Prepared by Migrante International Secretariat
“Boldly expand our reach and lead the struggle of overseas Filipinos and their families to oust Duterte!”
United in this theme, Migrante International successfully held its 8th Congress in Manila Philippines from December 15 to 17, 2018.
The three-day event was attended by 133 participants, 60 of whom are delegates representing 16 countries and territories namely: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Hongkong, Macau, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines.
Along with them were 6 global council members representing the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and the Philippines. Major partners like SANDIGAN or Samahan ng mga Domestic Workers sa Gitnang Silangan, St. John Neumann Migrants Center and Compass PH were likewise in attendance as observers.
The gathering cemented Migrante International’s status as the world’s leading international alliance of progressive Filipino organizations, federations, institution and alliances based overseas and in the country fighting for the rights and welfare of our dear compatriots and their beloved families while actively contributing to the struggle for national democracy and liberation.
Delegates were made aware of the significant timing of the event since it was held at the back of the recently concluded Intergovernmental GCM (Global Compact for Migration) Conference in Morocco where 164 UN member states including the Philippines adopted the agreement. Migrante International shattered the government-held myth on migration as tool for development. The 8th Congress likewise served as a major build-up event for the December 18 International Migrants Day which was observed by Migrante members around the world.
Importantly, leaders and representatives of OFW communities viewed the event as their opportunity to hand down their final verdict on President Rodrigo Duterte as he approaches the latter leg of his term.
Opening the 8th Congress with a welcome address was Garry Martinez, outgoing chairperson of Migrante International. In his opening remarks, he pointed the delegates to the great challenges facing Filipino migrants as they struggle against the tyrannical attacks perpetrated by the US-Duterte regime.
Julie de Lima, an NDFP peace panel member and a migrant community leader herself delivered the keynote speech buoying the member organizations to expand and consolidate Migrante International and strengthen the international campaign to oust the US-Duterte regime. In her statement, she hailed Migrante International for being a worldwide presence in upholding the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants while doing the same for their families left behind back home. The history of struggle among compatriots for national liberation and democracy was likewise recounted vis-a-vis with how one US-controlled regime to another perpetuated the roots of forced migration and the labor export program.
In exposing the crimes of the US-Duterte regime, Julie de Lima bid Migrante to work further by reaching out to the people, state and private institutions as well as in various international bodies and formations in host countries. She underlined the necessity of placing the organizing work among seafarers as a top concern in the next 4 year plan. Migrante International will be very much strengthened when it succeeds in organizing seafarers. Meanwhile, abiding more religiously on social investigation and a more systematic approach in reaching out to migrants must be carried out.
Surging forward in international solidarity work to support class kins from other migrant nationalities in host countries must be steered towards the anti-imperialist struggle. Julie de Lima likewise stressed that Migrante International must strengthen itself to be at the core of building the broadest international united front by attending to the tasks of representation, solidarity and proto-diplomacy.
In the same manner, Migrante International must likewise involve itself in the broadest international front to fight climate change and promote environmental protection. Lastly, to counter the falsehoods and lies of the US-Duterte regime and its army of paid trolls, Migrante International must have a robust propaganda machine consisting of writers, IT techies, and a strong presence in digital and print media campaigns led by committees and organs for propaganda at all levels.
Providing input on the international situation was Amy Padilla of IBON International. She spoke about the onslaught of neoliberalism and imperialism and how the citizens of the world are waging a massive liberatory struggle to break free from the clutches of militarism and the final stage of monopoly capitalism.
Sonny Africa of IBON Foundation likewise presented an overview of the Philippine situation while supplying the audience with facts and figures that mark the country’s faltering economy accompanied by the exacerbation of authoritarian and exploitative elitist rule.
After the keynote speakers delivered their inputs, each global council member representing major territorial divisions namely the US, Canada, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe and the Philippines reported on the current profile of Filipino compatriots in their respective regions as well as the issues and highlights of their campaigns from 2015 to 2018. Furthermore, each global council member provided updates on important organizational developments and expansions within their respective divisions in the past three years.
A significant leap in the organizing work among compatriots in the global regions is the historic founding and formation of Migrante USA in September 2018. The area and magnitude of work facing Migrante USA is immense since the US is host to the highest number of overseas Filipino compatriots numbering up to 4.7 Million people, 59 % of whom belong to the working class. At at time when the tide of mass resistance and political awakening is fast swelling among Europeans, it is likewise significant to laud the establishment of Migrante Europe in December 2016.
In December 2017, Migrante Philippines was founded as the US-Duterte regime was wreaking havoc while employing state terror to tighten the grip of the ruling elite and its imperialist masters over the country. The organizing work of Migrante Philippines among the families of OFWs, returned migrants and advocates further boosts the growth of progressive organizations in the Philippines to advance the struggle for liberation and national democracy. These great developments in the global regions will pave the way for a more vibrant and robust future for Migrante as a whole.
Ramon Bultron , Migrante International’s newly-elected deputy secretary general, presented the global trends on migration and development. He also gave feedback and significant insights on the Global Compact for Migration and how the agreement still propagates the myth of migration as a tool for development. Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of the International Seafarers Action Center spoke about the current developments in the international shipping industry, the situation of seafarers and the importance of advancing the organizing work for the sector.
The second day commenced with recognition and approval of new members by the voting body of delegates. A US-based institution, the Filipino Migrants Center was welcomed to the fold and membership was likewise granted to other newly established mass organizations and country-wide / region-wide formations.
With the active participation of the entire plenary, members of the presidium discussed the rules of participation which formally oriented all delegates to the form and conduct of all proceedings in the 8th Congress.
To have a more pronounced and clear-cut description of the movement’s nature, contents of Migrante’s orientation were reviewed and updated in light of the ever changing dynamics and internal conditions. The plenary affirmed its viewpoint that Migrante International is an entity composed of progressive organizations of overseas compatriots.
A better grasp on the history of Philippine migration patterns and each regime’s intensification of the labor export program (LEP) necessitated the rephrasing of some paragraphs in the LEP segment and the inclusion of major additions describing the period spanning the US-controlled regimes of Estrada, Arroyo and the incumbent Duterte regime. Contributions of Filipino compatriots in the revolution against Spanish and American colonial powers zeroed in on the significance of continuing the people’s struggle for national liberation in all its forms up to the present times under a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system.
Totally grasping the direct relationship between the struggle for the rights and welfare of our overseas compatriots and the need to advance the movement for social change in the country was deemed crucial. For a long time, rights and welfare has been reduced to mere counselling. However, it is an integral issue in the Filipino society. The time has come to reclaim its political essence and stand firm in our affirmation that Rights and Welfare is a national democratic agenda and a major basis of our AOM (arouse, organize, mobilize) work among Filipino migrants. Campaigning on related issues addressed to host countries are to be undertaken with other nationalities.
New figures related to the profile of overseas compatriots were likewise added. Included therein were new paragraphs related to the rising number of Filipinos as international students overseas as well as the major issues hounding seafarers in the international maritime industry. Completing the update on the orientation document was the affirmation that Migrante International is an integral part of the national democratic movement in the Philippines to effect social change for the benefit of the Filipino people even if the main arena of work is among overseas compatriots.
Contextualizing on the Fascist attacks by the regime as backdrop, the executive committee report delved on the triumphs of Migrante International in continually expanding and consolidating its membership. The lessons of the past and the challenges that lie ahead were enumerated including stirring up the fight for rights and welfare and the strengthening of mass organizations.
In addition, the Executive Committee gave recognition and expressed support over the establishment of Migrante Philippines in December 2017 in its strong resolve to further promote the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos alongside stepping up the organizing work among OFW families, returned migrants and migrants’ rights advocates at the home front.
Admonitions were pronounced against NGOism and reformism in engaging with allies, traditional organizations and institutions. Migrante International tasked itself on advancing its leadership in the International Migrants Alliance to consolidate its members by strengthening their political aptitude.
Discussions and debates on the proposed amendments to the constitution was followed by the election of new executive committee members. Receiving unanimous vote from the body of voting delegates are the following newly elected officers:
Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson
Arman Hernando, Vice Chairperson
Dolores Balladares Pelaez, Secretary General
Ramon Bultron, Deputy Secretary General
Victor Salloman, Finance Officer
After the new executive committee was presented to the congress body of delegates and participants, each global region appointed their representatives to the Global Council.
Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Beverly Longid from the International Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-determination and Liberation concluded the second day with a discussion on the human rights campaign and the need to isolate the Duterte regime in the international community through a more intensified campaign work and lobbying. With upbeat enthusiasm among Congress delegates and participants, the third day began with Carol Araullo of BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) presenting on the challenges under the Duterte Regime. Araullo asserted that the future of the country is in our hands and that our organized and collective struggle will triumph over the Fascist Duterte regime.
The General Program of Action for 2019 to 2021 hinged on strengthening and expanding our fold through educational and campaign work. The aim is to achieve 100 % growth in membership by 2021. Campaign for concrete political and economic issues must be underlined to bolster the oust movement against the Duterte regime. Improvement in strategies for organizational expansion, alliance work, international solidarity work, and internal affairs are to be translated through more creative methods and intensified efforts. Special tasks include enhanced vigilance in the upcoming electoral season, full support for the electoral campaign of Manggagawa Partylist and the senatorial candidacy of Neri Colmenares as well as advanced preparations for the 25th anniversary of Migrante International on 2021.
The 8th Congress climaxed with the strong and unanimous call by OFW leaders from different organizations, federations, alliances and institutions under Migrante International for the ouster of the US-Duterte regime due to his innumerable crimes against migrants and the Filipino people through the constant barrage of tyrannical and neoliberal attacks perpetrated by the entire state apparatus.
In a parody just before lunchtime, Duterte was depicted as the Grinch who constantly spoils and shatters the Christmas wish-list of Filipino migrants. Duterte the Grinch was captured and sentenced to ouster as demanded by the audience. The final verdict was read out loud before the congress body.
Formal proceedings concluded with the adoption of two major resolutions. To systematize coordination between the home office and the member organizations for rights and welfare cases, a plan to hold a major Rights and Welfare training and conference this 2019 was framed. Another important resolution was on the human rights campaign and lobbying efforts against GRP under the US-Duterte Regime. Migrante International will take on significant role alongside ICHRP (International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines) and Karapatan in leading this international campaign. The resolutions passed included supporting local campaigns like Stop the deportation of Loida Quindoy, Justice for Larry (Nicolas), campaign against education trafficking, etc.
Warm greetings and messages of solidarity poured in especially during the solidarity night from the following: Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Makabayan Senatorial Candidate Neri Colmenares, International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), International Migrants Alliance (IMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Gabriela, Kalumaran, and from Sumifru workers under NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU (Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm – National Federation of Labor Unions – Kilusang Mayo Uno), ILPS Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).
The second to the last highlight of the three-day event was an evening filled with cultural presentations. Tatay Cesar Veloso recited Mary Jane’s poem Isang Kislap ng Pag-asa / A Spark of Hope. Dessa Ilagan performed solo pieces from the album Saka Lamang Papayapa: Mga Awiting Peacetalks. Edwin Quinsayas of Sikad (Sining Kadamay) excerpted monologues from the theater piece Sa Digma ng Halimaw.
Tag-ani Performing Arts Society performed on stage a 20-minute excerpt from the musicale Pagsambang Bayan followed by cultural presentations from each global region consisting of Migrante International delegates.
To close the 8th congress, a special finale was rendered by Sining Bulosan as a prelude into a moving tribute that featured a 10-minute slideshow honoring the martyrs’ contributions to the struggles of compatriots. In our struggle for justice and genuine freedom for every oppressed Filipino, their valiant sacrifices will forever be inscribed with utmost esteem in our collective memory.
Girded with zeal and fervour, delegates and participants of Migrante International 8th Congress went forth far and wide to build upon the triumphs of yesteryears while bearing in mind the great lessons that strengthened and consolidated its commission to serve the immense community of overseas Filipinos in the struggle for national democracy and liberation in the Philippines. As Migrante International marches forward to its 25th year on 2021, it hoists a stronger resolve to realize its vision of a society that will never be torn apart for the need to survive.
Members present in the Congress: USA: Migrante USA, Migrante Los Angeles, Migrante Orange County, Migrante New York, Migrante Washington DC, Migrante Long Beach, Migrante Daly City, Migrante New Jersey, Migrante Youth Fort Washington, Migrante San Diego, Filipino Migrant Center. CANADA: Migrante Canada, Migrante Ontario, Migrante Alberta. EUROPE: Umangat-Migrante Italy, Ugnayang Pilipino sa Belgium, Pinay sa Holland, Migrante Switzerland, Filipino Domestic Workers Union. MIDDLE EAST: Migrante Riyadh – KSA, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, Migrante UAE, Samahan ng mga Migrante Manggagawa sa Qatar. ASIA-PACIFIC: Migrante Taiwan, Migrante Nagoya, Migrante Macau, Migrante New Zealand SOUTH KOREA: New Era Foundation, Pagiribang Bicolnon, Aguman, HONG KONG: Pinatud a Saleng Ti Umili, Filipino Lesbian Organization, Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association, Likha Filipino Migrant Cultural Organization, Association of Concerned Filipinos, 7. Pangasinan Organization for Welfare Empowerment and Rights, Friends of Bethune House, Migrante Pier, Filipino Migrant Women Association, Filipino Migrant Workers Union, AUSTRALIA: Migrante Melbourne, Migrante Perth, Anakbayan Perth, Migrante Melbourne North. PHILIPPINES: Migrante Philippines, CHAPTERS: Migrante Youth-University of Rizal System, Migrante Isabela, ATIS Abra Migrants Desk, Migrante Nueva Ecija, Migrante Cavite, Migrante Caloocan, Migrante Central Visayas, Migrante General Santos, Migrante Davao
Observers: Gabriela Switzerland, Samahan ng mga Domestic Workers sa Gitnang Silangan (SANDIGAN), Kalipunan ng Migranteng Pilipino at Pamilya (KMPP), St. John Neumann Migrants’ Center – Redemptorist Church, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Compass PH