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Ph.D Political Science (2011)
Department of Political Science


This study critically explores the ways in which the bagong bayani representation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) justifies labor export. Specifically, it seeks to account for the emergence and development of the bagong bayani discourse by looking at the way it was shaped by the state, media and civil society in formulating policies to respond to three OFW cases that attracted wide public attention and contestations. These three cases: (1) the Maricris Sioson Case in 1991; (2) the Flor Contemplacion Case in 1995; and, (3) the Angelo dela Cruz Case in 2004, are argued to have played pivotal roles in the development of the bagong bayani discourse and overseas employment policies. A modified Discourse-Historical Approach (Leeuwen and Wodak 1999; Reisigl and Wodak 2009) was employed in conducting a predicate analysis of transcripts of Senate public hearings, circulars, memoranda, department orders and other government documents, news reports of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and Abante and selected episodes of TV Patrol, the primetime news program of ABS-CBN television network and press statements of the Office of the Secretary in the Angelo dela Cruz case. Key informant interviews were conducted as well as the collection of secondary quantitative and qualitative data to supplement the predicate analysis. To determine whether there is an emerging counter-discourse to the bagong bayani, a predicate analysis of Migrante International news releases was also conducted.

Three key research questions guided the empirical questions: ((i) What is the context in which the bagong bayani emerged and why did it emerge at a particular historical juncture?; (ii) How is labor export justified by the bagong bayani discourse and specifically, what are the linguistic components of this discourse which allow it to shape migration policy and justify labor export?; and, (iii) Is there an emerging alternative discourse that challenges bagong bayani?

Overall, the study finds that bagong bayani emerged during the Aquino administration in the context of great economic difficulties coupled with the rising number of temporary contract migrants compared to permanent migrants, feminization of migration and the concerns of risks and ‘social cost’ that congressional inquiries, civic society, the media and popular culture have expressed. Consequently, this created a condition in which the state finds the contradictory need to maximize remittances as an economic strategy, even as it needs to be perceived as a ‘protector’ to legitimate its role in labor export. This study argues that bagong bayani has emerged in this context as a discursive tool to manage this contradiction. The predicate analysis finds three discursive themes in the texts reviewed in the three cases: migrants as ‘bodies’/’victims’, migrants as ‘entertainers’/’prostitutes’, ‘domestic.