Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) is a welcome and refreshing change from the past Aquino administration’s SONAs of empty promises, posturing and pomposity.
Migrante International welcomes Pres. Duterte’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in relation to the resumption of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front (NDF).
We are hopeful that this goodwill measure will be preceded by the immediate and unconditional release of all 550 political prisoners, including his earlier declared plan to release all NDF peace consultants. Further, Pres. Duterte’s declaration should also urgently result in the immediate pull out and withdrawal of military troops from communities, schools and ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.
Migrante fully supports the resumption of the GPH-NDF peace talks. 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 that OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and their families need in a Duterte presidency.
The plight of OFWs and their families 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.
Hence, while we welcome Pres. Duterte’s efforts of streamlining and improving government services, specifically his order to extend the validity of passports and the creation of a one-stop shop for OFWs, we take notice that he did not present in concrete terms how he plans to make overseas employment “optional and not a necessity”.
The SONA made no mention of genuine agrarian reform, wage increase, ending contractualization and other neoliberal attacks on the economy. It also made no mention of a genuine reintegration program for returned and returning OFWs so that they will not be forced to again seek so-called greener pastures abroad. Filipino workers 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, low wages and contractualization, poverty, landlessness and poor social services continue to drive them away.
Ultimately, genuine change for OFWs and families will only be achieved if Pres. Duterte takes on the path of eradicating forced migration and ending the labor export policy. His administration should work and strive for a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace. Migrante shall continue to support the Duterte administration for as long as he continues to tread this path.
Further, while OFWs unite with the president’s fight against illegal drugs and criminality, we fear that some of his pronouncements may be misconstrued as an encouragement of the latest series of vigilante killings. We believe that Pres. Duterte will be true to his oath to respect human rights and due process in the war against illegal drugs.
In the end, only through the collective action and determination of OFWs and families, together with other sectors of society, to exercise and assert their democratic rights can genuine change fully be realized. ###