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

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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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Migrante Aotearoa condemns the violent attack against our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christchurch

Migrante Aotearoa condemns the violent attack against our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christchurch. Reports of death rose to 49 and several injured are still being treated at this stage. No specific information on the casualties’ nationalities have been yet released but we have not received any report that a Filipino was hurt after the incident. We have been monitoring reports and continuously in contact with our coordinator based in Christchurch.

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We are calling on our fellow Filipinos to be vigilant and work together with all peace-loving New Zealanders in promoting respect and wellbeing for all. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden stated that these extremists are trying to destroy New Zealand because of our diversity and rejection of racism but they will not win. We are united and will continue to uphold our values of kindness and compassion.

We urge everyone to stay safe and vigilant as we join the cries for justice during this difficult time.

We condemn in strongest terms the hate and violence brought by right wing extremists all over the world. We are offering our prayers and condolences to our Muslim brothers and sisters and to all the victims of this tragic event.

Kia Kaha New Zealand!

 

24 years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, OFW groups gather to lay out migrants’ agenda for ending modern-day slavery

Various OFW advocacy groups, partners, church ministries, grassroots migrants and families gathered on Sunday, 16th of March at the Nativity of the Lord Parish – Bulwagang Razon in Quezon City to lay down the migrants’ agenda for ending modern-day slavery. The event was held to commemorate the 24th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion who was executed on 17 March 1995.

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Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando said, “Flor Contemplacion’s tragic fate continues to reflect the plight of Filipino migrants.” One of the factors that Hernando expounded was the social cost of migration among OFW families.

After Flor’s execution, RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 was enacted and as the government claimed then, it was meant to protect OFWs and forestall the repetition of another Flor Contemplacion. However, there have been more OFWs executed ever since and Filipino migrants continue to suffer maltreatment and deprivation overseas.

Fast forward to the Duterte administration, Hernando recounted that hopes were high in 2016 as President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to fulfill his dream for OFWs when he declared that “in about 10 years, hindi na kayo (OFWs) lalabas.”

Just days after President Duterte emerged as the winner in the 2016 presidential election, Migrante International submitted a letter to Malacañang entitled “Change OFWs want to see.” It included 10 doable points, some of which OFWs believed Duterte could fulfill in his first 100 days. They expressed hope that President Duterte will address the roots of forced migration like contractualization, landlessness, low wages, corruption, etcetera. Three years on, many OFWs are still facing the same problems brought about by the government’s labour export program.

Gemma Concepcion, a victim of human trafficking, expressed frustration after many unsuccessful attempts of getting hired here in the Philippines. “Pagbalik namin sa Pilipinas, naghanap na kami agad ng trabaho dito pero talagang mahirap at walang trabahong sapat na makakatugon sa mga pangangailangan ng aming pamilya. Mula noon, hanggang ngayon, walang pagbabago sa Pilipinas,” she lamented.

Mycelle Sulit from Kuwait likewise testified about her struggles to make ends meet after OWWA deprived her of disability claims. She was crippled after jumping off from the third floor of a building as she escaped from her cruel employers. Also present was Nanay Celia Veloso who sobbed as she related the uncertainties and fears she have for her daughter Mary Jane Veloso who has been languishing on death row in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the situation of seafarers does not fare better. Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of International Seafarers Action Center hit POEA and manning agencies for continually violating the seafarers’ rights under the Maritime Labour Convention. Atty. Edwin dela Cruz blames the absence of a legislation in the Philippines that would enforce the international agreement.

Another important highlight was a discussion on the Social Security Act of 2018. This law which was recently signed by Duterte is set to impose mandatory SSS exaction on OFWs. Migrante expressed previously that the government is really hell-bent into carrying out the long-held fears of OFWs. Their fears have materialized as they are now about to carry the entire burden of the SSS exaction even in the absence of a bilateral agreement with host countries that would obligate employers to remit contributions.

Under the mandatory SSS exaction, OFW new hires will be squeezed with Php 2,400 off their pockets while rehires will have to present Php 7,200 first before they get deployed abroad. Laorence Castillo, head of Migrante International Secretariat said that OFWs should not bear the brunt of the failure of SSS to collect billions and billions of unremitted contributions from delinquent employers.

The Flor at 24 commemoration is just one of many planned actions and activities leading to the National Summit of Migrants and Families which will be held on 29 April 2019.

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No to Mandatory SSS collections on OFWs! Raise pensions, not exactions! — Migrante

Migrante International joins other sectors in a BAYAN-led protest action held before the gates of the SSS main office on Wednesday, 13 March 2019. This was on the back of the impending enforcement of the mandatory SSS on both land-based and sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

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Migrante Philippines chairperson Arman Hernando expressed alarm saying, “as Migrante feared, it is the OFWs who will bear the brunt of paying the monthly contributions and not the employer. How can OFWs have a secure future with SSS if 12% of their monthly income gets robbed by the government that stubbornly refuses to raise pensions?”

According to Hernando, the government should fulfill its pledge to grant the clamoured Php 2,000 addition to the SSS pension instead of imposing higher exactions. The government so far refuses to give the remaining Php 1,000 pension increase despite previously guaranteeing to grant it after 2018.

In October last year, Migrante expressed its strongest opposition to the bill after its bicameral approval in the Philippine legislature. Migrante deplored that no extensive consultations among OFWs were ever conducted by SSS even up to the time of its signing by President Rodrigo Duterte last month.

In the recently published draft IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the Social Security Act of 2018, Rule 14 Section 5:IV stated that a land-based OFW shall pay both the employer and the employee contributions. This until such a time that the host country enters into a bilateral labour agreement with the Philippines.

“Worst, OFWs will be forced to contribute Php 2,400 per month in its entirety as long as the host country does not enter into a bilateral agreement that will obligate employers to remit their contributions.This will be on top of the US$144 mandatory insurance that is also being pushed by the government. OFWs are being totally ripped off,” Hernando stated.

The IRR mandates that SSS, along with DOLE and DFA must ensure its implementation by the host country through striking bilateral labour agreements that will obligate foreign employers to remit their contributions. Hernando warned last year that requiring employers to contribute on these exactions could incite their antagonism against OFWs.

Migrante also recalled how SSS sparked outcry in recent years due to the fat bonuses of its executives. Migrante is set to launch a petition today to block the mandatory SSS exaction on OFWs.

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Migrante on International Women’s Day: Terminated OFW cancer patient epitomizes plight of Filipino migrant women

Just barely a day before we observe International Women’s Day, our hearts were bruised anew by the agony of a Filipino household worker in Hongkong who was terminated after being diagnosed with stage three (3) cervical cancer.  Losing her access to medical treatment, Baby Jane Allas has only two weeks left before she is sent back to the Philippines. A single mother of 5 children, a bleak prospect awaits her in the Philippines as she fights for her life and her family’s future.

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Her tribulations epitomize the plight of many Filipino migrant women. Like Baby Jane Allas, many domestic workers succumb either to physical illness or mental disorders due to their subjection to maltreatment and inhumane working conditions. In January, a 39-year old domestic helper was executed in Saudi Arabia. Now, another Filipina waits for her fate after the Saudi Court of Appeals maintained her 2017 death sentence.

As one Filipina to the next gets queued to the gallows under the government’s labour export program, the dearth of opportunities in the Philippines continues to banish millions of Filipino women to the far ends of the earth; enduring even the most dangerous and demeaning jobs overseas employment could offer.

Under the US-Duterte regime, the misery of Filipino women has increased a thousand-fold. Every single report about domestic workers being sexually assaulted by their employers elicits our indignation but what we got right here is a president who tried to draw out comical reactions from his audience while recounting his account of molesting their household helper.

In an event hosted by DTI officials in January, President Duterte rationalized rape as a cultural practice and as a matter of “territory.” In the same speech, Duterte described OFW families as dysfunctional. He added that in the absence of the mother, it is the daughter that takes her place. Who would ever forget his order to shoot female rebels in the vagina since according to Duterte they are good for nothing without it? Likewise, Duterte assured soldiers last year that they can rape up to three women with impunity. No other president in Philippine history has ever derogated women more spitefully than President Rodrigo Duterte.

His misogynist remarks demonstrate his view and treatment of women as low caste citizens. Since violence against women comes in many forms, state violence has exacerbated under Duterte’s watch. The attack against press freedom as seen in the arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa, the Sagay 9 massacre which claimed the lives of 4 women and 2 minors, the intensifying persecution of activists and the social injustices being perpetrated against female workers in the country are just some of the countless attacks that Filipino women go through.

In the peasant sector, Duterte’s Rice Tariffication Law will drive more rice farmers to landlessness as the government opens the floodgates of cheap imported rice. This will force farmers to sell their lands to greedy property developers and landlords. Food insecurity along with the rising cost of living torments Filipino women who grapple with the ill effects of Duterte’s TRAIN Law.

Due to unjust labour practices like contractualization and the absence of a national minimum wage, many Filipino women are forced into modern-day slavery upon deployment overseas. As usual, the government does nothing to save our troubled workers and migrants from the entangling roots of forced migration.

The Duterte regime doesn’t spare a word or bullet in his ferocious attacks against peasant and working women who stand to assert their rights. He has turned the country into a massive blood basin. Yet as how it has been in the days of old, the recognition of women’s rights were not attained without heroic struggle.

Parallel to observing International Women’s Day to honour women of the working class and those from the peasant sector, it is likewise a day of protest to fight against the razing plagues of feudal oppression, bureaucrat-capitalist exploitation and imperialist aggression that not only subjugate millions of women here in the Philippines but billions of women around the world.

Today, Migrante International joins in solidarity with all women who have chosen the path of struggle for liberation and democracy. Filipino women migrants are bravely lifting their banners high with indefatigable allegiance and faith to the masses as we wage our battles against all forms of oppression and exploitation ravaging under the US-Duterte regime.

Fight the US-Duterte regime’s macho-Fascist reign of terror!

Rise for women’s dignity! Unite for real change!

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DOLE’s reasoning behind the 90% reduction in overseas deployment of construction workers, very misleading – MIGRANTE

Migrante International considers the purported intention of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to impose a 90 % reduction on the deployment of construction workers overseas due to local demand for Duterte’s Build, Build, Build projects as very misleading. In reality, there has been a huge decrease in the deployment of construction workers in typical destinations like Saudi and other Middle Eastern countries due to the economic downturn in the region.

An ever-increasing number of big construction companies in Saudi Arabia are failing to meet their obligations to their employees and labourers. What the Duterte administration is not telling us in relation to the Middle East crisis is that this has led to thousands of stranded and distressed OFWs in Saudi who have been clamouring for immediate repatriation.

On top of the economic crisis, Middle Eastern countries like Saudi and Qatar are vigorously implementing the nationalization (Saudization, Qatarization, etc.) of their labour sector. Saudi Arabia is already beginning to curtail the issuance of job orders as it proceeds to prioritize its own nationals in job placements.

Based on POEA figures, the overseas deployment of construction labourers and welders experienced a 31 % plunge in 2017. This is several times bigger than the average or overall 4 % drop in the total deployment of OFWs in the same period. DOLE’s attempt to smokescreen the real situation by citing Duterte’s Build, Build, Build is pure deception.

We see this as the Duterte regime’s mode of seeking damage control on the issue of its onerous deals with China which highly favoured Chinese contractors that require placement of Chinese workers. This is highly suspicious considering the timing of DOLE’s pronouncement of the 90 % deployment decrease was made just after its high-level committee meeting with other government agencies wherein they sought to address the issue on the influx of foreign workers in the Philippines.

Imposing a cut back on overseas deployment will not address the issues of Filipino workers. In fact, it goes against their desire to get their families off the hook from the rising prices of goods due to Duterte’s TRAIN Law and the agony of underpaid work caused by low wages. Filipino workers can only dream of having in their own country the benefits of free services like housing, free transportation, food and medical care which many have experienced overseas before the crisis began.  Many Filipino labourers are wary that the absence of these free benefits and services in the Philippines will only exacerbate the seasonal nature of their project-based contractual occupation.

Clearly, the Duterte regime has no intent in building the conditions that will make Filipino workers stay in the country as it refuses to reverse the government’s anti-worker policies that perpetuate contractualization, low wages, hazardous working conditions, absence of benefits and poor social services.

 

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