ON LOCSIN’S TWEET & DFA’S RESPONSE TO STRANDED SEAFARERS

On DFA’s response to Migrante International’s call for the immediate repatriation of 11 stranded seafarers of Ocean Star 86

Trying to save its face, the Department of Foreign Affairs published today its response to an earlier statement by Migrante International castigating Duterte’s officials for their inaction on the plight of 11 seafarers stranded for more than a year inside the ship Ocean Star 86. Just like President Duterte, DFA officials are pathological liars who have mastered the art of deceit. 

If they in DFA have really been making arrangements for their repatriation, why is it that they still have not provided any information to the seafarers and their families? The ship has been docked in Dongshan’s port for more than three days and yet the crews have not heard any update on their repatriation. 

Stranded crews of Ocean Star 86

PHOTO: ABS-CBN News — Teleradyo

From DFA’s own statement, it is plainly obvious that its officials are only good at making “regular representations” to their bureaucratic counterparts in China and the ship owners wearing ties and suits while continuing to leave our wretched kababayans in limbo. If we are to believe DFA, these “regular representations” are supposed to ensure that seafarers will “be paid their salaries and other allowances” but the crews of Star Mariner can attest that they still have not received their unpaid wages and benefits from their ship’s owner since their repatriation in July. 

Ocean Star crews waited for three months before they received relief from the consulate. From July to September, Ocean Star crews have only received food packages three times and every set provided was only good for one week. DFA now wants to play the hero for the rare times it handed food relief. The seafarers requested for alcohol-based disinfectants and face masks but none of these items were included in the packages. 

On Locsin’s tweet rejecting pardon for convicted Filipino ‘drug dealers’ in the Middle East

Locsin’s job is to find out first if these Filipinos were victims of drug traffickers. As for his threat to let the law abroad destroy these incarcerated Filipinos who sought to destroy the people whom Locsin claims as his own, we can never put our faith in Locsin’s words when he allowed convicted killer US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton to leave without a hitch after being granted absolute pardon by President Duterte, another self-confessed murderer. 

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR 11 STRANDED SEAFARERS OF OCEAN STAR 86! Migrante International lashes out against Duterte’s officials for inaction

Depressed and worn out, 11 Filipino seafarers from the ship Ocean Star 86 have been pleading to the Duterte government for immediate repatriation after being stranded at sea for 1 year and 9 months. Their contracts have already expired in 2019 and yet they continue to be forced to work inside the ship under subhuman conditions. Forced to drink seawater and fed inadequately for many months, they felt some sort of relief during their ship’s dockage at Dongshan’s port in China. However, they fear that it is only temporary and that the ship will be navigating all over again back into the seas. 

The seafarers recently reported their plight to the Philippine consulate in Xiamen but the only response they got was, “Congratulations! What’s the problem and why are you calling us?.” A letter was likewise sent by Migrante International this week to the Department of Foreign Affairs and their case has already been publicized in the media as early as June this year but their pleas have been falling on deaf ears.  The Philippine consulate in Xiamen, DFA and the Duterte government all behave as if they know nothing about the afflictions tormenting these stranded seafarers. 

PHOTO: ABS-CBN News — Teleradyo

During a visit by DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to the dolomite strip which the government claims to be good for mental health, he uttered more concern for the moat of the US Embassy as he vowed to fix its filling. Is the moat of the US Embassy even more important than the lives of his fellow Filipinos who are now at the end of their ropes? The Duterte regime wasted Php 2 Billion for a newly purchased aircraft intended to transport “senior leaders and commanders, especially in the event of a crisis,” but not a single cent has been spent so far for the repatriation of these 11 wretched seafarers who are right now being battered to near fatality by a raging crisis. This is not only indifference but gross inutility on the part of the Duterte regime. Indonesian crews of the same ship already have scheduled flights back to their country so we do not want to hear any of the Duterte government’s rubbish excuses for its inaction. 

Migrante International is outraged that the Duterte regime continues to show no sense of urgency. We demand immediate repatriation for the 11 stranded seafarers in Dongshan, China and their employers be charged for subjecting the seafarers to horrendous suffering. Their loved ones back home have been waiting in despair. Time is fast running out for these 11 hapless seafarers. They have waited far too long. Urgent help and amelioration must be extended to the seafarers and their families instantly without delay. Bring them home now!

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FILIPINO MIGRANTS RESIST DUTERTE’S REIGN OF TERROR! — Migrante International on the 48th Martial Law anniversary

A day before the 48th anniversary of the nationwide Martial Law declaration, Migrante leaders, members and martial law survivors from different Filipino migrant communities brought themselves together through a global online rally to recount the struggle and resistance of the Filipino people during the Marcos dictatorship. The fight for our democratic rights continues to rage on in our present day with the US-Duterte regime’s bloody record of 30 thousand plus extrajudicial killings and the violent persecution of political dissidents.

Filipino migrant leaders, Migrante members and martial law survivors during the September 20 Global Online Rally against Duterte’s Fascist tyranny

The recent passage of House Bill 7137 declaring September 11 as Ferdinand Marcos Day in Ilocos Norte is truly a colossal desecration of our country’s history. Despite all-out efforts by the Duterte regime to rehabilitate the Marcoses and deify them through the legal sanctification of their lies and deceptions, Filipinos hit back with the trending on social media of #ArawNgMagnanakaw on his very birthday. 

Despite living overseas, Martial law survivors have never allowed their stories to be negated or reduced into mere constructs as how enemies of the truth wanted it to be. Life during the Marcos period of cronyism and militarism was far from being a ‘golden age.’ It was during this time that Filipinos saw themselves being peddled as cheap commodities through the systematization of the government’s Labour Export Programme. Yesterday’s global online rally participants likewise equated Marcos’ Martial Law to Duterte’s Terror Law. 

Filipino migrants strongly reject and oppose the Terror Law for it only reinforces state-terror as an official government policy and is certainly Duterte’s way of armouring himself with immunity from criminal liability. The killing spree perpetrated by the Duterte regime has already claimed the lives of Allan Rafael, Bryan Conje and many others from OFW families. 

In April, Migrante Iloilo’s founding organizer Jory Porquia was gunned down right inside his place of residence in Iloilo City. The shedding of innocent blood remains unremitting with the recent killing of Anakpawis Chairperson Randy Echanis and human rights worker Zara Alvarez. The recent call by EU parliamentarians to probe the killings and abuses under the Duterte regime plus the threat of trade sanctions further turned President Duterte into an international outcast at a time when his debasement of the Philippine economy buries the people further into the epicenter of the global crisis. 

OFW repatriates have not been spared from the militarist response of the Duterte regime in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The early stages of the world’s longest lockdown meted out detention-like conditions in quarantine facilities where tens of thousands of Filipino migrants were held for almost a month without access to regular medical and psychosocial services. Most of whom were sent back to their provinces without receiving a single penny of financial aid. In addition, Duterte’s defense and counter-insurgency budget for 2021 is even higher than the planned allocations for public health, assistance and welfare services for OFWs. 

The deployment of PNP outposts in the US, the holding of red tagging seminars by NTF-ELCAC attaches in Philippine embassies and the deportation attempt against a Taiwan OFW early this year for criticizing the government are just among the many attempts of the Duterte regime to outperform his idol Ferdinand Marcos. With the economy nosediving to a negative 16.5% in the second quarter, the gravity of economic collapse being experienced by the country under Duterte has even surpassed the downturn figure from the time of Marcos. 

In sheer desperation, Duterte’s folly of surrounding himself with military cronies may accord him impunity for now. But history attests that no tyrant has ever kept himself on the throne forever. We will rise up once again to reclaim our rights and freedom. Filipino migrants and their families stand with the masses in their boiling outrage against the Duterte regime’s bloody tyranny. Our enduring resistance shall thunder aloud even up to the time when the Duterte terrorist regime will be finally made to pay for its detestable crimes against the Filipino people. 

Filipino migrants resist!

Stop the Killings!

Never Again to Martial Law!

Junk Terror Law!

Marcos NO Hero! 

Oust Duterte Now!

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Repatriated seafarers file cases at POEA for unpaid wages and benefits. Pushed for higher allocation for OFW assistance during DFA’s budget hearing at the House of Representatives

About a dozen seafarers trooped to POEA on Tuesday morning to file cases against their recruitment agencies for unpaid wages and benefits amounting up to more than 300 thousand pesos for every crew. Prior to their arrival back to the country on the 23rd of July, these distressed seafarers were stranded off China for months without compensation and regular access to food, water, and hygiene items. The seafarers were accompanied at POEA by volunteers and staff of the OFW advocacy group Migrante International. 

Following their case filing at POEA, the group then proceeded to the Batasan Complex in Quezon City where they were joined by other OFWs and advocates for a picket action. OFWs and seafarers raised their demands in time for the Department of Foreign Affairs’ budget hearing at the House of Representatives this afternoon. 

Jesus Gaboni pleaded on behalf of other stranded seafarers awaiting repatriation. “I am calling on DFA for the speedy repatriation of other stranded seafarers in Sri Lanka, Uruguay and elsewhere in South America; including our fellow seafarers in China inside the ship Ocean Star. Some of them are already drinking contaminated water just to survive. There are those who have already died and their remains need to be repatriated. We already experienced what they’re going through right now. We were starved, made to drink rusty water and were deprived of sleep. Our company did not support us during our ordeal,”  Gaboni exclaimed. 

His voice cracking with emotions, John Mark Tacata said, “0ur experiences inside the ship were horrible. We were treated like animals. They made us work for almost 20 hours daily without rest. How can we work efficiently with empty stomachs? Deprived of access to food, water and other supplies, we were really neglected. Our lives were not valued inside the ship…I hope we will finally be able to claim our unpaid wages and benefits which rightfully belong to us. We risked our lives  so I hope our cries won’t fall on deaf ears. We are considered heroes for contributing to the economy but we keep on getting neglected. I am angry because government officials are only good at promises. We demand that we be given our overdue compensation.”

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion bewailed the little funding being allotted for assistance to overseas Filipinos. “Only Php 1.2 Billion was allotted for the Assistance to Nationals Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund for distressed OFWs. This is below 1% of DFA’s total budget. Our rights and welfare are not really valued. There are still thousands upon thousands of OFWs needing assistance and repatriation but how come that we are being told that the government is running out of funds when DFA is ranked 6th among government agencies with the highest income. It had an annual earning of Php 2.3 Billion. Why the minuscule budget for distressed OFWs? We demand that the budget for OFW repatriation be increased. Our stranded seafarers and OFWs need food, water and medical assistance. We don’t want public money to be pocketed by corrupt government officials. Even before the pandemic struck, they’ve been using public money to denigrate migrants’ rights advocates,” Concepcion stated. 

Filipino migrant communities have likewise been decrying about military junkets and red tagging seminars being held in many Philippine embassies and consulates overseas. Migrante and other progressive migrant serving groups are usual targets of the Duterte regime’s smear campaign. The Php 16 Billion budget proposal submitted by the Duterte regime for its National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) sparked public uproar for its 3,000 % increase at a time when there’s a public health emergency and big multitudes of stranded overseas Filipinos remain neglected and unrepatriated. 

More than 550,000 OFWs were displaced between February to May and this figure is expected to exceed 1 million between the remaining quarter of 2020 and the last half of 2021. Latest DFA report shows that 174 thousand OFWs have been repatriated so far out of the 420,000 from government estimates. Stranded OFWs continue to face hardships as they run out of the means to support their basic necessities. Included among distressed OFWs are hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants as well as thousands of Filipinos who are still languishing in overseas jails. With the help of the Makabayan bloc, Migrante International vowed to press the DFA with its demands during the DFA budget hearing at the House of Representatives. 

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ARAW NG MAGNANAKAW: Marcos hindi bayani! Labanan ang alyansang Marcos-Duterte! — Migrante International

As the late tyrant Ferdinand Marcos marks his 103rd birth anniversary, Migrante International joins Martial Law victims and all freedom-loving Filipinos in demonstrating our utmost indignation against efforts by the US-Duterte regime to negate the country’s bloody history during the Marcos dictatorship. The recent move in Congress to declare a Marcos holiday in Ilocos Norte is akin to glorifying all the horrors of corruption, political repression and killings committed during that long dark period in history. 

Thirty-four years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, the police and the military have continued their long-standing tradition of impunity and violence upon direct orders from the Duterte regime. It is evident that President Duterte and his underlings are sparing no effort to rehabilitate the Marcoses in their lechery to further codify state terror and forever erase from our collective memory the victory of the Filipino people in overthrowing a dictator. Duterte’s Terror Law intends to criminalize adherence to the struggle for national democracy and social justice. 

In the coming days and weeks, global chapters and member organizations of Migrante International will intensify their actions against the Duterte regime’s Fascist agenda. A webinar will be conducted on September 15 featuring Martial Law survivors among overseas Filipinos. To commemorate the 48th anniversary of Martial Law, a global online protest will be held on the 20th of September 2020 to register the fierce resistance of Filipino migrant communities against the loathsome Duterte-Marcos alliance. 

Marcos NO hero!

Never again to Martial Law!

Junk Terror Law!

Duterte-Marcos, walang pinag-iba!

Parehong tuta, diktador, pasista!

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NO TO EMERGENCY POWER! With Php 1.3 Billion OFW premiums lost to fraud, Migrante International chides Duterte’s mandatory Philhealth anew

A former Philhealth auditor bared yesterday during the House probe on Philhealth corruption that at least 2.7 Million OFWs lost their premiums amounting to Php 1.3 Billion to another fraudulent scheme. Four years into the Duterte regime, Philhealth officials under investigation for possible collusion with private recruitment agencies have not shown signs of remorse for this massive plunder. This scam has been going on for years but we are yet to see a top Philhealth executive face conviction and be placed behind bars. Setting sight at the tremendous amount of OFW money these crooks can potentially pocket, we can’t help but ask if this is the reason why President Duterte was adamant at imposing the mandatory Philhealth exaction and premium rate hike embedded in his Universal Healthcare Act? 

OFWs are outraged that aside from being treated by the regime as milking cows, they are being robbed in broad daylight through legalized ‘kotong.’ Migrante International rejects another move to grant emergency power to Duterte to deal with Philhealth mess when he himself has been the source of all these troubles by inflicting more agonies upon OFWs, many of whom are now repatriates who did not receive regular medical and psychosocial services during their confinement in quarantine facilities. President Duterte has not only bled our pockets dry but he continues to wallow in his stubbornness by declaring his trust and confidence in recycled officials tainted with corruption complaints namely Health secretary Francisco Duque III and former Philhealth chief Ricardo Morales, one of Duterte’s military cronies. 

Filipinos can no longer subscribe to a privately-dominated paid healthcare system packed by thieves running wildly about with ill-gotten cash. A government that prioritizes the private wealth of its corrupt cronies over public health does not deserve our forbearance but our utmost detestation. 

Korapsyon sa Philhealth, lansagin!

Military cronies ni Duterte, patalsikin!

Public health, HINDI private wealth!

Proteksyon, hindi koleksyon!

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PHILHEALTH CORRUPTION: OFW group supports criminal charges against Duque, Morales, et al.

The filing of charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, recently resigned Philhealth Chief Ricardo Morales and other Philhealth executives has long been overdue. Nonetheless, Migrante International fully supports the recommendation by legislators to bring these suspects before the court to clear the way for the public in finding out the extent of their consent or participation over widespread corruption and irregularities in the government firm.   

Duque has long been tainted with corruption issues even before he was recycled by President Duterte as his health secretary. Way back during the time of the Arroyo regime, Duque was Philhealth president when Php 500 million was allegedly diverted from OWWA to produce Philhealth cards bearing Arroyo’s image in the months leading to the 2004 presidential campaign period. On the other hand, Duterte’s military crony Ricardo Morales willfully promoted executives linked to ‘ghost’ dialysis and other scams. 

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PHOTO: Abante Tonite

The Duterte regime’s effort to deodorize Duque and Morales through his declaration of trust demonstrates the presidential seal of approval. Malacañang has even allowed Morales to gracefully tender his resignation instead of getting sacked from office. Making him fully entitled to back pay benefits. Meanwhile, Duque continues to cling to his position despite public clamour for his resignation. 

Aside from Philhealth being invalid overseas healthcare facilities, corruption in the government agency is really one of the reasons why OFWs continue to oppose Duterte’s mandatory Philhealth membership and premium rate hike embedded in his ‘Universal Healthcare Law’. How can we entrust our hard earned money to an agency with 5,000 plus ‘ghost’ members over the age of 130? There is no basis for supporting a government agency that reimburses funds to hospitals based on profitability and not on concrete needs. 

In a country where the healthcare system is dominated by private entities, Philhealth is ushering public health to its tragic ruin. The Duterte government is not alarmed by the fact that there are only 13.5 beds for every 10,000 and only one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos. The Duterte regime’s obsession to neoliberal policies is to blame for the very poor state of healthcare services in the country. 

In the recently submitted budget proposal for 2021, the Department of Health will still get a lower share of funds as compared to the Department of National Defense. The Duterte regime’s twisted priorities at the height of a global pandemic proves his apathy towards the public health needs of the Filipino people. 

Health is a basic human right and it is outrageous that the Philippine government is making money out of people’s health. Genuine universal healthcare means making quality healthcare and medical services free and readily accessible to all. That means paid healthcare through premium contributions in health insurance will no longer be a necessity. This is what Filipino migrants and their families want to see and experience in their own country. 

Korapsyon sa Philhealth, lansagin!

Solusyong medikal, hindi militar! 

Military cronies ni Duterte, patalsikin!

Public health, HINDI private wealth!

Proteksyon, hindi koleksyon!

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Migrante International welcomes SC’s final ruling on Mary Jane Veloso’s testimony

After a prolonged legal struggle to champion the right of Mary Jane Veloso to tell the horrors of her ordeal as a trafficking victim, a division of the Philippine Supreme Court has ruled with finality to allow a Nueva Ecija trial court to proceed with taking her testimony. 

The Supreme Court added that it will no longer accept future pleadings and motions in relation to this case. This comes after a plea was filed by the lawyers of the illegal recruiters for the Supreme court to reconsider its ruling allowing Mary Jane to testify through written deposition. Migrante International is very much elated with this decision by the SC Special Third Division and we now highly anticipate Mary Jane’s testimony. . 

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Aside from allowing Philippine and Indonesian authorities to grasp the extent of how big international drug and human traffickers victimize unsuspecting migrant workers and travelers, this ruling will likewise serve as a precedent for overseas Filipinos who in troublesome circumstances may later find themselves victims of these international criminal rings. 

Today’s very significant development has once again brightened our hopes for Mary Jane Veloso’s long-overdue freedom and her sweet reunion with her loved ones. Migrante International is very grateful to all of Mary Jane’s supporters, to the Veloso family’s lawyers and all our allies both in the Philippines and abroad for their untiring efforts in support of the Veloso family’s search for justice all throughout this process.

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PUBLIC HEALTH, HINDI PRIVATE WEALTH! Filipino migrants protest against Phihealth corruption

To protest against Philhealth corruption, OFWs and representatives of Filipino migrant communities from different countries held an online protest on tuesday, 11 August 2020. Philhealth Chief Ret. Ricardo Morales drew harsh criticisms after revealing his planned medical leave of absence at a time when he and other officials are being summoned for congressional investigation. Malacañang stated that President Duterte continues to place his trust and confidence on Morales. Rights’ groups like Migrante International have been castigating the Duterte regime for its militarist cronyism that has bred corruption and other abuses. 

Filipino migrants have been among the most vocal critics following President Duterte’s signing of the ‘Universal Healthcare Law’ last year which dictates mandatory Philhealth membership and premium rate hike on overseas Filipinos. Perry Sorio of Migrante Canada said, “There is anger among our kababayans here in Canada since there is already an existing healthcare program being implemented in all of Canada’s provinces and territories. Migrants including OFWs are covered by Canada’s health insurance program.”

gor 11Aug photo

Nap Pempeña of Migrante USA hit irregularities in  Philhealth’s database. “The oldest living person in the world today is a 117 year-old Japanese citizen but according to  Philhealth, there are 5,000 Filipinos aged 130. These figures showcase their lies. This is how highly confident they are because they are protected by the system.” Pempeña likewise expounded on how the “rotten and privatized healthcare system” in the Philippines is linked to the Labour Export Programme (LEP) since both are Neoliberal policies which makes the government serve foreign capitalist interests. “Amidst the blatant corruption, critics of the Duterte regime are suppressed and silenced. Duterte treats his cronies as innocent until proven guilty while activists and ordinary citizens face shoot-to-kill orders.” Pempeña lamented.

The promotion by Morales of four Philhealth officials involved in the Php 154 Billion lost to ghost patients and deliveries fumed Marlon Lacsamana, secretary general of Migrante Europe. “Philhealth is slowly killing us by milking us with our hard-earned money, that is why we are fervent in our demand to oust Duterte and his military appointees,” Lacsamana said. 

Decrying the Philippines’ healthcare system, Josa, an OFW in UAE said, “with the current healthcare system, it is troublesome to get ill in the Philippines because healthcare is not a right but a commodity that gives profit. We are seeing the government’s real priorities because even at a time when many of our fellow Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad are losing their jobs due to the crisis, we were still struck with the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. The Duterte regime is like pneumonia, it strikes when there’s least resistance because while the people are on lockdown, it enacted the Terror Bill while Filipinos are being robbed by plunderers.”

Sheila Tebia of Migrante Hong Kong riled against Philhealth’s planned purchase of a laptop worth Php 115 million as part of its Php 2.1 Billion IT project. “The overpricing anomaly was pointed out by no other than Philhealth board member Alejandro Cabading. Instead of adhering to the investigation, Morales even justified the insertion of the overpriced item. It is outrageous that the people’s money which should be spent for medical services are ending up in the personal pockets of corrupt officials.”

Tebia likewise cited former customs chief Nicanor Faeldon who was involved in the 2017 shabu shipment. “Duterte removed him from customs with feigned anger, only to reappoint him as chief of the Bureau of Corrections in 2018. He was removed again in 2019 but he was neither charged nor convicted. This is the same with Mocha, Pimental and Sinas. None of them were punished. This is Duterte’s mark. He pretends to hate corruption but he keeps on reappointing corrupt officials,” Tebia remarked. 

Raising the seafarers’ opposition against the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike, Fr. June Mark Yanez, IFI, a port chaplain of the Seamen’s Mission in Germany said that Philhealth is just another superfluous state exaction. Yanez said that maritime companies already provide medical or health insurance for seafarers. He cited the cases of two Filipino seafarers, one was hit by a train while the other one was amputated after an accident inside the ship. Medical expenses of both seafarers during their stay overseas and their continued treatment back in the Philippines were covered by their company’s insurance program. However, none of them received any assistance from Philhealth. 

Returned OFWs brought to different quarantine facilities in Manila also complained of the absence of health services. Marvin Rimas, a displaced OFW from Dubai said that stranded and distressed OFWs were neglected. He was stuck inside the quarantine facility along with other OFWs for an entire month waiting for delayed test results. Quarantined OFWs were left without psychosocial or medical services especially pregnant women, the elderly and OFW victims of abuse. “The mandatory Philhealth is a very heavy burden for us OFWs because it did not bring any benefit to us while we were abroad where the healthcare system works better. We prefer giving our money directly to our families instead of allowing it to end up in the hands of corrupt officials,” Rimas said.

Marc Rey de Jesus was an OFW for 10 years in Saudi but is now unable to go back to work due to travel restrictions. “There are many OFWs like me who have been stranded and are now unable to go back. We want to undergo medical examinations or health check-ups but we can’t afford the costs. We are out of work so where will get the money to pay for the cost of healthcare? What’s worse is that we are now hearing billions of pesos being lost to corruption instead of being used for medical services. We want these corrupt officials to be removed from office and face justice. It is our right to have a pro-people healthcare system that will really serve the interests of the Filipino people and not the interests of private corporations,” de Jesus exclaimed. 

Dr. Delen de la Paz of Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) attributed the terrible state of the country’s healthcare system to Neoliberal policies. “The government has already buried the country in debt in its claim to address the COVID-19 crisis but where is mass testing? Where is contact tracing? These things are supposed to be supervised by public health experts and medical professionals, not the military and the police. Are there quarantine centers being built where individuals are supposed to get regular health services especially OFWs who are waiting for test results? Why is the government’s handling of the crisis very inefficient? Because it is being supervised by people from the military. The government approach is very militaristic that is why we have been calling for a medical solution and not a military one,” Dr. de la Paz said.

Denouncing Duterte’s military cronyism, Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion said, “Just like Philhealth’s chief who is a retired military official, those appointed by President Duterte to lead in implementing the measures purported to address the biggest public health crisis are former military officials. This is why COVID-19 cases are rising and the crisis continues to exacerbate.”

Migrante International also demanded justice for slain Anakpawis chairperson Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis and for other victims of Fascist murders committed under the Duterte regime. It expressed condemnation against the Quezon City police for forcibly seizing the body of Echanis from his grieving family. OFWs and Filipino migrant leaders offered their one minute of silence for Ka Randy. The online protest ended with one last round of kalampagan against corruption in Philhealth and in the Duterte government. 

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DUTERTE’S MILITARY CRONY IN PHILHEALTH: OFW group blasts Duterte’s trust in Philhealth chief Ret. AFP Brig. General Ricardo Morales

Migrante International fully supports the investigations being conducted by the Senate and House of Representatives into the corruption scandal involving Philhealth officials. Philhealth has already lost Php 154 Billion to ghost patients and deliveries in the previous years. Following last year’s appointment of Retired AFP Brigadier General Ricardo Morales by President Duterte as Philhealth’s new president and CEO, it is outrageous that four officials linked into these scams were promoted by Morales.  Right in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, over Php 15 Billion went into the pockets of corrupt officials according to the agency’s former anti fraud officer. Just as the Filipino people are struck by hardships imposed by Duterte’s military-led COVID-19 task force, another retired AFP general figures in a despicable scandal. The Duterte regime is very much enamored with his military cronies and he places excessive value on them to the detriment of the Filipino public. 

Other irregularities have also been uncovered in the last couple of days like the insertion of 5 thousand ghost members aged 130 in Philhealth’s database, as well as an overpriced laptop worth Php 115 Million included in its Php 2.1 Billion IT project. At the back of all these corruption scandals, Philhealth officials still had the nerve to ask for additional government subsidy despite having Php 110 Billion in contingency funds on top of the Php 63 Billion it receives from sin taxes and the Php 77 Billion premium contributions. Philhealth officials claim that it will get bankrupt by 2022 if it does not get its requested subsidy. 

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PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

This only goes to show that Philhealth does not have the integrity and capacity to virtuously manage healthcare funds and provide efficient delivery of services. Concerned Filipino migrants and families are enraged that despite allegations of widespread corruption, Philhealth chief Ricardo Morales still enjoys the trust of President Duterte. Nevertheless, this no longer comes as a surprise since Morales is among Duterte’s military cronies who enjoy unlimited impunity. 

It is only rightful that OFWs continue to register their thunderous opposition against the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike signed by no other than President Duterte himself in his ‘Universal Healthcare Act’ which his regime claims as a ‘landmark’ law. 

Migrante International reiterates its full support to Makabayan Bloc’s House Bill 6698 to remove these unjust provisions from the Universal Healthcare Act. Our hard-earned money should go directly to our families back home in the Philippines who are affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and not to a corrupt government agency like Philhealth. In a country like the Philippines where the healthcare system is dominated by profit-oriented private corporations, Migrante International asserts that a genuine universal health care should be free and readily accessible for the entire Filipino people.

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