Migrante welcomes Duterte admin’s thrust of making overseas employment “optional and not a necessity”


digong inauguralOne of the main reasons of Filipino families being torn apart is the phenomenon of forced migration. There are currently 15 million overseas Filipinos and at least 6,000 leave the country daily to work abroad. Filipino people are being forced to migrate and be separated from their families because of desperation and the need to survive. The economy’s lack of development resulting in job loss at home, poverty, landlessness and poor social services continue to drive them away.

It is a tragic consequence when our labor force is uprooted from their families, forced to endure unfair labor practices and abuses, and in some cases, suffer death, in exchange for cheap labor because of government failure to address forced migration and stop the policy of labor export.

It is in this light that Migrante International welcomes the goal of the incoming Duterte administration to make overseas employment “optional and not a necessity”.

We agree with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in the analysis that in order to curb, if not totally eradicate forced migration, there is a need to generate more stable jobs in the country. In order to achieve this, his administration should work and strive for a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace, something that is the very opposite of what we have now which is a society of corruption, greed, social injustice and conflict under the outgoing Aquino administration.

The struggle of OFWs is not isolated from the struggle of other marginalized and neglected sectors. The problem of forced migration is deeply rooted in the fundamental problems of Philippine society. Our struggle for dignity, rights and welfare, against government neglect and against forced migration plays a very important role in the struggle for genuine freedom and national democracy. The only solution to the problems of the Filipino migrant sector and their families is genuine social change so that families would not have to separated and broken apart in order to survive.

To address the problem of forced migraiton, the Duterte administration’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. We fully support the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to forced migration and to end the labor export program. These are the fundamental changes and reforms OFWs want and need in a Duterte presidency.

We also forward to the incoming Duterte administration serious criticisms of the performances and orientation of existing government agencies in charge of dealing with OFW services and affairs. For these agencies to be able to address the decades-long clamor of OFWs and their families for better services, they should not work to merely further institutionalize labor export but instead truly commit to advance the rights and welfare of OFWs, as well as work for a just and prosperous society that will eliminate the root causes of forced migration and put an end to it.

Towards this goal, we present the following “10-point doables” that President Duterte can implement with political will within his first 100 days to serve as “confidence-building” measures with the OFW sector, to wit:

  1. Prosecute outgoing Pres. Benigno Aquino IIII and DBM Sec. Florencio Abad for allegations of re-channeling and utilizing OFWs’ Legal Assistance Funds to the anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), as well as other counts of criminal neglect against OFWs, particularly in the case of Mary Jane Veloso and OFWs who have been executed abroad under Aquino’s term;
  2. Conduct a full and independent audit of alleged abuse, misuse and corruption of OWWA funds, from the term of former Pres. Arroyo to present;
  3. Immediately order the release of OWWA funds to thousands of righful OWWA claimants;
  4. Recall all abusive and erring officials in all PH posts, especially Ambassador Ezzedin Tago of Saudi Arabia and Consul General Roberto Manalo of Indonesia;
  5. Revamp all involved officials in the “tanim-bala” extortion scheme, from officials to personnel of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport(NAIA);
  6. Investigate notorious recruitment agencies and their coddlers in government, and prosecute and hold criminally accountable convicted traffickers, particularly, Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, traffickers of Mary Jane Veloso, and Isidro Rodriguez, trafficker of at least 300 Filipino teachers;
  7. Re-establish all PH posts closed down by the Aquino government, and create new posts where there is an existing clamor by OFWs, particularly in Nagoya, Japan and Alberta, Canada;
  8. Abolish the irrelevant and money-making Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), and cancel the imposed P550 terminal fee;
  9. Revoke the POEA Standard Employment Contract for Seamen; and,
  10. Push for the inclusion of  CAHRIHL, international conventions and norms, obligations of states under international law to respect the rights of migrants and labor in school curricula.

Further, the change we want to see within the six-year Duterte presidency are:

–       10 million sustainable domestic jobs in six years;

–       A stop to contractualization of domestic labor;

–       A genuine agrarian reform program;

–       Free basic social services, such as education, health care and housing;

–       A genuine reintegration program for retiring OFWs and a public and universal pension system;

–       A planned economy that would ensure the trickle-down of OFW remittances to national industrialization and land reform;

–       An efficient mass transport system, better internet and IT utilities that OFWs can come home to;

–       Fast, efficient and more accessible venues for redress for OFWs in distress, here and abroad;

–       Competent and OFW-friendly embassy and department officials;

–       Rights-based bilateral labor and immigration agreements with labor-receiving countries;

–       Justice and indemnification for all victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking; and,

–       An end to all schemes and government policies that treat OFWs as mere milking cows.

Migrante firmly believes that the Duterte administration should be committed and oriented towards these goals. We are very open to work closely with the Duterte administration to ensure that this thrust is realized in the next six years. ###

The Change OFWs Want in A Duterte Presidency

Urgently investigate alleged LP-backed electoral fraud – Migrante


photo from interaksyon.com

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today called for an urgent investigation of serious of electoral fraud allegedly operated by the Liberal Party.

The migrant group made the call as three whistleblowers recently came out as witnesses of vote-shaving in the transmission of votes of some candidates in certain provinces to allegedly pad votes of certain LP candidates.

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, following earlier reports of anomalies and inconsistencies between the transparency server and Comelec-canvassed results, the ‘Comeleaks’, reports of ‘abandoned’ SD cards and the lack of a mechanism to verify whether the vote counting machines (VCMs) have accurately read, recorded and transmitted votes, the allegations of the whistle-blowers should be taken seriously.

“It can be quite possible that certain candidates have garnered more votes than were canvassed to increase the votes of those who would stand to benefit from vote-padding. We support all calls for an official electoral protest to be filed before the Electoral Tribunal at the Supreme Court. Our electoral system has always been and remains very vulnerable to fraud. Any and all allegations should not be dismissed just because candidates have already been proclaimed,” said Martinez.

Martinez added that should the whistleblowers present sufficient evidence of fraud that benefitted some LP candidates, its main operators should be immediately investigated, and no less than Pres. Aquino should be made to explain.

“So long as the Philippine electoral system remains influenced and manipulated by the ruling elite, our elections can never be truly reflective of the true will of the people. That is not real democracy. No amount of automation can correct this, especially if the automated elections has lacked necessary safeguards and suffers from lack of transparency.” ###

On the death of 700 migrants in Mediterranean sinkings

Migrante International grieves with migrants and refugees of the world after the United Nations has confirmed that at least 700 are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week in three separate incidents.

The casualties were Italy-bound migrants and refugees from a 13,000 contingent who set sail from Libya on an eight-day period. The death toll is the highest since the European refugee crisis started last year, when 1,300 died, and bringing the casualties for this year to more than 2,000.

The deaths also once again underline the lack of solutions to the present migrant crisis, which has been aggravated by the ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria. Europe, whose governments are being censured by their own peoples and peoples of the world for refusing to give protection and urgent sanctuary to migrants and refugees, most of them victims of smugglers and traffickers, is once again in the spotlight.

Since last year, refuges who come mostly from war-torn and crisis-ridden Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, sail by the thousands in dangerous vessels to pass through transit points in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Hungary, hoping to enter Italy, the United Kingdom Germany, Austria, France, Greece and Sweden. They cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, desperately taking the two choices left to them: death at sea or the uncertain future they will have to face in the country they are hoping to seek refuge in.

The migrant crisis, however, is not a European problem alone. Last year, the world also watched in horror as thousands of trafficked Rohingyas stranded at sea were left to die, without proper food, shelter and protection, as ASEAN states refused them entry into their borders.

The EU should be taken to task for the positions it had taken in the Middle East and North Africa civil strifes and their repercussions. The US, likewise, should be held accountable for its decades-long interventionist wars and wars of agression to secure economic and military positioning. Asian states should also be liable for toeing the the anti-refugee and anti-migrant posturing of the US and EU under the guise of so-called war on terror and war on trafficking, resulting in the criminalization of migrants and refugees, restriction of borders and a global humanitarian crisis that has long gone out of hand.

Migrante International stands in solidarity with our brother and sister refugees and asylum-seekers. Migrants, particularly Filipino migrant workers, are not oblivious to the horrors, hardships and harshness of being turned away, rejected, prosecuted, criminalized and spurned. Where there are conflicts and wars, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are restrictions and stringent immigration measures, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are uncertainties and threats of imminent death, so Filipino migrants are.

Filipino migrant workers are also no stranger to civil strife in their homeland.

In the Philippines, thousands of Lumad communities have been displaced due to militarization in Mindanao. Heightened attacks on indigenous communities, especially on Lumad schools, have caused thousands upon thousands to flee their ancestral lands in search for protection and in fear of their lives.

The bigger tragedy is that these attacks are perpetrated by the Philippine government through the military, given license by a counter-insurgency program patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency Guide on “war on terror” – the very same policy that has caused millions of migrants and refugees to flee their lands, by the same proponents that uphold labor export and other neoliberal policies that drive peoples to forced migration in search of so-called greener pastures at the risk of danger or even death.

Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants around the world to stand in solidarity with refugees in Europe. Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants to oppose imposed borders and merciless immigration and refugee policies that trample on the fundemental rights of refugees and migrants of the world.

No to borders. Humanity and compassion should know no barriers. ###

OFW group welcomes Bello as DOLE chief

bebot belloMigrante International welcomed the impending appointment of Silvestre Bello III as incoming secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The DOLE is the department under which attached agencies Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are placed. The POEA and the OWWA are among the lead agencies in charge of services and welfare for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“We welcome someone like Silvestre Bello III especially following the dismal and anti-OFW leadership of outgoing DOLE Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz. We call on Bello to steer the DOLE, the POEA and OWWA  towards working for better job conditions, better protection and welfare services for OFWs. We trust that the incoming secretary will veer away from Baldoz’ non-consultative and treacherous labor and welfare policies in relation to our migrant workers,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that since Baldoz was appointed as POEA administrator and later as DOLE chief, she had been at the helm of gradually and surely transforming the government into “a mega-recruitment agency” with the main thrust of marketing OFWs’ cheap labor instead of regulating labor export and ensuring welfare and protection for OFWs.

Baldoz was the main implementor of the “paradigm shift” in the POEA, following Administrative Order 247 by then Pres. Gloria Arroyo which instructed a “refocusing (of) its functions from regulation to full-blast markets development efforts, the exploration of frontier, fertile job markets for expatriate Filipino workers”.

Baldoz was also responsible for implementing a “PH-Saudi unified contract” that resulted in unending and increasing labor rights violations of OFWs in Saudi Arabia. She was also the main proponent behind the “SuperMaids” program and the dysfunctional Php3.044-billion “Assist WELL Program”.

As DOLE chief, Bello will also be the chairman of the OWWA Board of Trustees, in charge mainly of allotting and disbursing OWWA funds and over-seeing the agency’s welfare services and benefits to OFWs.

“We call on Bello to include in his first urgent measures a full and independent audit of alleged abuse and misuse of OWWA funds, and the immediate release of benefits and claims to thousands of OWWA claimants.”

Martinez added that it is also very positive that Bello had since been an advocate of the resumption of peace talks.

“We fully support national industrialization and genuine agrarian land reform as the fundamental solution to the phenomenon of forced migration of our OFWs. This is something that should be addressed in the resumption of the peace talks. As DOLE chief, Bello will be in a strategic position to grasp the overall labor conditions in the point-of-view of Filipino workers here and abroad.”

Martinez said that Migrante International is very open to hold a dialogue with Bello to discuss with him urgent issues and matters concerning OFWs. “We will be presenting our position paper on changes we want to see in a Duterte presidency on June 7, Filipino Migrants’ Day.” ###

Velosos to Duterte: Please appeal for clemency for Mary Jane on planned Indonesia visit

digong maryjaneveloso_migrante_2015_escobarThe family of Mary Jane Veloso called on Presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte to appeal anew for her clemency on his planned state visit to Indonesia upon assuming office.

In a statement, Duterte announced that Indonesia will be one of the first countries he would visit as president as he sees Indonesian President Widodo as a strategic ally in facing problems such as maritime border security.

Widodo recently thanked the Philippine government for the safe release of 10 Indonesian sailors who were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf last March 26. The ten Indonesians were released last May 1. Four Indonesians are still being held by the terrorist group.

Ang pakiusap po namin kay Pang. Duterte, sa kanyang pagbisita sa Indonesia, sana ay mabisita rin niya si Mary Jane at makumusta doon. Sana rin kung makakaharap niya si Pang. Widodo ay huwag niyang kalimutan si Mary Jane na nananatili pa rin sa death row. Anim na taon na po doon ang aking anak, pinagdaanan na ng dalawang pangulo, at magiging pangatlo na po siya. Ang hiling namin kay Pang. Duterte, sana sa ilalim ng kanyang panunungkulan ay makapiling na naming muli si Mary Jane,” lamented Celia Veloso, mother of Mary Jane.

For his part, Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez, called on Duterte to fulfill his promise of making OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) his top-most priority. “Marami pong mga OFW na katulad ni Mary Jane na nabibiktima ng mga sindikato ng droga pero hindi nabibigyan ng hustisya. We call on Pres. Duterte to make a strong and urgent appeal for clemency for Mary Jane when his state visit to Indonesia pushes through. Clemency and pardon for Mary Jane should also be one of the main bases for the strengthening of our diplomatic ties with Indonesia.”

“We also continue to appeal to Pres. Widodo, please allow Mary Jane to be reunited with her family and her two sons. She has suffered enough. We continue to appeal for your mercy and compassion to save Mary Jane’s life,” Martinez said. ###

Open letter of MIGRANTE to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte: The change OFWs want to see

digongDear President Duterte,

We congratulate you on your overwhelming victory in the May 2016 polls. The Filipino people have spoken, and they chose change.

You sweeping victory is testament to how Filipinos, wherever we are in the world, thirst for a new leadership that is not corrupt and cacique. We want a new government that will depart from all the failures and empty promises of the so-called ‘tuwid na daan’. We want accountability for all the crimes committed by the Aquino government against the Filipino people.

For these elections, despite and against all odds, a record-breaking 407,000 overseas Filipino voters exercised their right to vote and fulfilled their duty to the nation. This big increase is proof of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) stake in the outcome of the May 2016 elections. It disproved all claims that there had been a growing apathy among our OFWs. We have once again proven how significant the OFW vote is.

We are one with the Filipino nation in hoping that your presidency will immediately address fundamental problems that beset the country – widespread unemployment, lowest wages, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services, corruption, violations of human rights and national sovereignty – the root causes of forced migration.

We are one with all OFWs in hoping that your presidency will scrap the labor export policy that exploits our cheap labor and remittances but offers us nothing in return, especially in times of need. We will hold you to your promise to make OFWs your top-most priority in your labor agenda. We want new leaders who will be nurturing to OFWs and their families.  We want a new government that will uphold and protect our rights and welfare.

We specifically call to your urgent attention the case of Mary Jane Veloso who remains on death row in Indonesia and others like her who have received no legal assistance from the previous administration; the immediate recall of notorious abusive and erring embassy officials, as well as accountability of high-level government officials responsible for the tanim-bala extortion scheme and other unresolved anomalies in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA); the urgent and full audit of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds and its immediate release to rightful OFW beneficiaries; the quick resolution of illegal recruitment and trafficking cases filed by countless OFW victims at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); and, the scrapping of unnecessary fees that are viewed by our kababayans as nothing but ‘legalized kotong’, such as the abolition of the rubbish Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), among others.

We are very much open to hold a dialogue with you to further discuss urgent and fundamental OFW concerns, especially as the nation is set to commemorate Filipino Migrants’ Day on June 7.

We dream of a society where families will need not be broken by the need to survive. We wish to come home to a country where there are opportunities for everyone to live decent and humane lives.

Mr. President, these are the changes we want to see in your administration. ###