One 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:
- 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;
- Conduct a full and independent audit of alleged abuse, misuse and corruption of OWWA funds, from the term of former Pres. Arroyo to present;
- Immediately order the release of OWWA funds to thousands of righful OWWA claimants;
- Recall all abusive and erring officials in all PH posts, especially Ambassador Ezzedin Tago of Saudi Arabia and Consul General Roberto Manalo of Indonesia;
- 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);
- 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;
- 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;
- Abolish the irrelevant and money-making Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), and cancel the imposed P550 terminal fee;
- Revoke the POEA Standard Employment Contract for Seamen; and,
- 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. ###