PH Ambassador in New Zealand’s anti-union remarks betray “EDSA spirit”

Filipinos in New Zealand are demanding a public apology from PH Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez after she made anti-union and anti-media statements during a meeting with the Canterbury Pilipino Assistance Group (CPAG) last week.

Leaders of the Migrante chapter in Aotearoa slammed Benavidez’ remarks, saying that they are a direct attack on overseas Filipinos’ rights to organize, form and join unions and seek redress.

In the CPAG meeting, Benavidez allegedly said, “Kapag may problema kayo sa trabaho, huwag kayong lumapit sa unions at sa media lalo na yung nagpo-post sa New Zealand Herald. (If you have problems at work, don’t approach unions or the media, especially the New Zealand Herald)”.

The statement drew the ire of First Union, an affiliate organization of Migrante in New Zealand, and the general population of the Filipino community there.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, they fully support the Filipino community in New Zealand. “Benavidez’ statement is anti-migrant and anti-worker. We are deeply disturbed by this, especially coming from the principal representative of the PH government in New Zealand. It is unfortunate that we get reports like this while we commemorate the 28th anniversary of EDSA 1.”

“Through Benvidez’ statement, we are given a ghastly glimpse into the PH government’s general policy on the right of Filipino migrant workers to organize, their right to freedom of expression, and their right to welfare and protection,” he said.

For her part, Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Sectoral Party chairperson, said that Benavidez’ statement directly violates the rights of Filipino migrant workers as entrenched in the 1987 Constitution.

The 1987 Constitution states that Filipino workers’ rights to form and join unions should not be abridged.

“Benavidez’ statement is also an insult to New Zealand-based unions which for many years now have helped and aided our Filipino migrant workers in the country. They also deserve a public apology,” Bragas-Regalado said.

Bragas-Regalado said that the Filipino community’s collective outrage best demonstrates the “EDSA spirit”. “In the face of adversity and abuse of authority, Filipinos have always had the ability to rise up and turn the tide around. We commend our Filipinos in New Zealand for speaking up and voicing their dissent.” ###

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