Why OFWs support the 2-day transport strike

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition’s 2-day transport strike not just for sentimental reasons. After all, the iconic “Katas ng Saudi” is symbolized by the very jeepneys that the Duterte government is now pushing to phase-out.

No, OFWs realize that their present conditions can now hardly sustain their families’ daily needs. And their savings, if at all, can hardly afford the P1.6 million cost of one e-Jeep. So, goodbye, “Katas ng Saudi”. There goes another opportunity for our OFWs to invest in something that would contribute to nation-building, in this case, mass transport that benefits millions.

More importantly, OFWs support the transport strike not because they are anti-modernization. OFWs are the last people to shun the benefits of a modern, efficient and systematized mass transport. In progressive host countries where they are, OFWs already experience how mass trains, buses and other means of public transport service and prioritize millions who do not have means. Of course, they want the same for millions Filipinos in the homeland, for their families, children and relatives who are motorists and commuters alike.

OFWs support the transport strike because they reject any and all so-called “modernization” schemes in which they and their families and the general public bear the brunt. They reject the Duterte government’s PUVModernization program because it is anti-poor and anti-masses. It plans to replace the humble jeepney with something “modern” that both drivers/operators and commuters cannot afford. Instead, mass transport will be privatized, monopolized by big corporations that can afford to pay millions and millions for a fleet of 20 units, the minimum number required per operator in the program.

Only the Ayalas, Aboitizes or the multimillionaires who funded Duterte’s presidency can afford the PUVModernization scheme. These multimillionaires are engaged in utilities, manufacturing, mining and infrastracture. According to an investigative report by the PCIJ, Duterte has already appointed at least half a dozen and their relatives to his Cabinet six months after elections. Others are still waiting for payback, it seems, in terms of business and other government “modernization” programs. This is not the type of “modernization” that OFWs support.

Like the general public, OFWs are also exasperated with the incorrigible traffic problem. More so because they experience first-hand abroad how a systematized and efficient mass transport system and urban planning can make the Philippines a country that they would wish to come home to. However, Duterte’s PUVModernization program is not geared towards improving the lives of motorists and commuters alike but towards ensuring more profit for big businesses and foreign investors.

What do OFWs want? OFWs wish for a nationalized public mass transport system that genuinely and sincerely considers the present situation of motorists and commuters alike. Instead, the Duterte government is deliberately dividing the public transport sector and commuters on diversionary arguments, as if both do not share the same interests and vision for a better Philippines.

Is a nationalized public mass transport feasible? OFWs believe it is. If Duterte is really sincere in upgrading old jeepneys and resolving the traffic problem, it should channel government resources to subsidize mass transport, at no cost to both drivers/operators and commuters. It should re-orient Dutertenomics to a pro-masses agenda and depart from neoliberal dictates that burden the public, especially the lowly drivers/operators and the poor masses. Any efforts to “modernize” will not be fruitful if not founded on genuine rural development and national industrialization that would prioritize people over profit. ###

 

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“OFW Bank” further institutionalizes bankrupt labor export program

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International objects to the creation of an “overseas Filipino worker bank” (OFB), saying that it is geared towards “managing OFW remittances for the perpetuation of a long-bankrupt labor export program”.

President Duterte recently authorized the transfer of shares of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PPSB) to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) for its subsequent conversion into the OFB through Executive Order 44.

The creation of the OFB is in tune with the Duterte government’s economic thrust of “managing migration” as a “tool for development”, a neoliberal prescription that does not in any way address the root causes of forced migration nor even attempt to curb it in the policy-level. Its main objective is to “manage OFW remittances” to enable a more fast-tracked, sufficient and concentrated system of profiting from overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) hard-earned incomes.

This in itself further institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances in accordance to neoliberal policies and dictates.

Previous administrations have been aggressive in crafting programs and services aimed at facilitating and encouraging forced migration. While acknowledging the many social costs and human rights violations, these are effectively downplayed by the hailing of OFW remittances. Instead, past administrations have unfailingly and resolutely promoted the labor export program as unequivocally beneficial to OFWs and their families. This is particularly done by overstating supposed development benefits for the economy and the income benefits of households.

Precisely, this is what the Duterte regime hopes to achieve anew through the creation of the OFB, to the detriment of our OFWs.

Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that decisively deviates from a policy of labor export and focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, Duterte’s economic compulsion is to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to increase, concentrate and manage remittances.

Further, the EO’s supposed vision to “provide OFWs with priority support for their growing financial needs” is plain braggadocio. Encouraging OFWs to embark on “microfinancing” will only bury them in greater debt to big banks and financial institutions, this time facilitated by the state itself. Meanwhile, enticing investments for so-called “microinsurance” may only be deemed as yet another state exaction scheme in which OFWs are encouraged to allot their earnings to premiums and contributions that will ultimately be useless to them. This has long been the case with the controversy-laden and corrupt-ridden OWWA funds.

Migrante International firmly stands on the position that, should there be “OFW banks”, these should ensure that OFWs’ hard-earned money are invested towards genuine rural development and national industrialization that will create jobs at home and end the vicious cycle of forced migration. Unfortunately, this thrust is hardly the case under the Duterte regime’s present economic agenda.

To address the problem of forced migration, the government’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. It should depart from neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances. Only then can OFWs look forward to a future in which they will not have to leave their families behind just to survive. ###

Never again to a fascist dictatorship! – Migrante

Today, wherever we may be in the world, Filipinos come together to mark the 45th year of the declaration of martial law. But this year’s September 21 protests go beyond commemoration and recollection of the crimes of the US-Marcos dictatorship. Today, we unite to hold accountable the fascist US-Duterte regime for crimes perpetrated in its Marcosian all-out war against the people.

We are gathered today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny. We condemn in strongest terms the government’s mass murder under the banner of the regime’s three wars – the war against the Moro people, the bloody “war on drugs” and the anti-people Oplan Kapayapaan. We vow to fight Duterte’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to resist and reject any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties.

We vow to frustrate any and all moves by Duterte to install himself as a fascist dictator like his idol Marcos.

We are not cowed by President Duterte’s attempts to sabotage, belittle or mock today’s protests. We shall hold no less than Duterte responsible for manoeuvres to disrupt or cause trouble in today’s peaceful mass actions. We are aware that Duterte is more than capable of creating scenarios to serve as pretext for the declaration of nationwide martial law.

We will not be intimidated. Should Duterte make good his threat to declare martial law nationwide, we vow to be ever vigilant and continue with efforts to mobilize the broadest number of Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to call for an end to his fascist rule.

 

September 21 protests go global

Migrante chapters held different forms of protests around the world today.

In Hong Kong, OFWs trooped to the PH Consulate to condemn the spate of killings. Meawhile, OFWs in Japan distributed leaflets in train stations to call for solidarity with the Filipino people against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny.

OFWs in Qatar, Italy and South Korea held indoor and outdoor protests. Filipinos in Canada, Australia and the United States also held simultaneous protests. In the United Kingdom, Filipinos are set to hold a protest action on September 24.

 In the Philippines, Migrante chapters in Davao, Cebu, Negros, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Baguio participated in the nationwide protest centers. Manila-based chapters of Migrante joined the big multisectoral rally in Luneta. ###

#JusticeforKian Kian is every OFW’s son

photo from abs-cbn.com

Migrante International extends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos, the latest victim of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs.

We grieve with the delos Santos family, especially Kian’s mother Lorenza, an overseas Filipino worker from Saudi Arabia. Lorenza has captured the hearts of OFWs and their families all over the world. We feel her sorrow because it is also ours. We mourn as she mourns. We rage as she rages. Lorenza’s family has become every OFW’s family, and Kian every OFW’s son.

We feel Lorenza’s hunger for justice. It has fortified our resolve to fight for justice for Kian and every single life lost. We join Lorenza in her battle, as Kian’s death has united every and all OFW and family to win the war against Duterte’s psychopathic rampage.

We condemn and hold accountable the Philippine National Police, Kian’s cold-blooded murderers, who have long been given license by no less than Duterte himself to conduct an unbridled killing spree. Duterte has launched a full scale use of state violence against the people that has resulted in countless human rights violations, the terrorizing of communities and extrajudicial killings under the guise of his government’s notorious war on drugs.

How many more Kians will suffer the same fate? The Duterte government remains unremorseful, it continues to condone the senseless killings. Innocents like Kian are being victimized yet big operators of the illegal drug trade remain scot-free. What thrives now instead is a climate of impunity of unprecedented proportions, ever worse than before.

The killings must stop. Heads must roll. Kian’s life is blood on Duterte’s hands. All those who committed, operated and tolerated the spate of killings are complicit and should be held accountable by the Filipino people.

We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise up against Duterte’s tyranny and fascist rule. We do not want more Kians to die because of Duterte’s psychopathic war on drugs. He has already proven himself unworthy of the people’s trust. He has betrayed the people by failing to hold accountable all human rights violators in the military, police and government.

Migrante International stands firm that only through the upholding of the social and economic rights of the people can the root causes of poverty and social problems be thoroughly and genuinely addressed. We must demand a change to the very system that victimized Kian and took his innocent life. Only through this can Kian, Lorenza and every Filipino family get the justice that they truly deserve. ###

 

#SONA2017: OFWs protest Duterte’s fascism and ‘broken vows’ in People’s SONA

On Pres. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International led protests worldwide condemning the regime’s martial law and empty promises.

“Today’s protests are happening at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the US-Duterte regime’s militarist authoritarian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people. We lend our voices against the government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

“The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move has paved the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide,” he said.

“History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.”

Hernando said that today’s SONA protests around the world is also testament to overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) continuing clamor for genuine change.

Joining the Migrante contingent in the People’s SONA in Manila are returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia; the family of Mary Jane Veloso; and, the family of Teresa Quedding, an OFW victim of mysterious death whose remains arrived from Kuwait without internal organs and with apparent signs of torture and maltreatment.

Migrante also raised OFWs’ strong opposition to fees and tax impositions brought on by the new OFW ID, or the iDOLE, and the Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order 04-2017 on balikbayan boxes which will be effective on August 1.

“After a year of Duterte’s presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits OFWs and their families. Duterte vowed to end forced migration and the policy of labor export but continues to cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the root causes of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are compelled to leave their families just to survive. These are also the root causes of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

Like in the Marcos era, he said, Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people will only further force Filipinos to seek security and refuge abroad.

“History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Martial law extension in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, is a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace,” Hernando said.

Migrante also condemned the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide.

“Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject the US’ involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence,” Hernando said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante International calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.”

“We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Only through collective action and struggle can the Filipino people ultimately topple the rotten, corrupt system that has produced one tyrant leader after another,” Hernando said. ###

BoC is taking the joy out of the balikbayan box – Migrante

Migrante International today slammed the Bureau of Customs’ (BoC) latest order Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 saying that it is an insult, an added chore and a killjoy to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families.

The group said that CMO 04-2017 also reeks of another money-making scheme aimed to justify tax impositions and other fund-generating requirements from OFWs and families.

CMO 04-2017 requires balikbayan boxes to include an itemized list of all its contents and receipts of newly-puchased items inside the box. It also requires receivers to be solely relatives and family members who have to prove that they are Filipino citizens.

“Itong mga taga-Customs, halatang walang malasakit at walang respeto sa mga OFW. Hindi ba nila alam na kasama sa sayang dulot ng balikbayan box ang surpresang dulot nito sa mga pamilya? Pati ba naman ito ay tatanggalin nila? Gusto nilang tanggalin ang saya ng OFW at pamilya sa pagpapadala at pagtanggap ng balikbayan box,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International Spokesperson.

“Ang sabi pa ng BoC, wala raw dapat ikatakot ang mga OFW kung wala naman silang itinatago. Ang sagot dito ng mga OFW, bakit kami ang pinag-iinitan ninyo? Hindi kami mga kriminal na nagpupuslit ng kontrabando. Bakit kami ang pinagdidiskitahan ng gobyerno gayong hindi naman nila masawata ang mga malalaking iligal na smuggler at sindikato? Pawis at dugo ng mga OFW ang puhunan para mapuno ang bawat isang balikbayan box.” Hernando said.

Hernando said, “The balikbayan box is sacred to OFWs. The most of humble balikbayan boxes contains the most personalized translation of love and affection for its recipients. Sending and receiving it is a delightful event in itself. The least the government could do is to make sure that this simple vehicle of love is not burdened by unnecessary requirements and money-making schemes at the expense of OFWs and their families,” Hernando said. ###

 

Thousands of OFWs to face crackdowns as Saudi amnesty ends on July 24

Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched its amnesty campaign on March 29, only more than 6,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been repatriated by the Philippine government.

This figure is short of the 15,000 who registered for the program, or those who the Philippine embassy deemed “qualified” for repatriation. These include OFWs who have overstayed their visa, OFWs with expired iqama, workers who have left their employers, and, workers who came in with a work permit but did not obtain their iqama within 90 days of arrival.

The amnesty, however, does not provide remedy for workers who have existing or pending labor complaints at the Saudi Ministry of Labor, such as non-payment of wages and other benefits.

“We have said before that while the Saudi amnesty program is a crucial opportunity for the Duterte government to process the repatriation of hundeds of thousands of stranded OFWs, we have also reiterated that it should play a more pro-active role and not be complacent and depend solely on the amnesty program. The number of repatriated OFWs shows a dismal effort on the part of the government. It is a far cry from the government’s own target, and definitely miniscule compared to the efforts of other governments. Ethiopa, for one, has already repatriated at least 60,000 of its nationals since the amnesty program took place,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

“The issue of unpaid wages and labor violations is also still prevalent among OFWs since the Saudi crisis erupted in 2014-2015. What will become of them when the July 24 deadline ends?”

Hernando said that many OFWs are still awaiting resolution of their cases, at the prompting of the Duterte government through the DOLE (Deparment of Labor and Employment). “Last year, when DOLE Sec. Bello visited Saudi, he encouraged OFWs to file labor complaints at the Saudi Labor Ministry. Bello promised legal assistance to these OFWs. They signed SPAs (special powers of attorney) to allow the Duterte government to represent them in their cases. Understandably, these OFWs would opt to stay instead of avail of the amnesty in anticipation of the wages that are due them. What is the Duterte government’s recourse for them?”

“Sadly, OFWs who have been waiting for months, even years, for the resolution of their labor complaints may find the amnesty their only feasible solution and just opt to forfeit their claims. Again, what is the Duterte government’s plan for them?” Hernando said.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be launching crackdowns on undocumented migrants after the July 24 deadline of the amnesty program.

Migrante International submitted a set of demands to the DOLE on July 14, 2017 in anticipation of the July 24 deadline (see attached). The demands include:

  1. The immediate mass repatriation of ALL stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
  • For the POLO, POEA, OWWA and recruitment agencies to immediately process exit visas and provide air tickets at no cost to the stranded OFWs. Some returned OFWs have complained of paying for their own ticket fares just to be able to avail of the amnesty.
  • For the PH posts to dispatch teams to far-flung provinces, labor camps and areas to assist OFWs who want to avail of the amnesty but have no means to do so.
  • For the Duterte government to secure chartered flights, as had been done by other embassies and governments, to ensure that enough flights can ferry those who want to be repatriated. Because the Duterte government has relied solely on flights provided for by the Saudi government, some OFWs have resorted to shelling out money to pay for their own air fare. Others remain stranded despite having completed their repatriation process, awaiting available flights.
  • For the Duterte government to appeal for an extension of the amnesty program to cater to thousands more who are yet to be assisted by Duterte posts.
  1. Comprehensive assistance for returning, returned and stranded OFWs and their families, including but not limited to financial, legal (for cases filed in Saudi Arabia and in the Philippines), medical, counselling and other psycho-social assistance.
  2. Comprehensive reintegration program for returned OFWs in the form of regular jobs with decent wages in the country and not dole-outs, band-aid solutions and loan packages.
  3. Seriously review the consideration of a deployment ban on household service workers due to the rising number of abuses, rape, sexual harassment and other cases of maltreatment of female domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

“Unless these are decisively addressed, the July 24 deadline poses a clear and present danger to hundreds of thousands of undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia.,” Hernando said.

Thousands of stranded OFWs are in danger of being violently dispersed, arrested and detained by Saudi authorities as crackdowns against undocumented migrants are expected to resume, he said. “At this time, the government should not only be pro-active but preemptive. They should provide legal assistance and protection. PH posts should open their doors to stranded OFWs, to provide them sanctuary and prevent a repeat of the Tent City in 2013. Aside from an extension of the amnesty program, the Duterte government should demand a stop to the scheduled crackdowns in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia and their families will join the Migrante contingent on the People’s SONA protests on July 24. ###