Migrante Europe calls on Comelec and embassies to adopt personal voting by overseas Filipino workers

The postal voting to being implemented by the COMELEC for overseas Filipino workers in Europe in the Mid-Term Election is strongly protested by Migrante Europe.

According to the communications received by Migrante Europe chapters and members from the Philippine embassies and consulates, they have adopted postal voting. There will be no personal voting for the purposes of the 2019 National Elections for senators and party-list representatives.

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Postal voting for overseas Filipino workers is a procedure whereby ballots are sent by postal mailing to the voters and returned by post, in contrast to voters who are voting in person at a polling center or electronically via an automated election system.

“This new voting policy and procedure by the COMELEC may result in disenfranchisement and nonparticipation of thousands of registered Filipino voters in Europe,” lamented by Fr. Herbert Fadriquela Jr., chairperson of Migrante Europe.

According to Republic Act No. 9189, Sec. 2 – “It is the prime duty of the State to provide a system of honest and orderly overseas absentee voting that upholds the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot. Towards this end, the State ensures equal opportunity to all qualified citizens of the Philippines abroad in the exercise of this fundamental right.”

“Many registered voters don’t have stable addresses and there is no guarantee that they will receive their ballots, or if the returned ballots will be received by the embassies or consulates. We are appealing to the COMELEC and to the Duterte government for Filipinos to be given an option to get their ballots from the embassies and to adopt as well the personal voting of migrant Filipinos in Europe;” said Rhodney Pasion, Europe Electoral Campaign Coordinator.

Meanwhile, Migrante Europe chapter in Northern Italy had a positive dialogue with the Philippine Consulate in Milan last Sunday, 31 March 2019 regarding electoral concerns. The April 5 deadline for the submission of forms for the overseas absentee voter who changed their addresses was prolonged until April 15. For those who request to get their ballots from the embassy/ consulate, it was extended until April 30.

To guarantee the transparency, accessibility, and accountability of the 2019 national elections, the following are the demands of Migrante Europe:

• An option to vote by allowing personal voting to the polling centers;

• An option to receive the ballots by allowing to get it at the respective embassies and consulates;

• Satellite voting centers;

• Immediate notification related to absentee voting including the arrival of ballots.

“We call on the Commission on Elections and the Duterte government to address this urgent issue on ‘voter disenfranchisement’.” If the government is sincere to promote the active participation of the broadest number of Filipino overseas workers in the national elections, personal voting of OFWs should be adopted during the Overseas Absentee Voting to start on April 13-May 13, 2019,” concluded by Fr. Herbert. ###

For reference:

Rhodney Pasion
Europe Electoral Campaign Coordinator
Email: rhodneypaion1@gmail.com

Revd. Fr. Herbert F. Fadriquela Jr.
Chaplain to the Filipino Community
Diocese of Leicester
Church of England
Chaiperson, Migrante Europe

Email: contact@migrante.eu

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DAPAT LIBRE ANG PAG-BOTO! — Migrante Japan

13 April 2019

Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) na, pero matamlay ang mga botante sa Japan, South Korea at Australia. Bukod sa tinanggal ang pagkakataon na makaboto ng personal ang ating mga kababayan upang ipahayag ang kanilang damdamin sa pamamagitan balota, ngayon ay ipinakakarga pa sa kanila ang pagbili ng “selyo” (postal stamp) para maibalik sa embahada ang kanilang balota at maisama sa bilangan ang kanilang boto.

Ano ba ito? Lokohan ba ito, o sadyang ayaw bilangin ang boto ng mga OFW?

 

Noong nagdaang eleksyon ay magkahalong “personal” at “postal” voting ang sinunod na moda ng botohan sa Japan na nagpalaki sa bilang ng mga botanteng bumoto. Bakit ngayon ay postal voting na lamang? Imbes na madagdagan, pihadong mababawasan na naman ang boboto sa eleksyon na nagsimula na ngayong araw, ika-13 ng Abril 2019 at tatagal hanggang ika-14 ng Mayo 2019.

Para sa mga migrante sa Japan, hindi ang halaga ng postal stamp ang isyu dito, kundi ang tila orkestradong paghadlang (disenfranchisement) sa mga botante na bumoto. Sabi ng mga opisyal ng embahada sa Tokyo, pwede naman daw i-deliver sa embassy ang balota kung ayaw bumili ng stamp. Hindi ba garapalang panggagago ito sa ating mga botante?

Mariing tinututulan ng MIGRANTE Japan ang desisyong ito. Bakit kami ang kailangan bumili ng postal stamp? Dapat libre ang aming pagboto! Hindi simpleng halaga ang pinaguusapan dito kundi ang kawalan ng respeto at pagkilala sa aming mga OFW. Sa laki ng aming mga bayarin sa gobyerno at taunang remitans sa bansa, pati ba naman postal stamp ipakakarga pa rin sa amin? Ito ay pangiinsulto sa aming patriyotismo. Malayo man kami sa Pilipinas, nananatili ang aming hangarin na makapaglingkod sa bayan at gampanan ang aming tunglkulin bilang mamamayan. Araw-araw kaming nag-aalala sa patuloy na pagbagsak ng ekonomiya ng Pilipinas, ang patuloy na pagtaas ng mga pangunahing bilihin, ang walang humpay na patayan at kawalan ng paggalang sa karapatang pantao. Hindi ito ang pagbabago na hinahangad namin.

Nais namin na gamitin ang aming balota upang ihalal ang mga kandidato na sa aming pagsusuri ay maninindigan sa interes at kapakanan ng mas nakararami kabilang ang mga OFW. Nauto na kami noong nagdaang halalan kaya hindi kami papayag na muling maloko ng mga kandidatong puro lamang pangako, pero korap at abusado sa pwesto.

Hindi ang mga nagtataasang gusali, sementadong kalye at highways, mga tulay at kung anu-ano pang inprastraktura ang sukatan ng pag-unlad. Wala naman itong naiaambag sa pang-araw- araw na buhay ng ordinaryong mamamayan. Mga palamuti lamang ang mga ito para itago ang lumalala pa ring kahirapan sa Pilipinas. Mas lalo pa nitong pinalalaki ang utang panlabas ng Pilipinas na sa bandang huli ay mamamayan din ang papasan.

Ang kailangan namin ay trabaho at disenteng sahod para muling makabalik sa Pilipinas at makapiling ang aming mga mahal sa buhay.

Ang gusto namin ay makabuluhang pagbabago at inaasahan namin na ang kasalukuyang eleksyon ay magagamit namin upang maisulong ang mga munting pagbabago na hangad namin. Kaya bakit pati karapatan namin na bumoto ay tila sinasagkaan ng mga polisiyang tulad nito.

May humigit-kumulang sa 80,000 rehistradong botante sa Japan. Magkano lang ang postal stamp para payagan makaboto ang lahat? Ang sabi ng Comelec: “Dapat libre ang pagboto!” Pero bakit kami ang bibili ng selyo? Nais ba ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) na busalan ang bibig naming mga OFW kaya pati postal stamp ay pinakakarga sa mga botante? Nakakalungkot ito at nakakapanggigil para sa mga OFW na naghahangad lamang ng tunay at pangmatagalang pagbabago sa lipunang Pilipino?

 

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MIGRANTE JAPAN April 13, 2019

MJpn

 

GIVE BACK OUR STAMP! WE ALREADY PAID FOR IT WITH OUR BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS!  (An open letter to Comelec Commissioners

We, Filipinos in Japan were told by our Foreign Service Post in-charge of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) that the postal stamp necessary to mail back our ballots will be shouldered by us. This cannot be true!

In the previous elections, postal stamps are already paid for by the Comelec along with the security envelope bearing the address of our Foreign Service Post in Tokyo and Osaka acting as OAV centers. We are not aware if this is true to all countries covered by the OAV.

For the record, we want to register our opposition to this ruling. Not only is this an added burden for our OFWs; in our view, this will prevent many registered voters from participating in the elections. We cannot help but think that this is yet another way of disenfranchising our OFWs.

We also wish to inform you of the slow, piecemeal efforts of our Foreign Service Posts to provide relevant and adequate information about the conduct of the OAV in Japan. The announcement on the mode of elections was only posted at the Philippine Embassy website on March 27 and the testing of the VCM was only announced on April 1, thereby disabling ordinary voters, even Filipino Community groups (FilComs) to actively witness and participate in the event. Even the accreditation of NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to become OAV partners of Comelec is being mashed-up through the imposition of requirements that are not part of Comelec Resolution 10499.

As we are nearing the start of the OAV, we are appealing to you to reconsider your decision on the above matter. OFWs are the biggest contributors to Philippine economy. Asking us to buy our own stamp to ensure that our votes will be counted is an insult to our patriotism and the billions of dollars that we contribute annually. This cannot be happening when billions of pesos are being spent by the government to infrastructure projects that are not benefitting ordinary Filipinos, not to mention the hundreds of millions more spent on lavish overseas travels by government officials that are not helping the economy at all.

Please give back our stamp! We already paid for it with our blood, sweat and tears! Allow us to exercise our right to vote for candidates that will truly represent our interests and carry our hopes and aspirations for our country! Count our votes!

– MIGRANTE JAPAN

Migrante blasts SSS anew over the mandatory SSS exaction on OFWs

Recently, SSS issued a statement through its Vice-President for Public Affairs Ma. Luisa Sebastian wherein the agency dismissed Migrante’s opposition on the compulsory Php2,400 monthly SSS contribution for OFWs as baseless.

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Migrante maintains its assertion that we OFWs were never consulted in the legislation and issuance of this unjust and extortionate policy. It was clear that there was no extensive public consultation conducted by SSS to seek the side of OFWs. None of Migrante’s chapters in 24 countries received any invitation or at least even a hint about SSS’ purported consultation.

We consider it ludicrous and insulting to Filipino migrants for SSS to claim that OFWs were already consulted through the attendance of recruitment agencies in the congressional hearing. Essentially, the stand of OFWs differs from that of private recruitment agencies. Our exclusion in the hearing only proves that the voices of OFWs are continually brushed aside by the authorities and by private agencies keen on squeezing the hard-earned money of Filipino overseas workers.

SSS better cease its constant insemination of falsehood by claiming that this new policy does not differ to the footing of voluntary or self-employed members. Under RA 11199 and its IRR, SSS will ensure the enforcement of the mandatory Php2,400 monthly exaction from OFWs. (That is if the contribution is based on the US$400 OFW minimum salary)

Worse, even before an OFW gets deployed, SSS will wrest Php7,200 or 3-months’ worth of contribution by means of including it in the list of required fees and exactions prior to getting provided with some of the documents (e.g. OEC) they need.

Reprehensibly, it is very clear from the law that OFWs will be burdened of paying Php2,400 in its entirety as long as there is no existing bilateral agreement with the host country. Why is the Duterte government rushing to implement it sans the bilateral agreement?

In addition, the ever-increasing rise in the prices of goods and services diminishes the purchasing power of our salaries and causes tremendous difficulties in our capacity to support the needs of our families. We can no longer consider our SSS contributions as “savings” if it’s compulsory and when the exorbitant amount robs us of the little savings that we ought to set apart for our augmenting needs like food, rent and bills payment for water, electricity and other utilities.

Did the SSS even try to evaluate and check out the situation of OFWs?

Obviously, SSS does not really care about the issues hounding OFWs. We would like to make it known to SSS officials that last year, POEA likewise issued a policy slapping re-hires and Balik Manggagawa with a US$144 mandatory insurance that includes almost the same benefits as that of SSS (except pension).

Just like the Php2,400 monthly SSS, this mandatory insurance is of no significance to OFWs. Instead, this is an attempt by the Duterte government to relinquish its responsibility of providing direct help to OFWs through subsidies for programs related to their welfare and those of their families.

It is the primary responsibility of the Philippine government to develop a better social security system. After decades of labor export program, it is disgraceful that the Philippine government is now even dragging other foreign countries in its attempt to fill its agency’s coffers. Meanwhile, SSS members and pensioners continue to receive meager crumbs as officials and executives in government agencies are lavished with excessive bonuses, salaries and perks.

If the Duterte government is really serious in providing social security to Filipinos, then it should be addressing the roots of forced migration. We Filipino migrants reiterate our opposition to RA 11199 for it is apparent that its disadvantages and troubles outweigh all its purported benefits.

Migrante condemns continuing bloodshed and massacre of farmers in Negros Island. Demands independent investigation for Negros14

Migrante International strongly condemns the killings of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental by the Philippine National Police on Saturday, March 30, 2019 and demands justice for all the farmers who have become victims to the violent and oppressive policies of the Duterte administration.

Among the victims of the brutal killings were peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anok Enojo Rapada from Sta. Catalina; peasant leader Edgardo Avelino and his brother Ismael Avelino, Melchor Panares and his son Mario Panares from Canlaon City; Rogelio and Ricky Ricomuno, Gonzalo Rosales and Genes Palmares of Canlaon City.

Under Duterte, the lives of peasants and farmers throughout the country are in constant danger, not only suffering from starvation, landlessness and poverty but also from threats of being targeted for harassment, surveillance, illegal arrests, and killings by state and paramilitary forces. Farmers from Negros Island have particularly been targeted, where 40 out of 180 farmers already killed are from the region.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2015 Census, 1.5 million people live below poverty in the Negros Island. Negros Occidental has the second highest magnitude of poor population among the provinces nationwide, while Negros Oriental ranks second. Duterte’s neglect and neoliberal economic policies, and exploitative big landlords in Negros are further driving the peasants and farmers into poverty.

The Duterte Administration’s response to the organized outcry of peasants and farmers in the country clamoring for genuine agrarian reform and resisting extreme poverty and landlessness has been an increase in violent militarization of their communities. Police and military operations such as the PNP’s Oplan Sauron or Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO), Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 resulted to increased deployment of military troops who are sowing terror in the regions of Negros, Samar and Bicol. They have been responsible for the unjust killings of innocent and defenseless farmers.

Filipino migrants stand with our peasants and farmers as they continue to courageously assert for recognition of their basic human rights, and for genuine agrarian reform. We demand an end to military and police operations of our communities.

Migrante International supports the call of peasant and human rights groups for an independent and thorough investigation of the killings of the 14 farmers.

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Justice for the Negros 14!

Stop Killing Farmers!

Stop the militarization of communities!

 

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Justice for Jerwin Roj Royupa!

Migrante Australia, a national alliance of organisations advocating for Filipino migrants mourns the death of Jerwin Roj Royupa, a 21-year old newly arrived Filipino migrant worker.

Jerwin came to Australia just 5 weeks ago on a traineeship visa. He died on 15th of March 2019 after allegedly jumping from a moving vehicle.

It began as a dream. In the end, it killed him. When Jerwin saw an opportunity to go to Australia, he took it wholeheartedly. He anchored his big dreams on a traineeship scholarship. As part of this scholarship scheme, he underwent a 4-month training in the Philippines. He didn’t mind that. He was ecstatic when his traineeship visa came.

Finally, his dream to build a house that didn’t get flooded, his dream to take his parents to Australia, his dream to set up his own business and his dream to prove to his parents that he is someone they can be proud of again after he failed to pass the board exam are going to be fulfilled.

Barely a month in Australia, he told his family and friends that he wasn’t being paid, he wasn’t being properly fed, the electricity and Wi-fi connection where he was staying was frequently switched off. He told his friend that his passport was taken off him as soon as he arrived at the airport by his employer. He also told his family that according to his employer, he didn’t have any rights in Australia. He was working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.

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George Kotsakis, Migrante Australia’s Chairperson said that over 6000 Filipino workers leave the country on a daily basis under the labour export policy program of the Philippine government. Forced migration is a reality and to many Filipinos, it is their only option, if they want to provide for the basic needs of their families. And for Jerwin, it was the only way to make his dreams come true.

“It is the responsibility of the Philippine government to ensure that overseas Filipino workers are protected and treated with respect in countries they work in”, Kotsakis added further.

The lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines has forced many young Filipinos like Jerwin to work stripped of their rights at work – or their human rights in general.

We join the Royupa family in seeking justice for their beloved Jerwin.

Justice for Jerwin!

Migrante Australia

Migrante denounces Duterte regime’s black prop mission to EU against People’s organizations. Supports ICC’s vow to continue probing the killings in the Philippines.

Migrante International denounces the March 13th press briefing held by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Presidential Communications Office (PCOO) as a desperate attempt to silence the growing people’s movement in the Philippines and in the international community who are outspoken and critical of the large-scale human rights violations committed by the Duterte Administration.

The Philippine government’s so-called “truth mission” to Europe to discredit and malign respected people’s organizations and institutions who for decades have been bravely defending the human rights of the poor, most oppressed and marginalized in Philippine society only exposes their failed efforts to cover up their shameful record.

It is clear from the presentation given by Brigadier General Antonio Parlade and other government officials that they did not have sufficient evidence and documentation to prove to the officials of the European Union, Belgian Foreign Ministry and United Nations that certain Filipino people’s organizations they are giving financial support to are linked to “terrorist groups”. Their list of legal organizations supposedly acting as cover for “terrorist organizations” is baseless and becomes a target list for harassment, surveillance and killings carried out by the State with impunity.

While they boast to European officials that human rights are being “promoted, protected, and fulfilled” in the Philippines, people’s organizations throughout the country have diligently and carefully documented countless data, testimonies and stories of systematic violations of civil, economic, social and political rights of the Filipino people, including the killings of human rights defenders since Duterte took office.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) likewise proves that the Duterte regime is hell-bent on quashing actions that undertake independent and impartial probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines. Migrante International wholly supports the statement of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda vowing to continue the preliminary investigation into the killings under President Duterte’s fake war on drugs that has claimed thousands upon thousands of lives.

It is the right of the most oppressed sectors of Philippine society to expose the truth about their conditions and express their outrage at their government who is responsible for the systemic injustices they are facing everyday. It is not a crime for people’s organizations to actively engage in advocacy, education and lobbying efforts and utilize international platforms such as the United Nations to lift up their grave concerns. It is not a crime nor a “scam” if the Filipino people forms alliances, coalitions and partnerships with other people’s organizations all over the world who are similarly struggling for the same basic human rights which they are denied by their own governments. International solidarity is not “an obligation of developed countries to help developing countries” but a duty of oppressed peoples all over the world who are fighting for genuine democracy, freedom, peace and justice to support each other.

Migrante International fully supports immediate investigations and fact-finding missions by the UN, EU and International Criminal Court to understand the real human rights situation in the Philippines.

 

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