#SaveMaryJane supporters to DOJ: No more delays, please

 

Cabanatuan City - Last June 29, community and provincial leaders, representatives of local government units and church groups and supporters joined the Veloso family in a day-long gathering to mark the 2nd month of Mary Jane's temporary reprieve.

Cabanatuan City – Last June 29, community and provincial leaders, representatives of local government units and church groups and supporters joined the Veloso family in a day-long gathering to mark the 2nd month of Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve.

Last June 29 marked the second month since the Indonesian government granted Mary Jane Veloso a temporary reprieve and it has been the longest two months for her family and supporters from all around the globe.

The basis for the temporary reprieve was to give way to legal proceedings in the Philippines after her alleged traffickers, Kristina Sergio etal, were charged with illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa by the Department of Justice. The cases against Sergio etal were filed last April 21 on the basis of complaints filed by Mary Jane, her parents, Celia and Cesar, and sister Maritess, and other witnesses and victims who recently surfaced.

The preliminary investigations on the cases ended last June 1. Unfortunately, no DOJ resolution appears to be forthcoming.

Supporters and members of the #SaveMaryJane alliance called on the DOJ and the Philippine government to ensure that the legal proceedings are being done without delay, especially in light of recent news that the appeal for clemency for French death convict Serge Atlaoui has been rejected by the Indonesian government.

The Frenchman, like Mary Jane, was given a temporary reprieve by the Indonesian government and saved from the April 29 executions that killed eight others via firing squad.

“We appeal to the DOJ, no more delays, please. Release the resolution now. Mary Jane remains on the brink of death for as long as the death sentence is not lifted. Two months has been way too long. The evidence against Sergio etal are solid,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general.

Pillas said that they are also gravely concerned by news reports that Atlaoui is set to be executed after the end of Ramadan, along with other death convicts whose names are yet to be announced.

“The latest information that we got from our Indonesian colleagues is that the Attorney General has reiterated that Mary Jane’s reprieve is but temporary and they are still waiting for developments on the legal case here in the Philippines. They are still waiting for Mary Jane to testify as a witness against her traffickers. Please, let us not abuse the Indonesian government’s patience and tolerance. Every minute still counts,” Pillas said.

Pillas emphasized, “The ball is now in the PH government’s court. Sana naman ay hindi sila nagdi-dribble-dribble muna at saka na lang ulit gagalaw kapag last-two-minutes na.”

Migrante and the #SaveMaryJane alliance called on more supporters to sign the online petition at change.org/savemaryjane. The petition has already gathered 429,367 supporters as of this posting. ###

Migrante celebrates freedom and home-coming of Pinay death convict after 10-year detention in Kuwait

 

 

Tatay Rosario Ranario, Marilou's father, at a DFA picket in 2007  (Photo from inquirer.net)

Tatay Rosario Ranario, Marilou’s father, at a DFA picket in 2007
(Photo from inquirer.net)

Migrante International welcomes the home-coming of Marilou Ranario, Filipina domestic worker who was sentenced to death in January 10, 2005 for killing her Kuwaiti employer.

At the time of the crime, her family said that Marilou was “hearing things”. During a party at her employer’s house, she allegedly “heard” her employer “selling her” which prompted her to stab the former with a knife.

Marilou’s family sought the help of Migrante in 2006 after they learned that the Criminal Court of First Instance of Kuwait had sentenced Marilou to death by hanging. According to her lawyer, Marilou was being abused and ill-treated by her employer which caused her to suffer paranoia.

Migrante launched an international campaign prompting then Vice Pres. Noli de Castro to personally appeal to then Kuwait’s new Emir Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to save her life. Filipino groups worldwide and various church groups also launched series of rallies in Manila and abroad calling for clemency for Marilou.

Migrante started the campaign in the Philippines, organizing demonstrations in support of Marilou on World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 2007. Migrante then contacted the World Coalition against Death Penalty to gather international support for Marilou. Coalition member Amnesty International took up the case and launched an international appeal on behalf of Marilou, calling on citizens worldwide to write to the Kuwaitian authorities.

The campaign came to a positive conclusion on December 9, 2007, when the Kuwaiti Emir commuted Marilou’s death sentence to life imprisonment. In 2009, her sentence was further reduced to 10 years imprisonment.

Marilou is reportedly set to arrive in Manila today, after 10 years of incarceration.

“We are very happy for Marilou and the Ranario family. All our efforts have not been in vain, and we attribute this victory mainly to their fighting spirit and the collective efforts of friends, supporters and advocates,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general.

Pillas said that Marilou will be welcomed in their home by Migrante International and their community when she comes home.

“There is still much help needed to campaign for the lives of other OFWs on death row. Marilou’s experience will serve as an inspiration to our kababayans as we continue the campaign to save the lives of OFWs on death row like Mary Jane Veloso,” Pillas said.

There are currently 92 OFWs on death row abroad, according to data from the Department of Foreign Affairs. ###
 

Executive Summary of Death Row/Candidates for Death Row/Jailed Cases of OFWs being handled by Migrante International

021911_migrante_ofws_death_row_01

file photo courtesy of Bulatlat

Updated as of June 7, 2015   Profile of the cases: Migrante International is currently handling and monitoring 18 cases involving 35 overseas Filipinos (11 women and 24 men) in six countries (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, China, Indonesia). Majority of whom (13) are in Saudi Arabia. The nature of the cases are:

  1. Drug-related: 5 (Veloso, Aquino, San Juan, Madurog, Mayari)
  2. Murder: 6 (Rosario et al, Zapanta, Gonzales et al, Cruzado, Dacanay, Dalquiz,)
  3. Embezzlement: 2 (Azares, Matibag)
  4. Homicide: 1 (Magtoto)
  5. Others: 21 (Theft – Parilla, Serious physical injury – Sia, Human trafficking – Carbonel, Immorality – Lalis)

Death row: 7 (Veloso, Zapanta, Gonzales brothers, Arcilla, Dalquiz, Rosario) Candidates for death row: 3 (Dacanay, Madurog, San Juan) Jailed (life imprisonment/serving jail terms): 25 (3 life imprisonment) Of the five drug-related cases, four were victimized by drug syndicates. Interestingly, one of these cases (San Juan) involves a licensed recruitment agency (First Select, still in Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s roster of licensed agencies and currently operating). Of these cases, two were already given convictions: Veloso was meted the death penalty while Aquino was given life imprisonment. The others are still under trial but two (San Juan and Madurog) are most likely to be given death sentences due to the volume of drugs reportedly found in their belongings as per existing laws in their respective host countries (KSA and China). Of the murder cases, three admitted to the crimes on account of self-defense – Dalquiz and Rosario were almost raped by their assailants while Zapanta was beaten up by his employer because of his failure to pay rent. They are presently in different jails abroad as death convicts. In the case of Rosario etal, the four OFWs from whom Rosario asked for help were sentenced to several years of imprisonment. Zapanta was asked to raise blood money, the deadline of which has already lapsed in November 2013. Cruzado, on the other hand, was provoked by her victim. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Gonzales brothers, Arcilla and Dacanay all vehemently denied the charges against them. In the Gonzales et al case, one of them was forced to confess to the crime after they were tortured during police interrogations. Because of this, three of them were given capital punishment. In the case of Dacanay, she firmly claimed innocence and said that she was a victim of attempted rape by the real perpetrators. Her case is still under trial but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) admitted in a dialogue with Migrante and her mother Editha that she is a candidate for death row. Of the two cases of embezzlement, Matibag is still serving several years of imprisonment while Azares has already finished his jail term but remains in prison because his company is awaiting payment of the amount he was accused of stealing. Both of them denied the accusations. Of the other cases, three were already handed out convictions. Magtoto was sentenced to life imprisonment with a blood money of SR300,000; while Carbonell, whose violation was raised from “illegally picking-up passengers” to “being implicated on human trafficking,” was sentenced to one-year imprisonment. The other cases are still on trial.   Philippine Government’s response to the cases: Based on the information gathered by Migrante through its interventions, the DFA and consular offices did too little, too late in securing and ensuring the rights and welfare of these Filipinos. They also gave limited and impassive attention to the concerns of the families who continue to desperately seek their assistance:

  1. Absent representation and intervention in the period of arrest and investigation. In almost all of these cases, the concerned embassies failed to assist or visit the apprehended OFWs to ascertain their conditions, secure their rights and provide sufficient legal assistance and advice.
  • In the case of Veloso, the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta was only able to visit Mary Jane on July 28, 2010, three months after her arrest and a month after Indonesian authorities informed them that the investigation had been completed and the case files had been turned over to the public prosecutor (June 24, 2010). It was only on the last visit that they were able to hear/get her account.
  • Worse, in the case of Rosario etal, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah refused to take custody. According to Rosario’s account, when he stabbed the two men who were forcing him to have sex with them in self defense, he immediately ran, bruised and bleeding, to the Consulate. Because he was denied custody and assistance he went to his friends instead.
  1. No private lawyers were provided during the phase of prosecution. They relied mostly on the counsels supplied by the governments of the host countries. The general pattern of these cases show that the Philippine government only hired private lawyers AFTER the convictions have been meted out. In all of these cases, the Philippine government only procured private legal services for capital offenses and none were given for the relatively minor crimes. In almost all instances, they failed to provide competent translators, as in the case of Veloso.
  • In the case of Aquino who was arrested on 3 October 2009, he was advised by the fiscal (November 15, 2009) that if he still had no defense lawyer within 20 days the court would hand down a sentence of 10 to 20 years imprisonment. This urgent concern was immediately relayed by the family and Migrante to the Philippine Embassy and DFA. The Embassy simply replied that, based on their knowledge, the Iranian government provides legal assistance to foreigners and that they “expect the same assistance will be provided to him.” They also mentioned that they have not yet been informed if the case had already been brought to court and that they still needed to verify the imminent verdict.
  • In the case of Gonzales etal, they were only given a private lawyer to appeal their case two years after they were arrested (April 2006) and almost a year (April 2008) after the verdict was delivered (July 2007). The family held much hope in the appeal because there were strong evidences to support their innocence. Surprisingly, the Court of Appeals upheld the death sentences on the Gonzales brothers and Arcilla and increased the jail terms of the others from 8 to 10 years.
  1. In cases where OFWs were given the death penalty or life imprisonment, the common track of the Philippine government was to appeal for executive clemency while not considering other possible legal options when there are strong indications that the OFWs were/are innocent. In the case of Veloso, for instance, it had not been clear what grounds were stated in the appeals made by Pres. Aquino to Pres. Widodo, if they were based on assertions of her innocence and being a victim of drug syndicates or simply perfunctory written appeals. Statements made by the Indonesian Attorney General during Aquino’s last-minute appeal that signified the Philippine government’s intent to make Veloso a witness against her traffickers (“Why only now?) strongly suggest otherwise.
  • In the case of Veloso, when the Indonesian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, Pres. Aquino only sent a Letter of Clemency (August 2011) to President Jokowi and did not instruct the embassy to strategize thoroughly for a judicial review despite proposals to explore the trafficking angle from Veloso’s embassy-hired Indonesian lawyers. The first petition for judicial review was only made in January 2015. The petition was denied due to lack of merit and did not pursue the track that Mary Jane was a victim of drug trafficking syndicates.
  • This limited strategy was also employed to cases involving “blood money”. The Philippine government came in only during the stages of having to raise the blood money (usually costing millions of pesos), again after conviction, instead of exploring ways to acquit or reduce the sentences of the OFWs. This track, prevalent in cases in the Gulf region, placed the sole burden of raising blood money on the families or “private” entities (as in the case of Dondon Lanuza) and, in fact, absolved the Philippine government from any responsibility. 
  • In the case of Zapanta, the aggrieved family pegged a blood money worth SR5 million or roughly P55 million, an amount impossible to acquire by the Zapanta family (or any common family) who are poor farmers from Central Luzon. The Philippine government-hired lawyer did not pursue the self-defense argument and did not engage the many witnesses that would have supported Zapanta’s claim. Instead, what the DFA did was to open a bank account calling on the public to help raise the blood money, and left it to the family to monitor and organize fund-raising efforts. Zapanta himself, in an interview with the local media last year, said that he was resigned to his fate and that any and all funds that could be raised just be given to other OFWs on death row. 
  • In the case of Cruzado, the Philippine embassy did not appeal her case on grounds of her mental state. While in prison, she suffered a mental breakdown and is still presently undergoing treatment. The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait is well aware of her situation. Although her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, her family, who only subsists on vending cooked corn, does not have any means to pay the blood money worth KD10,000.
  1. Families of the jailed OFWs were kept in the dark and were not actively engaged in the processes of the cases. In several incidents, DFA legal officers were not sensitive to the situation of the families some even resorted to derogatory insinuations.
  • In all of these cases, because of the desperation and grave concern of the families for the security and welfare of their loved ones, they regularly visited or called the DFA to request for updates and/or report any information that they were able to gather. But the case officers just dismissed them/their reports with the following standard responses: (1) they do not have updates; (2) to just follow-up again; and/or, (3) the person in charge is away/on leave/not present, instead of giving them substantial advice on how they can coordinate with the government in the resolution of the cases of their loved ones.
  • In the case of Dacanay, her mother only knew of her predicament a month after her arrest through a phone call from a friend. Since then, she went back and forth to the DFA and other government offices since July 2013 until early of this year but was not able to get any substantial response. She was even able to meet Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago last year but again was not supplied any information. It was only through a dialogue facilitated by Migrante with DFA officials and DFA case officers last March 24 that they revealed Dacanay’s case status as “candidate for death row.” They agreed to provide a written report to the family but are yet to fulfill their promise.
  • In the cases of Aquino and Veloso, relatives experienced derogatory insinuations from DFA personnel. DFA legal officer Bert Manayao told Aquino’s mother that her son should suffer in prison even though his case is still being heard. DFA legal officer Patricia Mocom, after failing to assist the Veloso family in their passport applications, belittled the family’s financial capacity to travel.

Conclusions and Recommendations: 

  1. There is a general state policy of neglect and apathy for OFWs facing criminal charges abroad, and their families.
  2. OFWs facing criminal charges are denied due process and “criminalized” EVEN BY the Philippine government.
  3. Philippine government comes in only AFTER conviction, and even then, selective assistance is only limited to cases meted capital punishment.
  4. The DFA has not been transparent, and in majority of these cases “clueless”, in the on-goings and processes faced by OFWs from the time of arrest to conviction. Most of these cases they learned only UPON REPORT to the DFA of the families themselves, instead of the other way around.
  5. Philippine government should actively evaluate what it can do domestically legally as part of legal assistance for OFWs, especially those victimized by illegal recruiters and traffickers, as in the Veloso case.
  6. Philippine government should conduct a transparent FULL AUDIT of how funds for legal assistance (LAF) and assistance to nationals (ATN) are utilized for these cases, as stipulated in Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. Particularly, there is an urgent need to investigate why the intended allocations for the LAF have been decreasing since 2010, as well as the Presidential Veto of the LAF for the 2015 national budget.
  7. Congress is urged to also look into the closure of at least 10 Philippine posts/embassies in 2012, supposedly as part of the government’s “austerity measures”. The closure of Philippine posts in some countries has a direct negative effect on the provision of legal assistance to OFWs facing criminal charges abroad.
  8. Congress is urged to summon, investigate and sanction negligent and callous embassy and DFA officials who treat OFWs and their families seeking legal assistance as mere nuisances. On the other hand, there is a need to increase and train more competent and compassionate case officers and embassy officials in the spirit of genuine public service.

  /eof

20th Nat’l Migrants’ Day marked with protest

June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs

June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs

Two days before National Migrants’ Day on June 7, Migrante International held a picket protest at the Department of Foreign Affairs to mark the sector’s protest against the worst state of Filipino migrants under the Aquino administration.

June 7 also marks the 20th year of the implementation of the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers, or Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022, which was enacted in 1995 shortly after the death of Flor Contemplacion.

“Twenty years have passed since Flor was executed in Singapore but despite the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos our OFWs are more beleaguered than they ever were before,” said Sol Pillas, secretary general of Migrante International.

She said that 20 years before, Migrante had said that the Magna Carta was a ‘ticking bomb’ for OFWs because it remained to be seen if the law would indeed serve to protect migrant workers or simply further institutionalize the policy of labor export. “20 years after and the bomb has exploded on our faces. What we feared has happened, and worsened under the present Aquino administration. Aquino’s labor export policy continues to wreak havoc in the lives and welfare of migrant workers and their families.”

“It is just on paper, but in reality, the government does not protect OFWs and services for them are most dismal. Labor export is more intensified under the present administration because OFWs continue to salvage the country’s deteriorating economy. The government has forsaken the lives of OFWs in exchange for remittances and big businesses,” she added.

Pillas scored Pres. Aquino’s recent speech in Japan saying that there are less OFWs now than in 2010 owing to a “developing economy”. She said the number of OFWs leaving daily to work abroad has tripled since Aquino took office– from 2,500 daily in 2010, 4,500 in 2012 to 6,000 by the end of 2014 (IBON data).

“Because of the Aquino  administration’s desperation to further seek job markets abroad due to the country’s worsening economic situation brought about by its unreformed policies, its only recourse has been to intensify its labor export program at the expense of the rights and welfare of OFWs. It has become more clear that the labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which the government profits, with OFWs as the milking cows,” Pillas said.

Aquino veto on LAF in 2015 budget slammed

Pillas also probed Pres. Aquino’s veto of the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for the 2015 budget. In his Veto Message last December 2014, Aquino included the LAF in items in the General Appropriations Act 2015 placed under “conditional implementation” and subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The president’s veto also called for a creation of a so-called “special fund” for the LAF, suggesting that funds for the LAF will be sourced elsewhere other than what is stated in the law.

The Magna Carta for Migrant Workers requires a P100-million LAF in the national budget sourced from the following: P50 million from the Presidential Social Fund, P30 million from the Contingency Fund of the President and P20-million from OWWA. He said that only an average of P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2010.

She also demanded an explanation from the government on why funds for the LAF has been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that at least P52 million in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011. “Kailangang magpaliwanag ni Aquino. Ibig bang sabihin nito pati ang LAF na-DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) na?” Pillas said.

Only P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since 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 Aquino administration 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. ###

 

OFWs decry added cost to K+12 education

image from lfs.ph

image from lfs.ph

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International today decried the added cost OFW parents will shoulder in light of the implementation of the K+12 educational system.

According to Sol Pillas, secretary-general of Migrante, OFWs will be bear the brunt of the added cost on top of continuous price hikes of basic commodities amidst the global economic crisis. 

“Hindi na nga napagkakasya ang buwanang remittance, dadagdagan pa ang pahirap sa mga OFW dahil sa dagdag-taon sa elementary at high school.”

She said that OFW remittances usually cover basic needs such as food, house rentals or amortizations, utilities and other monthly expenses.

Based on the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), families prioritize spending for food and other basic necessities. “An additional two years more of secondary education will be an added burden to OFWs. Ang pang-tuition sa mga anak ay ipinangungutang pagdating ng enrollment, o di kaya naman kailangang magdoble o triple ng trabaho para mabayaran.

Youth for labor export: K+12 aimed to train cheap semi-skilled youth labor for global market 

Pillas also protested the “real motive behind the K+12 education system which is the further intensification of labor export, this time systematically targeting the country’s young labor force.”

The Department of Education says that the K+12 system “will improve chances of youth employment” and that it will ensure that 18-year-old graduates will be “employable even without a college degree.”

“What the K+12 system will do is reinforce and institutionalize the training of cheap semi-skilled youth labor for the global market. The DepEd talks of a so-called ‘professionalization’ of the young labor force mainly in labor markets abroad but unfortunately continues to ignore the very causes of forced migration, namely, lack of local jobs, low wages and landlessness,” said Pillas.

She said that the K+12 system sadly undermines the youth’s very significant role in nation-building because it is geared towards providing cheap semi-skilled and unskilled youth labor to the global market instead of for domestic development.

“Young workers, mostly semi-skilled and unskilled, make up approximately 10.7 percent of the total Filipino labor migrant population. Through the K+12, the government will further program our youth not to serve the country but to service the needs of the neoliberal global market,” said Pillas.

Migrante International and Migrante-Youth are members of the Stop K+12 Coalition. ###

#SaveMaryJane Breaking: Unidentified men harassing Veloso family in Cabanatuan

The Veloso family in prayer. Photo by dailymail.co.uk

The Veloso family in prayer. Photo by dailymail.co.uk

Migrante International today called on PH authorities to urgently investigate incidents of harassment of the Veloso family by unidentified men in their hometown in Cabanatuan City.

Yesterday at around 11:00am, three unidentified “burly-looking” men arrived in motorcycles at the house of Nanay Celia Veloso. One of them had tattoos while the other sported a mohawk haircut, according to Mary Jane’s sister, Darling. The three men reportedly asked Mary Jane’s niece where the Velosos lived. “Noong tinanong sila kung bakit nila hinahanap, ang sabi nilang dahilan ay dahil daw nababagalan sila sa kaso ni Mary Jane at gusto raw nilang tumulong,” Darling said. The three men then took pictures of the house and promptly left.

“Pagkaalis nila, napansin namin na nawawala na iyong bantay naming aso. Kaya lalo kaming natakot,” said Darling. The guard dog, she said, “returned” to their house at around 12:00 midnight.

The Velosos immediately reported the incident to the barangay and had it recorded in the local police blotter. Tatay Cesar, who is currently in Manila to attend the preliminary investigation for the cases versus Kristina “Tintin” Sergio etal at the Department of Justice (DOJ), personally called local police to seek protection for the famiy.

This incident came after Darling got a suspicious call from an unidentified man last May 7. The mysterious caller had asked for the whereabouts of Maritess, Mary Jane’s other sister. Because the caller refused to identify himself, Darling became suspicious and declined to answer. “Binaba na niya iyong telepono noong kinukulit ko kung sino siya,” she said.

Darling said that she feared for Maritess’ safety who was then on her way to Manila for the May 8 preliminary investigation at the DOJ. Maritess, meanwhile, immediately reported the incident to their Philippine private lawyers at the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

These incidents are not the first time that the Velosos experienced harassment since they came out in the open.

In their sworn statements, Nanay Celia, Tatay Cesar and Maritess said that mysterious vans and motorcycle-riding men have been frequenting their community, asking townsfolk where they lived. “Kapag tinuturo naman nila (neighbors) hindi naman tumutuloy. Ang tatay ni Mary Jane ay hindi na nakakatulog. Nagbabantay na lang sa aming bahay gabi-gabi. Nag-aalala rin po ako para sa aking mga apo,” Nanay Celia had said.

According to Migrante International Deputy Secretary-General Mic Catuira, these incidents of harassment need urgent attention and investigation by PH authorities. “Obviously, Mary Jane’s case is a high-profile case possibly involving big drug and trafficking syndicates. The Veloso family has every right and reason to raise the alarm and seek protection. There is an apparent intent by mysterious entities to scare or silence the Velosos who have been consistent in asserting Mary Jane’s innocence, a fact that even Sergio etal had belatedly affirmed in their respective sworn statements.”

“Pero kahit na ano’ng gawin nilang pananakot sa pamilya namin, hindi nila kami mapipigil na ipagpatuloy ang laban para kay Mary Jane,” Maritess said. ###

Whatever happened to a “people-centered” ASEAN? Filipino migrants slam ASEAN member states in Rohingya crisis

photo from Agence France-Presse

photo from Agence France-Presse

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International condemns in strongest terms all ASEAN member states for refusing to come up with a humane and compassionate resolution to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.

As of this posting, some thousands of trafficked Rohingya migrants remain stranded at sea, among them women and children, as Malaysia and Indonesia continue to refuse them entry to their borders. As the whole world looks on, Rohingya migrants are left to die, without proper food, shelter and protection.

Migrante International also expresses grave concern over news reports of migrant detention camps and mass graves uncovered along the Thailand-Malaysia border. Thailand’s cruel and militarist crackdowns on trafficked victims and undocumented migrants continue to plague the Rohingya peoples and other trafficked victims.

Migrante International also strongly criticizes the Myanmar government for discriminating against the Rohingyas, treating them inhumanely and criminalizing them as illegal migrants.

Shame on ASEAN. Whatever happened to a “people-centered” ASEAN region? In the spirit of a genuine “People-Centered ASEAN Community 2015”, Migrante International urgently and fervently calls on all ASEAN member states to save the Rohingya peoples.

The Rohingya crisis is not just an issue of border security or trafficking. It has turned into a humanitarian crisis that the ASEAN should resolve immediately. It has become a concern of all freedom-loving ASEAN peoples and the responsibility of all ASEAN member states.

ASEAN Leaders have declared optimism with the 2009-2015 Road Map of the ASEAN Community Blueprints as the basis of the overall ASEAN Community 2015. But how can we fathom to achieve a genuine “People-Centered ASEAN Community 2015” when we cannot, as one region, unite as a peoples on one fundamental cause to promote, protect and respect human rights?

How can we hope to revive the region from the iniquities of injustice, corruption, human rights abuses and poverty when the very peoples and citizens we profess to serve and protect are not given strong gestures of support by ASEAN member states? Is this how we plan to start and pre-empt the ASEAN Community 2015?

Migrante International calls on ASEAN member states to start building an ASEAN Community 2015 on a just, merciful and compassionate foundation. We steadfastly believe that a genuine “People-Centered ASEAN Community 2015” must take place within a human rights framework that protects, promotes and fulfils the rights of its peoples. These should be the basis on which the ASEAN states build the ASEAN Community 2015.

Migrante International calls on all its members and networks around the world to campaign for a humane and compassionate resolution to the Rohingya crisis. ###