Day 2 of Solidarity Campout: More families joining in

After the successful Day 1 of the “Solidarity Campout” of kin of stranded OFWs at the Jeddah Tent City, more families have joined in to demand free, immediate and mass repatriation for their loved ones.

Garry Martinez, Migrante Partylist 2nd Nominee and Migrante International chairperson, announced that more families dropped by the campout site at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after they saw news coverage of the Day 1 protests. “The families that came in yesterday and today have stranded OFW relatives not only in Jeddah but also in Riyadh, Dammam and Al Khobar.”

He added that more OFWs from the Jeddah Tent City have also forwarded contact details of their next of kin so that they may be invited in the nationwide protests. “Nabuhayan ng loob ang ating mga stranded OFW nang malaman nilang handa ring magsakripisyo ang kanilang mga kaanak para sa kanila. They are more resolved now more than ever to stand their ground and to rely on collective action to make the Aquino government listen to their demands.

 More protests nationwide

Also yesterday, families of stranded OFWs staged simultaneous protest actions at the OWWA satellite office in Lucena and the DFA satellite office in Davao City. “We expect more protest actions from families to erupt for as long as the Aquino government continues to display inaction,” he said.

He announced that families in General Santos will also be holding a rally at the DFA satellite office in the province today, while families from Central Luzon will troop to the DFA satellite office in Pampanga on May 2.

“Three Kings”

According to Martinez, it was the first time that the so-called “Three Kings” of the DFA personally faced families of OFWs in distress.

Yesterday, Asec. Raul Hernandez, Usec. Rafael Seguis and no less than DFA Sec. Alberto del Rosario went to the campout site at separate intervals to directly address the families. “For the longest time, however grave the situation of an OFW, those three would always speak to the media about the plight of OFWs but couldn’t be bothered to hold audience with them. That in itself is a victory and the families realize this.”

Martinez said that the “three kings” were forced to come down of their ivory tower when they got the message that “we would not back down despite the overkill presence of DFA security and intelligence personnel, SWAT team, an anti-riot fire truck and Pasay police.”

 Dialogue

Migrante also agreed to a dialogue between the DFA and the families today “without pre-conditions”. “They wanted us to leave the solidarity campout as a condition to a dialogue but we said no.”

Martinez said that, in the dialogue, they will assert that all families of OFWs present at the campout should be accommodated. “They want to limit the number of people at five and we cannot agree to that. All the families here deserve to voice out their demands.”

He added that the DFA’s justifications of “upholding processes and diplomatic ties” will not be tolerated. “They want us to give them time when they had all the time they needed to have possibly prevented this crisis. Enlistment for repatriation started since November last year, the Jeddah Tent City is precisely a result of their dilly-dallying.”

“Now we have a humanitarian crisis, a calamity, and we cannot simply accept that the OFWs and families are still being made to wait in deference to these so-called processes. What the government needs to show now is political will, plain and simple. Since the Tent City was put up, not one OFW has been repatriated. Not a single one,” Martinez stressed.

On the issue of temporary accommodations, he said that the government should respect the OFWs’ demand to be transferred to a shelter adequate enough to accommodate their huge number. “They know that their strength is in their number and their collectivity. They are also resolved to keep close to one another out of fear of the Saudi crackdowns and the general lack of distrust in the Philippine government. Alam nilang walang ibang magtutulungan kundi ang kapwa nilang mga OFW doon.”

 Martinez said that what they are expecting in the dialogue are concrete solutions to their demands, also among these, the calls to recall PH Ambassador to Saudi Ezzedin Tago and the resignation of OUMWA Usec. Jesus Yabes.

 “We want to hear from Noynoy”

Later today, the OFWs will hold a caravan from the DFA to Mendiola where they will set-up camp for the night. “It’s been 24 days since the Jeddah Tent City was put up and we haven’t heard any statement from the president. If he’s still too busy campaigning for his candidates, then we hope that this could finally get his attention,” Martinez said.  On May 1, Labor Day, the families will join other sectors in the Labor Day protests. ###

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