Filipinas. Without talent, these Filipinas naturally ended up as prostitutes in Japan's brothels and nightclubs. For a while, everyone was happy: the unscrupulous employees at TESDA got their money, the poor "Japayuki" got to work and earn her lapad, the Japanese DOMs had their fun with our women, and the talent managers (or mama sans) were making a killing on the illegal flesh trade. But after the 9/11 bombing, the U.S. government started cracking down on human trafficking and it placed Japan in its "blacklist" of countries with atrocious track records in human trafficking. To save face and improve their image abroad, Japan decided to impose a crackdown on illegal immigrants in their country.

First, the Japanese government deported all Filipino "overstayers," or those individuals who entered Japan on a tourist visa and found employers there. Then, the Japanese government declared that they will no longer honor our ARB, citing the anomalous practices at TESDA. Since the ARB is an official Philippine document, our Foreign Affairs officials considered filing a diplomatic protest (imagine another country saying that they will no longer honor the Philippine visa!) but decided not to pursue it after finding out that the Japanese had some basis (and hard evidence) to support their stand. In the end, a total of 80,000 Filipinos in Japan returned to the Philippines, with only those Filipinas married to Japanese citizens remaining there. As a consolation, Japan offered the Philippines a treaty which basically says that we don't want your "Japayukis" we want your nurses (but they must be Japanese-speaking). Just like that, the Philippines lost one of its biggest markets for its OFWs (next only to the U.S. and Middle East) due to the shenanigans of a few Filipinos and a few employees at TESDA.

I am recounting the TESDA-ARB controversy here to put in perspective the current scandal facing the Philippine nursing profession. Again, a few Filipinos and a few employees at PRC are jeopardizing the nursing careers of thousands of Filipinos. Thousands of innocent students who passed the nursing board through hard work, diligent study and personal sacrifice will now be made to pay for the actions of this few unscrupulous Filipinos. As I have said before, the solution to this problem is not to make the students take the exam again but by catching and punishing the culprits. Why is it that in this country, it is the law-abider who gets inconvenienced and the innocent punished while the guilty gets away unpunished?

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