Migrante to Trump, Duterte: Stop criminalization of migrants

Migrante International, the largest alliance of OFWs and families across the globe, strongly denounced the anti-migrant policies and pronouncements of US President Donald Trump in a rally held at the US embassy in Manila today.

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Trump’s policies has resulted in the arrest and detention of im/migrants in the US, majority of whom are Muslims. The arrests and rights violations followed Trump’s issuance of several executive orders banning the entry of Muslim refugees from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria in the US and ordering the mass deportation of undocumented migrants in the country.

“The Trump administration is keen on focusing on migrants and minorities to distract Americans against the much bigger problem of the neoliberal crisis fatally affecting the economy of the United States. Filipino migrants stand in solidarity with Muslim refugees and migrants of other nationalities in resisting Trump’s racist attacks. It is only through our solidarity that we can fight against US exploitation and fascism. Migrante is one with migrant organizations from various countries in combatting the Trump administration’s repressive policies,” said Mic Catuira, Migrante Secretary-General said.

Catuira further called on President Trump to end threats of deportation of Filipino im/migrants in the US.

He also slammed President Duterte’s statement that he “will not lift a finger” to help the more or less of 310,000 undocumented im/migrants in the US under threat of mass deportation.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are currently 3.4 million Filipinos in the US, second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of Filipino populace. Of the 3.4 million, around 310,000 are undocumented and are vulnerable to Trump’s repressive policy.

“It is the PH government’s duty to assist all our kababayans abroad, regardless of their status. Do we turn our backs on them when they direly need the help of their government? Should any harm befall our kababayans in the US, Duterte will be to blame if he continues to refuse to lift a finger for them,” Catuira said.

The PH government’s position calling on all undocumented Filipinos in the US to “just come home” is also a very naive and insensitive stance.

“Like all other OFWs, they were forced to seek better pastures in the US due to widespread joblessness, contractualization and low wages, landlessness and lack of basic social services. Over the years, OFWs in conflict-ridden areas have opted to stay and risk their lives and welfare because they know that no jobs await them here. What is the Duterte government’s plan for them should they get deported?” Catuira said.

The plight of OFWs against racism, xenophobia, rights violations and fascism in host countries is a very important agenda in the GRP-NDFP peace talks. ###

OFWs support fight for a national minimum wage and an end to all forms of contractualization

OFWs and families took to the streets alongside workers and other sectors to join the calls for an end to all forms of contractualization and neoliberal attacks on the working class, to junk DOLE Secretary Bello’s Department Order 168, and for a legislated, across-the-board, national minimum wage of P750/day for the private sector and P16,000/month for government employees.

Image result for kmu anti-contractualization

“Packaged as the solution to workers’ problems, Bello’s DO 168 is sugarcoated to hide the Department’s real intention to not eliminate but instead, to intensify and legitimize the already rampant problem of contractualization. Justifying the existence of recruitment agencies, the DO liberates the employers’ obligation under permanent employer-employee relationships on which Philippines and international labor laws are based,” Mic Catuira, Migrante’s Acting Secretary-General said.

During his campaign period, President Duterte firmly stood his ground that contractualization must be put to a stop, even ordering that an “end on endo” must be achieved by the yearend of 2016, a move that was widely welcomed even from overseas. After six months in his office, contractualization remains rampant, and will continue to do so with Secretary Bello’s new Department Order.

We are expecting more or less 350,000 Filipino migrants to be deported or repatriated immediately in light of the ongoing economic crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Malaysia. They are to return to their home country only to forcibly leave the again to seek decent-paying jobs abroad that they will not be able to find here,Catuira added.

Under the Aquino administration, the number of OFWs leaving the country increased from 2,500 daily to approximately 6,500 daily. This is the result of massive unemployment, low wages, landlessness and privatization of social services.

“Duterte’s pronouncements against contractualization got our OFWs’ hopes up. We lauded his statements when he promised a better Philippines that Filipino migrants will permanently come home to, a Philippines that will not rely anymore on the government’s labor export policy. This vision of a better Philippines cannot be achieved through intensifying and legitimizing the scheme of contractualization. We therefore call on the President, a better Philippines for us OFWs is a Philippines with local, regular jobs and sustainable wages. We call on the President to completely deviate from the government’s labor export policy and instead focus on creating local industries through national industrialization and genuine land reform. Only through these can our OFWs stay in the country for good. Only these will pave the way for a better Philippines.” Catuira concluded.###

Kins of OFWs on death row and in jail abroad: Justice for executed OFWs on death row! Immediate and comprehensive legal assistance for our relatives!

Legal Assistance Sigaw ng Migrante at Pamilya (LAYA!), a network of families of OFWs in jail and on death row together with Migrante International, staged a picket in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand government assistance for their relatives several days after the sudden execution of OFW Jakatia Pawa in Kuwait.

“Dahil sa sinapit ni Jakatia Pawa, nangangamba kami ngayon na ikapahamak din ng mga kaanak namin ang patuloy na pagpapabaya ng gobyerno sa kanilang kaso sa ibang bansa.  Nananawagan kami na matutukan ang kaso ng aming mga kaanak at mabigyan sila ng patas at mabilis na pagkakataon na maipagtanggol ang kanilang sarili,  Editha Dacanay, convenor of LAYA! and mother of jailed OFW said.

According to RA 8042 as amended by RA10022 or Magna Carta for Migrant Workers, when any Filipino worldwide, undocumented or documented, is accused of crimes overseas, they have the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) to avail, a P100 Million budget for assisting imprisoned Filipinos abroad, as their basic right.  Migrante International, on their part, emphasized the government’s conscious inaction when the LAF was removed from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) on 2014 under the National Expenditure Program of the Aquino Administration. Until now, there is still no clear item for the LAF budget of the DFA, resulting to insufficient legal support for our jailed OFWs.



Bulatlat.com file photo


“Ang sinasabi ng DFA na sa panahon pa lang ng pagkakahuli sa OFW ay may representasyon na ang ating gobyerno ay isang kasinungalingan. Sa maraming kaso tulad ng kina Mary Jane Veloso, Rose Policarpio, Edmar Aquino, at Gregoria Fajardo, ang mga OFW o pamilya nila mismo  ang kayang magpatunay na walang kagyat na tulong ligal na ibinigay ang ating gobyerno. Kalakhan sa kanila ay nabigyan lamang ng tulong ligal kapag naibaba na ng korte ang sintensya. Madalas ding kung hindi binibigyan ay huli o mali-mali ang impormasyong ibinibigay ng DFA sa pamilya. Dapat nang matigil ito. Sinusuportahan namin ang panawagan ng LAYA! na maibalik ang LAF na magsisiguro ng tulong para sa ating mga kababayan,” Arman Hernando, spokesperson of Migrante International said.

Also, according to USec. Jesus Yabes of the DFA-OUMWA, only P9.4 million was used from the P80 million LAF on 2011. The Comission on Audit also reported that on 2012, P2.3 million was overstated in expenses of the DFA because a report has no connection in giving legal assistance. On 2014, former DFA Secretary Alberto del Rosario also said that there was a P41.12 million unused LAF since 2013 and only 258 out of 5,979 imprisoned OFWs were given assistance then. Migrante pointed out this alarming under-utilization and reduction of the budget for LAF of the past regime and prodded the Duterte administration to immediately investigate this.

Aside from reinstatement of the LAF, LAYA! demanded that the LAF be raised to P1 Billion as the P100 Million allocation is clearly not enough for the estimated 9,000 jailed OFWs. As the average legal fees amounts up to US $10,000 per case, only 222 of imprisoned OFWs will be able to benefit from the LAF.

The group also demanded that negligent officials of DFA be held accountable for the troubles they caused to the OFWs and their families. These embassy, consulate and other officials must be dismissed and punished for putting numerous OFWs in danger.

“Ang mga migrante ay itinuturing lamang na bayani habang nagpo-proseso ng papeles paalis ng bansa pero sa panahong kailangan na nila ang kanilang gubyerno, wala na silang naaasahan dito.  Dalawampung taon na ang nakalipas mula nang mabitay si Flor Contemplacion, marami pang sumunod sa kaniya mula noon, ngunit hindi pa rin natututo ang ating gobyerno.  Ilang buhay pa ba ang dapat ibuwis ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa bago totohanang tugunan ang mga kahilingan nila?” Hernando asked.

Migrante International once again said that there can be no other way to completely resolve the problems of OFWs but to address their root causes. The Duterte government’s economic policy should focus on advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. OFWs will not become victim of injustice in foreign lands once forced migration is totally curbed. The government must decisively deviate from implementing its labor export policy and instead focus on creating regular jobs with living wage at home through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.

Walang ibang ginusto ang mga kaanak namin kundi mabigyan kami ng magandang buhay.  Kung may nakabubuhay na trabaho lang dito sa atin, hindi na sana nila kinailangang makipagpalaran at magdusa pa doon sa ibang bansa,” Dacanay concluded. ###

OFWs mourn death of Jakatia Pawa: Justice must be served, heads must roll!

“As we mourn the death of our fellow OFW, we express our strongest condemnation on the government’s failure to save the life of Jakatia Pawa. The previous administrations are guilty of criminal neglect and the current regime is liable of acting too late to stop her execution.”

This was the statement of Migrante International after Philippine post in Kuwait confirmed the death of Jakatia Pawa, a domestic helper from Zamboanga del Norte who was sentenced to death in April 2008 for allegedly killing the daughter of her employer. The verdict was upheld by the Court of Cassation in 2013.

“Her death is a result of the government’s policy of not providing immediate legal assistance to OFWs. We believe that she is not the culprit but the victim of a sorry condition that forced her to work in a foreign land in order to provide a better future for her children. We also believe that she will not have ended up on death row had the Philippine government attended to her case sooner. The government must be held accountable,” lamented Mic Catuira, Acting Secretary General of Migrante International.

According to information gathered by Migrante, the knife that was used in the crime did not have her fingerprints on it and there were no bloodstains of the victim on her dress or body that could link her to the killing.  Throughout the whole investigation and judicial process, Pawa maintained that she was innocentThe government’s failure to provide her a lawyer in the early stages of trial made an unfavorable verdict possible.

“Justice must be served, heads must roll! Nananawagan kami kay Pangulong Duterte na imbestigahan ang kaso at sibakin sa pwesto ang mga nagpabayang opisyal,” said Catuira.

Migrante also challenged President Duterte to immediately call for a review of RA 8042 as ammended by RA 10022 as it does not guarantee the welfare and security of overseas Filipino workers just like what happened to OFW Pawa. According to Migrante’s monitoring, almost 100 OFWs are currently on deathrow and more than 9,000 are in detention, many of those are not provided legal assistance from our government.

“To save the OFWs from the perils of forced migration, what the present administration should ultimately strive to do is to decisively deviate from its 4-decade old labor export policy and focus instead on creating decent and sustainable local jobs for its citizens.” ended Catuira.###

During the 3rd round of formal GRP-NDFP Peace talks: Migrant Filipinos in Rome press GRP to address migrants’ issues and concerns

Migrante chapters from different cities in Italy and Italian organizations in solidarity with Filipino people’s struggles and concerns organized a mobilization in support of the GRP-NDFP peacetalks on Sunday, January 22, 2017 at Piazza delle Escuelino in Rome, Italy.
Filipino overseas workers led by Migrante chapters from Rome, Milan, Firenze, Bologna, and Mantova were joined by leaders and members of the Italy-Friendship Association, Unione Sindicale di Base USB, Comitato Immigrati Italia, CARC and more than fifty members of the delegation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are participating in the third round of formal peacetalks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in Rome, Italy.
In the said rally, Ann Brusola, Migrante Europe Secretary General, specifically called on the GRP “to address the root causes of the armed conflict by pursuing comprehensive reforms on genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.” On August 22, 2016, during the first round of formal peacetalks of the NDFP with the GRP peace panel under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, Migrante-Europe submitted a document stating the concerns and proposals of Filipino migrant workers in Europe in the crafting of the agreement on social and economic reforms, the second substantive agenda in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
Among the immediate concerns and strategic agenda emphasized by Migrante-Europe forwarded to the GRP are the legalization of undocumented Filipino migrants, the abolition of government exactions such as the exorbitant fees which they are required to pay to different government agencies, the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers by migrant receiving countries, to put stop to sex and human trafficking, legislative/executive action to push for pensioners’ bilateral agreements so impediments to the Filipino retirees/pensioners can avail their hard-earned pension benefits,  and to stop human rights violations against migrants committed in the name of anti-terror campaigns.
“We believe that the crisis of migration is a result of the lack of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, and of an independent and nationalist foreign policy. Because there is no genuine agrarian reform and basic industries in the country, there are no social conditions to provide jobs and livelihood for the people. Migrant Filipinos need to continue to unite and struggle to continuously assert migrants’ and people’s rights, and the GRP-NDFP peace process is a venue of our advocacy,” said Franklin Irabon of Migrante-Milan.
After the rally, a forum organised by Socio-Cultural and Sport Committee of Sentro Filipino in collaboration with Umangat-Migrante and other Filipino communities in Rome at the Basilica di Santa Pudenziana in Via Urbana 160, where more than 300 members of the Filipino community in Rome heard both the NDFP and GRP agenda in the peace process, including their views on migrants’ rights and concerns.
They also voiced out their support for the calls to release all political prisoners and the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). “We will be vigilant on the GRP’s compliance to the CARHRIHL. One significant test of its adherence to the said agreement is the release of all political prisoners,” Brusola said.
“We will continue to enjoin our fellow Filipino migrants in Europe to actively engage in this process because our futures, and our children’s, are at stake,” Brusola concluded.

The family of Maryjane Veloso arrived last night, January 14, 2016, with high hopes after a four day trip to Jogjakarta, Indonesia, where they visited Maryjane and celebrated her birthday.

The family, accompanied by DFA and Philippine Embassy officials together with their Philippine and Indonesian lawyers and Migrante, arrived in Indonesia on January 11, 2017. They visited Maryjane on January 12, 2017 and held a simple birthday celebration for her inside the Wirongunan Lembaga prison in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

They returned to Wironguan prison on January 13, 2017 and spent the whole morning with Maryjane. They cuddled, bantered, and exchanged stories. She again recounted her various activities in prison to while away her time, and gave to her family items that she made in prison. Mark Darren, the youngest son rendered a song for her mother, and Maryjane also sang a translated version of My Heart Believes orHatiku Perkaya and the Philippine National Anthem. The Philippine Embassy and Foreign Affairs attended to her needs and bought her a number of personal supplies. She became emotional as the end of the visiting hours came nearer.

Towards the end of the prison visit, the group gathered for a closing prayer led by one of Maryjanes spiritual advisers, a Jesuit brother. She was asked to read the gospel taken from John 15: 4 7, and gave a brief reflection. She said the message of the gospel reading gave her hope and inspiration. She also lead in reciting the Lords prayer and the rosary. While she still can converse in Filipino, she is now much fluent in Bahasa.

The visit ended at 11:30 a.m. As she bade goodbye to her family, she wished that she can soon enjoy their company outside the prison walls and without prison guards hovering around them. She longingly told her expectant children that she is praying hard for her to come home by December to celebrate Christmas with them.

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On January 12, 2016, two days after her 32nd birthday, Maryjane Veloso celebrated her birthday with her parents, Cesar and Celia Veloso and her two children, Mark Daniel and Mark Darren.

Maryjane’s parents and children flew to Jogjakarta, Indonesia on January 11, 2017 for a 4-day visit accompanied by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, her Philippine lawyer from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a representative from Migrante International. The visit was coordinated by the Migrante International with the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs who arranged travel and provided provisions for the family. The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking also extended support for the trip.

It was a happy reunion for Maryjane and her family who last saw each other in January 2016. The children clung to their mother making up for all the time that they were separated from their mother not wanting the moment to end. Makmak was seven years old while Darren was only one year and three months old when Maryjane was arrested in 2010.

Maryjane cheerfully shared her experiences and skills she learned in prison and will use these in the future to help her family. She professed her innocence from the charges against her, and that in her heart, she already forgiven her recruiters but fervently wished that the recruiters will admit what they did to her. The visit, cum birthday celebration, was capped by a simple lunch, courtesy of the DFA and embassy officials in Indonesia.

Maryjane and her family expressed their gratitude to Secretary Perfecto Yasay and the DFA for facilitating the visit and to all the group and individuals who made the trip possible and memorable. The whole family appealed for the continued support to #FreeMaryJane.

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