AYUDA HINDI DIKTADURA: Filipino migrants stage indignation protest against Duterte’s Terror Law

Just when tensions were brewing among PNP and AFP officials over the killing of intel officers in Jolo, Sulu last week, President Duterte signed the contentious Terror Law on friday,  3 July 2020 despite mounting opposition from the public. Human rights groups fear that the law will surely be used by the Duterte regime to persecute its critics and nullify the democratic rights of the civilian population. In response, OFWs staged a global online indignation protest and noise barrage on Wednesday, 9 July 2020 which was streamed live on Migrante International’s Facebook account.

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lashed out at President Duterte for signing the terror law with the intent to sow fear and silence outspoken Filipinos who want to express their opinions and criticisms against the unjust and inhumane policies of the Duterte regime. “Fascism and the criminal negligence of the Duterte regime are the primary threats to the lives of the Filipino people in the last four years and even more so at this time of the pandemic..the government is tormenting the lives of our OFWs further with the absence of a comprehensive, organized and coordinated plan to protect their health and welfare. OFWs are crying out and asking, ‘Where’s the promised relief?’”, Concepcion lamented.

Adelaida ‘Nene’ Legazpi, a trafficking victim bewailed the inaction of government and Philippine embassy officials to a formal complaint she filed in 2018 along with 70 other trafficked professional Filipino teachers who were swindled by their recruiters. “Through Migrante, I was able to learn about my rights. It is important to fight for our rights and break our silence especially at this time when we migrants are being repressed.”

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Even if she was able to graduate after completing her studies, Lourdes,’ (not her real name), was still forced to leave the Philippines because of the scarcity of regular jobs. She has worked as a domestic helper in Hongkong and as a caregiver in Taiwan. Lourdes eventually landed in Canada as a legal worker but was later deprived of a work permit renewal after transferring to Toronto where she was ripped off by a fake agent. As a vulnerable undocumented worker, Lourdes fell victim to exploitation in a sandwich-processing factory which was forced to closed down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The DOLE-AKAP cash aid worth 277 Canadian dollars is not enough that is why I’m risking my life to survive and to continually support my loved ones back home. With the enactment of oppressive laws like the mandatory Philhealth and Terror Law, instead of receiving government help, we fear that we will be tagged as terrorists for merely speaking up about the issues we face.”

Marlon Lacsamana, secretary general of Migrante Europe assailed the Duterte regime’s Fascist attacks against migrants and the democratic rights of the Filipino people. “We have disproven all their black propaganda against us especially now that they’ve shut down the operations of embassies and consulates as overseas Filipinos are left without aid. We are outraged because the Philippine government prioritized the Terror Law and the trampling of our democratic rights that is why Migrante Europe calls for the ouster of the Fascist Duterte regime,’ Lacsamana said. 

Nick Delfin of Hongkong denounced the Duterte regime’s imposition of rate hikes in mandatory state exactions like SSS and Philhealth. Delfin used to only pay around Php 1760 for SSS, but was utterly shocked when it rose to Php 2400 in April 2019. “The government should know that OFW salaries are not increasing and our loved ones in the Philippines whom we financially support are struggling daily with painful increases in the prices of goods and services,” Delfin deplored. 

During the online protest, indignation against the Terror Law was also expressed through artistic performances by Danny Fabella and HIMIGRANTE of Thailand. A video clip sent by 11 seafarers who have been stranded in China for three months was also shown. The seafarers called for their immediate rescue since they had not been receiving their salaries and their passports were confiscated by the ship’s captain. One of the seafarers said, “we do not have access to medication that is why we are so worried over our health. Our family back home have been raising our plight to government agencies like OWWA and we have already informed the Philippine embassy but nothing is happening. We appeal that we be rescued immediately.”

Seafarers are among the sectors heavily affected by the COVID-19 crisis. According to Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of the International Seafarers’ Action Center, there are 300,000 stranded seafarers worldwide. Dela Cruz decried the government’s abandonment of seafarers and the very small number beneficiaries of the $200 financial aid that is not even enough to sustain their needs in the last four months of the lockdown. Due to the government imposed quota of 2,000 OFW repatriations daily, the number of stranded migrants are mounting due to flight cancellations. Those who managed to return back to the Philippines are standed locally due to a shortage in transportation. “Since many are starting to speak up, seafarers are being repressed to prevent them from expressing their real sentiments. Some seafarers are even being asked to sign papers that forbid them from accepting media interviews or posting their grievances online. Now that there’s a Terror Law, dissent can now be misinterpreted as inciting to terrorism. Including telling the truth that may terrify the Filipino people since we know that government actions have really been terrifying. This is what the Terror Law does,” Dela Cruz concluded. 

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