“ABAD, BUTCHer of OFW funds!” – Migrante

abad butcherMigrante International slammed what it called DBM Sec. Abad’s “BUTCHering of OFW funds” in the 2015 national budget.

According to Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson, the DBM deleted the P89.6-million budget initially penned in the proposed 2015 budget for the implementation of the overseas absentee voting (OAV).

“It is highly unfortunate that the DBM views the OAV budget as one of the dispensable items in the 2015 budget, while it is loathe to remove pork barrel, DAP and other DAP-like questionable lump-sum funds. This government would rather take away OFWs’ right to vote than give up sources of funds for massive corruption,” Pillas said.

She added that the DBM also slashed funds for OFW services, among them legal assistance, assistance to nationals and repatriation.

“What happened to the annual P100-million Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for OFWs?” Pillas asked. She said that the LAF is sourced from the Presidential Social Fund of P50-million; Contingency Fund of the President of P30-million, and; OWWA of P20-million. Pillas said that only P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since BS Aquino became president in 2011.

She added that based on DFA disbursement reports, the DFA has at least P6-billion unused funds from 2010 to 2013. She revealed that a large chunk of the so-called “savings” were from the “underspent” allocations for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) and the Assistance to Nationals (ATN).

From 2010 to 2013, only 34% of the appropriations for the OAV was used up. As for the ATN budget, disbursement totalled only to P741-million while P19-billion was allocated for the budget item “protection of national interest of Filipino nationals abroad.”

This were the same period when the DAP funds were accumulated, Pillas said.

“We have enough reasons to suspect that the BS Aquino administration, through its main ‘Budget Butcher’ Sec. Butch Abad, may have siphoned billions of unused funds of the DFA for DAP. May pera sa DAP pero wala para sa mga serbisyo at proteksyon sa OFWs. Bakit magkakaroon ng savings ang DFA samantalang libo-libo ang mga migrante ang nagrereklamo na hindi sila natulungan ng gobyerno,” she said. ###

Migrante condemns criminalization of undocumented migrants in EU-wide crackdown

undocsGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International condemns in strongest terms the ongoing crackdowns resulting in the criminalization of undocumented migrants and refugees being implemented by the European Union.

The EU-wide crackdown called “MOS MAIORUM” has launched massive police operations to hunt down undocumented or irregular migrants and refugees in the region. Operations have started last October 13 and is set to end on October 26. MOS MAIORUM has been approved by the Council of the European Union last July 10, 2014 and is being implemented under Italy’s presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Overseas Filipino workers and Filipino migrants in Europe have expressed grave concern as more than 20,000 police officers have been deployed in massive operations ranging from increasing checks in airports, stations, trains, main roads and highways to house raids. The main objective of the operations is to actively hunt down undocumented migrants and arrest as many as possible within the time frame of its implementation.

“We call on the European Union to call for a stop this inhumane operation. Under the guise of going after crime and trafficking syndicates, MOS MAIORUM is giving license to EU authorities and police to indiscriminately arrest and violate the rights of irregular migrants, and promote xenophobia and racial discrimination,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that MOS MAIORUM is in direct violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. These conventions do not discriminate against undocumented and irregular migrant workers, he said.

“Being undocumented is never reason to be stripped of one’s fundamental human rights. Undocumented migrants and refugees, who inevitably provide solutions to labor shortages or the clamor for cheap labor in host countries, especially in times of economic crisis, should not be marginalized and exploited. They are already less able to assert their claims and are more vulnerable to abuses. MOS MAIORUM will only make them more susceptible to grave abuses and human rights violations.”

Martinez said that while they fully support moves to prevent human trafficking, Migrante believes that MOS MAIORUM will not solve but rather further exacerbate the problem. Instead of arresting irregular migrants and treating them as criminals, their status should be rectified because it makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by crime syndicates.

Further, MOS MAIORUM is being implemented at a time when health epidemics, civil wars and conflicts in the Middle East-North Africa region and elsewhere in the world continue. Millions of people are on the run because of these. Such a situation makes it a tool for crime and trafficking syndicates to intensify their activities. Constricting borders and implementing stringent immigration policies will not only cost lives but will also worsen trafficking in persons in the region, Martinez said.

Migrante International supports the international campaign for the de-criminalization and legalization of undocumented migrants and refugees.

According to December 2011 data of the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is an estimated 746,701 Filipinos in Europe, 138,088 are undocumented. ###


Migrante calls for justice for Laude, US troops out of PH soil

photo from dailymail.co.uk

photo from dailymail.co.uk

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International joins other sectors in calling for justice for the brutal murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude.

According to Mic Catuira, Migrante International spokesperson, Laude’s heinous murder is a blatant reminder of the numerous crimes committed by US troops against Filipinos and how the Philippine government would opt to turn a blind eye on justice just to protect US interests.

Catuira said that Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine, the prime suspect in Laude’s murder, should not be allowed to enjoy the same fate as US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the Subic rape case. Smith was not tried in Philippine courts because, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the US acquires automatic jurisdiction over its troops.

“Laude’s case once again underlines the one-sidedness of the VFA and reinforces how the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) cis designed to further protect US troops from being prosecuted and punished for crimes against the Filipino people,” Catuira said.

He slammed the Philippine government for “being too quick to defend the VFA and EDCA” despite public clamor for justice for Laude. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Malacanang recently issued separate statements saying that the BS Aquino government stands by VFA and EDCA and that “it will not be deterred” by the crime.

Tunay na nakakagalit ang pusisyong ito ng gobyerno. We call on all Filipinos around the world to intensify calls to scrap the VFA and EDCA and call for the expulsion of US troops from Philippine soil. We enjoin all freedom-loving Filipinos and human rights advocates around the world to exert pressure on the BS Aquino government to acquire jurisdiction over Pemberton so that justice may served,” he said.

“We especially call on our Filipino compatriots in the US to demand that US Pres. Obama relinquish jurisdiction over Pemberton so that he may tried and prosecuted in the Philippines,” he said.


Catuira also said the Laude’s brutal murder should also serve as an eye-opener to the general public on the rights of the LGBT sector.

Caturia, a transgender male, said that he felt saddened upon reading vicious comments and sentiments in social networking sites that prey on Laude’s gender. “Let us stop the hate and unite for justice. Now is the time to open our eyes and minds and not blame the victim just because of her gender.”

He called on all all LGBT Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to unite for justice for Laude and to call for the scrapping of the VFA and EDCA. ###


In solidarity with the people of Hong Kong

Filipino migrants in solidarity with HK workers at the protests

Filipino migrants in solidarity with HK workers at the protests

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International expresses its solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in their uprising for universal suffrage and against repression and police brutality.

Migrante International condemns in strongest terms the human rights violations and suppression of civil liberties being carried out by the Hong Kong government as a response to the ongoing full-blown occupation of areas surrounding the Central Government Office (CGO).

The growing movement for universal suffrage is a result of years and years of discontent against the Hong Kong government for failing to address problems such as lack of social services, disregard of the condition of workers, violations of rights and other anti-people and anti-migrant policies.

Migrante International calls on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to at least 240,000 Filipinos. As Filipinos, we can sympathize with the people of Hong Kong. We are also presently protesting the dictatorship of the BS Aquino regime. Like the people of Hong Kong, our rights and civil liberties are also under attack as we clamor and continue to struggle for genuine social change and our democratic rights. We recognize the sovereign right of every peoples to assemble and protest against tyranny and fascism. We realize how only through unity and collective struggle can oppressed peoples bring about change.

Stand against repression! Defend the people’s democratic rights! Long live international solidarity! ###


OFW group slams DBM for deleting overseas absentee voting budget

oav worth moreMigrante Sectoral Partylist slammed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for deleting the P89.6-million budget initially penned in the proposed 2015 budget for the implementation of overseas absentee voting (OAV).

During the budget hearings at the House of Representatives, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed dismay over the DBM’s scrapping of the proposed budget for OAV registration in the 2015 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson, since 2010, the government has not allotted a single additional centavo for the implementation of the OAV. The budget for the OAV remained at Php43.4 million since fiscal year 2010.

“2015 is a crucial year for OAV registration for the upcoming 2015 elections. How can the government expect to reach as many overseas absentee voters with this meager budget? What will it cover? Is it enough for voter-education and additional personnel?” said Bragas-Regalado.

Bragas-Regalado said, “It is highly unfortunate that the DBM views the OAV budget as one of the dispensable items in the 2015 budget, while is is loathe to remove pork barrel, DAP and other DAP-like questionable lump-sum funds. This government would rather take away OFWs’ right to vote than give up sources of funds for massive corruption.”

Migrante Partylist called on Congress bicameral committee to reinstate the additional Php89.6 million budget for OAV for 2015. She also called on all overseas Filipinos to protest the scrapping of the OAV budget. “Let us not allow the further disenfranchisement of our overseas Filipinos.”. ###

OFWs worldwide must protest inclusion of NAIA terminal fee in airline tickets

proteksyon hindi koleksyonGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International enjoined all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to protest the automatic inclusion of the Php550 terminal fee in airline tickets.

The new rule was enforced via a Memorandum of Agreement between the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and airline carriers and will be effective come October 1.

Republic Act 10022, or the amended Migrant Workers’ Act, exempts OFWs from paying terminal fees. They just have to present their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) to validate their OFW status.

“This blanket scheme is another vehicle for state exaction and ‘kotong’ from our OFWs. It is illegal and should not be implemented. Instead of saying that OFWs can ‘refund’ the fees paid, what the government should do is spare our OFWs from all that hassle. They’ve already gone through all the trouble of fulfilling requirements for the OEC, tapos ngayon ito pa? Ang siste ay tila iniisahan na naman ang mga OFW,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

He said that the “refund/reimbursement” process is another unnecessary step that OFWs have to face. “It’s nothing but another extortion scheme banking on OFWs’ exasperation. Kikita sila sa pag-asang, para huwag na lang maperwisyo, hindi na lang magre-refund ang mga OFW natin. Utak-magnanakaw talaga itong gobyernong ito.”

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) estimates 5,031 OFWs leave the country everyday. “That would mean a total of Php2.8 billion in earnings for the government daily from OFWs alone, or Php1.009 trillion for a year! Gatasang-baka talaga ang turing sa mga OFW natin.”

Martinez called on all OFWs to defy the new rule and refuse to pay the inclusive terminal fee when purchasing their airline tickets. “Huwag po tayong pumayag na maisahan tayo sa bagong iskemang pangongotong na ito. Nakasaad sa batas na exempted dapat tayo sa paniningil ng terminal fee.”

Time to abolish OEC

Martinez added that this development is yet another reason to renew calls to abolish the useless and money-making OEC.

The OEC is a requirement imposed by the POEA on OFWs. To be able to acquire it, OFWs are obligated to pay an assortment of fees otherwise they won’t be allowed to leave the country.

A study by Migrante International estimates that, since 2010, the BS Aquino government has been collecting an average of at least Php26,267 from every OFW processed by the POEA. This amount was higher than the average Php18,000 the government collected before 2010.

With the recent increases in the Philhealth premium, NBI clearance fees, e-passport fees, barangay clearance fees, and the mandatory contributions to Pag-Ibig, OWWA and mandatory insurance, among other requirements, the average cost for every OFW for the processing of their OECs has now reached an estimated Php31,000 per OFW.

“However, it has been proven time and again that the OEC is nothing but a tool by the government to impose mandatory state exactions. In terms of it being a document that ensures and assures proper welfare and services for OFWs, the document is ineffective and is not honored by service providers. This latest development with the terminal fee is but another proof of its futility,” Martinez said.

“We have stated time and again that the OEC is merely a stamp-pad for legalized ‘kotong’ on OFWs and should therefore be abolished,” the migrant leader said. ###

Never again! Filipinos around the world say no to BS Aquino dictatorship

photos courtesy of Migrante-Europe

photos courtesy of Migrante-Europe

In the wake of protests by Filipinos in Europe during Pres. BS Aquino’s recent trips to Spain, Belgium, France and Germany, global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International issued a warning to Pres. BS Aquino against plans for a term extension.

Migrante-Europe, together with other Filipino groups and human rights organizations, held series of protest actions last week in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Italy as BS Aquino commenced his 8-day European tour.

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, the protests were meant to show the disgust and outrage of Filipinos in Europe and all over the world over BS Aquino’s corruption, puppetry and dictatorship.

“It is a clear message to the international community that wherever BS Aquino may visit, Filipinos will always find a way to relay the message that they want him out. We do not want him to stay on until 2016, and especially beyond. We have had enough of four years of massive corruption, blatant subservience to US imperialist dictates and brutal leadership,” he said.

Martinez made the statement as Filipinos worldwide commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law on September 21. He said the best way to remember martial law is to emulate the heroism and activism of the earlier generation who fought during a time when the country was in political and economic turmoil and human rights violations ran rampant. “Now, 42 years later, nothing much has changed. The same conditions that prompted those before us to fight against poverty, abuses and exploitation remain, and have gotten worse. There is clearly still a need to fight for genuine social change.”

“We condemn in strongest terms BS Aquino’s scheme to extend his term and be another Marcos. We firmly oppose any moves for charter change meant to legalize BS Aquino’s anti-people policies, such as the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), 100% foreign ownership of lands and industries, and his refusal to abolish the much-hated pork barrel. We enjoin all Filipinos around the world to further intensify calls for the prosecution of BS Aquino and all involved in the pork barrel scam and all forms of corruption. We call on the international community to join us in calling for an end to impunity, political killings, torture and repression under the BS Aquino regime,” he said.

Martinez also said that, like Marcos, BS Aquino is more concerned with exporting and exploiting cheap labor of Filipino workers in exchange for remittances. “When it comes to their rights and welfare, our OFWs are in an era darker than during martial law,” he said.

The labor export policy was first institutionalized by former president Marcos in an effort to curb the economic crisis and to suppress dissent brought about by lack of jobs, low wages and landlessness. “Post-Marcos regimes continued to implement labor export and four years under the BS Aquino regime has been the worst years for Filipino migrants and their families. OFWs and their families here and abroad are now more than ever geared to fight for social change to end labor export and exploitation of our rights. We vow to continue the fight of our martial law heroes.” ###