Migrante stands with striking Sumifru workers. Decries state-sponsored violence

Migrante International strongly denounces the violent dispersal, harassment and arrests inflicted by privately hired goons in connivance with PNP and AFP against striking Sumifru workers. Yesterday, the hired lapdogs drove away and brutally assaulted the members of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm organized under the National Federation of Labor Unions – Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU).

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In the Global Workers’ Rights Index, the Philippines is ranked as among the worst countries to work in. Up to now, the absence of a national minimum wage and job security due to contractualization exacerbates the plight of Filipino workers as they face threats, violence and intimidation in their struggle to assert their basic rights.

Many big corporations in the Philippines are emboldened by state sponsored violence and suppression of workers’ rights. Among big business entities guilty of oppressing workers is Sumifru, a Japanese company under Sumitomo Corporation which recently made it this year as one of the world’s worst violators of workers’ rights.

Through Martial Law in Mindanao and its de facto imposition in the rest of the country, the US-Duterte regime has been attempting to quash the labour movement to dismiss the legitimate demands of workers in favour of capitalist exploitation.

Due to Duterte’s systematization of contractualization and his neoliberal attacks through the TRAIN-induced price hikes and depression of wages, workers have found no other recourse but to mobilize and realize their collective strength in the struggle to achieve emancipation from oppression.

The regime’s refusal to address the plight of local workers has banished millions of Filipinos overseas and made them vulnerable to slave-like conditions. Instead of addressing the problems of forced migration, the US-Duterte regime employed Fascist methods to red-tag and suppress members of progressive labour movements in the Philippines.

No amount of Fascist repression will ever shake the conviction of striking workers in the legitimacy of their cause and advocacies. Migrante is firmly confident in the militant fortitude of the striking workers of Sumifru and all the other progressive labour forces in different parts of the country. OFWs and their families are fully united with all workers engaged in the struggle for national democracy.

Stand with Sumifru workers!

Support NAMASUFA strike! End Endo now!

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MIGRANTE SOUNDS ALARM: Duterte regime to amass hundreds of billions from forced SSS exactions on OFWs

OFW-group Migrante expressed its strongest opposition against the bicameral approval of the bill imposing the mandatory SSS for all OFWs.

From the Php 4.64 Billion worth of voluntary contributions garnered by SSS from OFWs in 2016, the amount is set to increase by 3000 % next year 2019. According to Migrante’s estimate, that would translate to Php 144 Billion in the first year of implementation alone.

Duterte Gatasang Baka

“The Duterte regime will be amassing hundreds of billions from SSS collections at the expense of OFWs who are already burdened by numerous state exactions. Forcing all OFWs to be covered as compulsory SSS members is outrageous since this exaction will be on top of the US$144 mandatory insurance recently enacted under the Duterte regime through POEA,” Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando said.

Under the proposed Social Security Act of 2018, the mandatory SSS membership will include both sea-based and land-based OFWs as the monthly contribution rate is set to go up to 12 % or Php 2,400 per month in 2019. From then on, Migrante warned that it is expected to gradually increase reaching 15 % by 2025.

As early as March 2017, SSS president and chief executive Emmanuel F. Dooc has been pushing for its passage. In previous years, Migrante said that OFWs were successful in opposing the mandatory SSS contribution even during the early stages of the proposal way back in the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo up to the Aquino administration. Migrante deplores the bicameral approval as a railroading of the bill since no extensive consultations among OFWs were ever conducted by SSS.

The bill will necessitate the government to negotiate labor agreements with host countries to compel foreign employers to pay the required monthly contribution for OFWs.

“In the case that host countries refuse to get the compliance of foreign employers on this SSS scheme, OFWs themselves will be forced to fully pay for the entire monthly contribution rate. That is painful considering that many OFWs are enslaved through unpaid work besides suffering from other contract violations,” Hernando lamented.

Hernando likewise warned that this could incite antagonism from foreign employers against OFWs for just recently, POEA issued a resolution requiring employers to pay for the premium for the insurance coverage of returning OFWs.

Furthermore, Hernando also said that the outcome of this SSS scheme would likely be similar to the scandals that rocked the government in previous years due to the fat bonuses received by SSS executives.

“We are alarmed considering that in times past, huge sums of money from SSS collections have ended up as hefty perks and bonuses for government executives while SSS members have to content themselves with minuscule pensions and benefits. It is appalling that the Duterte regime had the temerity to push this bill just when the election campaign season is about to kick-start a few months from now. What impression are they trying to convey to OFWs and their families from this timing?” Hernando asserted.

Once the bill gets signed by Duterte, it will be the largest monetary accumulation imposed by the government on OFWs in the history of the Philippines’ labor export program. Migrante vowed to vigorously block the compulsory SSS contributions for OFWs.

“We will never allow this sinister policy to plunder our OFWs. This is the time for OFWs and their families to unite and resist this vicious attack against our subsistence. We have already demonstrated in the past that we can emerge victorious in our collective struggles. Together let us charge forward and strongly oppose this extortionate policy of the Duterte regime,” Hernando concluded.

Reject forced SSS exaction!

Proteksyon hindi koleksyon!

 

In his talks with Jokowi, Duterte must address the plight of Mary Jane and other Filipina drug trafficking victims imprisoned in Indonesia — Migrante

As Duterte is expected to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali today for the ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering, Migrante underscored the urgent need of discussing the case of Mary Jane Veloso as the OFW group is also monitoring the two other Filipina drug trafficking victims imprisoned in Indonesia.

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Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando said, “On the back of having other Filipina victims of drug trafficking detained in Indonesia, it is all the more necessary for Duterte to explain to Jokowi the case of Mary Jane Veloso and finally allow her to testify against the international drug and human traffickers who victimized her.”

Even if the sentence on the other Filipina victim in Semarang was only life imprisonment, Migrante is adamant that Mary Jane’s testimony is crucial in setting the precedent to help all the victims of the international drug syndicates.

The group likewise revealed that the Indonesian government was surprised that despite the admission on Mary Jane’s innocence by trafficking suspects Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, their conviction remains to be seen after the Court of Appeals junked Mary Jane’s right to deposition.

Relating his recent prison visit to Mary Jane in Indonesia last month, Arman Hernando said, “the Indonesian government is asking why it’s taking so long for Philippine authorities to hand down a conviction against traffickers Sergio and Lacanilao and why Mary Jane is still not allowed to testify.”

Hernando does not see Duterte’s seriousness in completely vanquishing the machinery of international drug and human trafficking syndicates.

“The Duterte government’s negligence in securing justice for Mary Jane and for the other trafficking victims perpetuates the privilege and immunity of big drug lords and traffickers. In fact, another Filipina drug trafficking victim is currently detained in a penitentiary right there in Bali where President Duterte is currently attending the ASEAN Leader’s meeting,” Hernando lamented.

President Duterte is set to return back to the Philippines tonight after the conclusion of the ASEAN Leaders’ event.

No to mandatory insurance for OFWs! Genuine protection, not neglect and extortion!

Migrante International vehemently opposes another state exaction by the Duterte regime through POEA Governing Board Resolution No.04 ordering the inclusion of returning OFWs in its compulsory insurance policy.

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This resolution exhibits the government handing over to the private sector its responsibility of providing protective services to OFWs. Unsatisfied with extorting mandatory insurance from new hires, the regime is now itching to suck billions and billions of money from rehires to further boost the profit of private insurance providers.

By charging each rehire with the insurance cost of US$144, POEA-accredited insurance providers are set to rake at least Php 7.6 billion every year hinging on last year’s deployment figure of almost a million rehires. This whopping amount does not even include collections from new hires. Without question, this is plain highway robbery!

In most cases, additional exactions either end up as salary deductions or as excessive charges by recruitment agencies and many OFW repatriates do not even receive their insurance claims. Instead, their ticket fares are drawn out from their salaries.

As if the numerous ordeals of OFWs and their families over Duterte’s TRAIN-induced price hikes are not yet enough, the regime is once again augmenting their agony by having POEA act as a bloodsucking conduit to subsidize private profit.

If the president is truly working for the interest of OFWs as he falsely claims, we challenge the Duterte government to scrap POEA Governing Board Resolution No.04 and fully assume its responsibility of protecting the rights and welfare of OFWs and their families instead of relentlessly plundering them for the sake of big corporate interests.

Scrap POEA GBR 04-2018!

Serbisyo hindi negosyo! Proteksyon hindi koleksyon!

 

 

Bleeding OFWs dry: Migrant group in HK hits POEA order on mandatory insurance

“The new POEA order on mandatory insurance is just another money-making scheme for the already burdened OFWs that can very well even cost us our job.”

This was declared by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), regarding the POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 04 that enforces a mandatory insurance for OFWs.

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“Mandatory insurance is just another state exaction by the Duterte government from us who are already burdened by the soaring prices of goods in the Philippines and the rapid weakening of the peso. Employers in Hong Kong are already required by law to get insurance for their domestic workers. If they don’t get one, and something happens to their worker, employers will be liable and must make sure that they will be responsible for the expenses. The new mandatory insurance order will just add to the list of expenses that employers are made to pay for and will merely increase friction between the employer and worker,” Balladares-Pelaez explained.

Under the POEA governing board resolution, all returning OFWs with the same employer, or have moved to another, must register with POEA, they must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months, a valid working visa, and a certificate of insurance coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first job abroad.

In the guidelines, it said that all returning overseas Filipino workers who are household service workers with new or renewed contract are required to pay an insurance that will cost USD144 or HK$1,200, before being allowed to return to their work sites.

Though the resolution says that the employer must pay, in reality, it is the workers who will be paying the insurance to prevent arguments with their employer.  “There is no mechanism to ensure that the employer will pay for it. This new fee might even lead to domestic workers losing their jobs because of tension with their employers. We already take home so little of our pay, yet you want to take away the equivalent of almost 30% of a month’s salary for this superfluous fee?” Balladares-Pelaez remarked.

The mandatory insurance came out in time for the coming midterm elections, which is few months from now. According to Balladares-Pelaez, “We cannot help but think that this collection is one way to accumulate more money for the elections.”

Balladares-Pelaez continued, “The Duterte government and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III are responsible for this additional fee for overseas Filipinos. Duterte and Bello are bleeding us dry. The longer they are in power, the more miserable the lives of the Filipino people, and especially migrants, are.”

“But we will not take this sitting down. Expect that we will meet the POEA governing board resolution no. 04 with a protest. We will make sure that this exaction will not push through. We will continue to fight until the mandatory insurance is scrapped!” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

#BertizAlis: OFWs lodge complaints, want Bertiz out of Congress

As part of the #BertizAlis campaign initiated by Migrante, victims of ACTS OFW Partylist Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III filed their complaints today as the Committee on Ethics of the House of Representative probes on the congressman’s misconducts. OFWs Shiela Mabunga and Emmanuel Villanueva submitted their testimonies detailing their harsh encounters with Rep. Bertiz.

ByeJohn For Online Petition

In Mabunga’s written testimony, it was in 2013 when she applied as a cook for Dubai at Keys Placement, a recruitment firm owned by Bertiz’ wife, however at midpoint, Mabunga’s documents were transferred to Bertiz’ agency Global Asia Alliance Consultants Inc. (GAACI) for processing.

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On her written testimony, Mabunga recounted the contract violations of GAACI. Instead of being deployed in 2014 to her real employer, Mabunga was instead picked up at the airport by a different employer from whom she suffered abuse and maltreatment. When half of her body was paralyzed due to her ordeal, her family sought help from the agency countless times but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Fearing for Mabunga’s life, her father filed a request for repatriation at POEA in February 2015.

It took four months before Rep. Bertiz met with Mabunga to negotiate with her employer. She begged Bertiz to take her back with him to the Philippines but her supplication was not granted. Instead, Bertiz persuaded her to return to work for her employer until the end of Ramadan. Bertiz likewise cajoled Mabunga promising her repatriation and assistance for her college education on the condition that she abstains from filing a case against his agency GAACI and her employer. Upon returning back to her employer, Mabunga underwent even more abuse and severe exploitation.

Finally in August 2015, Mabunga was repatriated back to the Philippines but none of the commitments made by the agency was ever fulfilled and Bertiz did not even show up in any of their hearings at POEA.

In 2016, Mabunga decided to file a case against Bertiz and his recruitment agency at POEA and NLRC.

“Tumagal na ng dalawang taon ang kaso ko, nahalal na lamang ang kaniyang partylist at naging kongresista na siya, ngunit hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring linaw kung ano ang kahihinatnan ng aking kaso. Hanggang ngayon ay mailap pa rin sa akin ang hustisya.  Nakadadagdag sa aking hinagpis kapag nakikita ko siya sa telebisyon na umaastang maka-OFW at galit sa illegal recruiter dahil alam ko sa sarili ko na isa ako sa nabiktima ng kaniyang pagsasamantala sa OFW.  Na siya mismo ay sangkot sa illegal recruitment at isa sa mga taong hindi napapatawan ng kaparusahan sa kaniyang ginagawa,” Mabunga lamented.

Another OFW calling for Bertiz’ expulsion from Congress is Emmanuel Villanueva, an OFW in Hong Kong and Secretary General of UNIFIL-Migrante. In January 2017, Villanueva had an intense confrontation with Bertiz during a dialogue with Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod. The dialogue was about the OFWs’ demand for the abolition of the overseas employment certificate (OEC). Despite being an uninvited guest, Bertiz took much of their time by lecturing on the need for the OEC and his proposed OFW ID which infuriated OFWs present at the meeting. Villanueva politely asked the lawmaker not to consume much of the time, only to be yelled at and accused of being an undocumented OFW.

Meanwhile, a petition for the removal of ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III was launched yesterday by OFWs. The petition enumerated compelling reasons for his expulsion. Number one on the list is “conflict of interest” since Bertiz is not an OFW but a big time recruiter who should not be recognized as a legitimate representative of OFWs. The petition likewise cited the irregularities of his agency as well as his disrespectful behaviour towards OFWs and their leaders during a dialogue in Hong Kong.

Petitioners denounced the congressman’s involvement in a botched rescue mission in Kuwait which endangered the lives of many OFWs. His relentless justification of the OEC and the OFW ID despite denouncements from OFW communities was likewise pointed out.

“Dahil dito, walang moral na awtoridad si Rep. Aniceto “John” D. Bertiz III na maging kinatawan namin sa Kongreso. Wala na ring dahilan para siya ay manatili pa sa kanyang katungkulan sa Kongreso,” the petition stated

#BertizAlis : Stop harbouring an illegal recruiter and fake OFW representative in government! — Migrante

The clamour from OFWs and their families to expose ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz as a wolf in sheep’s clothing needs to be heard. His arrogant treatment of OFWs in Hong Kong and him being the president and CEO of Global Asia Alliance Consultants, a recruitment agency suspended for irregularities, clearly reveals that he does not represent the interests of OFWs but that of greedy recruitment agencies. It is about time that he be expelled from congress and be stripped of his unwarranted congressional representation for OFWs.

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Shamelessly, Bertiz flaunts his ill-gotten opulence and undeserved privilege. His footing as a legislator fraudulently representing the OFW sector is a mockery towards all the swindled victims of his recruitment agency, a number of whom are receiving assistance from Migrante in their cases.

Bertiz and his agency must be held answerable to the tragic death in October 2015 that befell Lotis Camocamo, a domestic helper from Saudi Arabia who suffered abuse and maltreatment at the hands of her employers. As related by a concerned citizen, it took 2 months before the Bertiz-owned Global Asia Alliance Consultants reported her tragic fate to her family and the agency did not even bother to file any case against her employers.

What does this tell us about Bertiz? He’d rather have recruitment agencies profit more from future transactions with homicidal foreign employers than safeguarding the life and welfare of OFW applicants.

It is not unbeknown to us that ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz has been a regular junket buddy of President Duterte in his expensive overseas trips unwillingly shouldered by overburdened taxpayers.

Backed by the Duterte regime, Bertiz is at the forefront in congress of advancing Duterte’s vile legislative agenda for the intensification of the bankrupt Labor Export Program (LEP).

As a gate-crasher and an uninvited guest, he frantically yelled at OFWs in Hong Kong a couple of years ago just to defend the government’s money making schemes of issuing the useless Overseas Employment Certificate and mandatory OFW IDs to OFWs. OFWs have long been protesting against the Overseas Employment Certificate as an unnecessary state exaction but Bertiz continually justifies its preservation.

Worst, just a couple of months after the execution of Kuwait OFW Jakatia Pawa, Bertiz related his rabid support for the imposition of death penalty. Legislators of this frame of mind are enablers of Duterte’s tyrannical rule in the country.

In a 2017 interview, Bertiz has also expressed his desire to devote a chunk of the $20 Billion worth of OWWA funds for conducting research on the viability of establishing an Overseas Filipino Bank. OFWs view this salivation after OWWA funds as a misappropriation of their hard-earned money at a time when thousands upon thousands of OFWs are in dire need of repatriation and reintegration assistance.  Bertiz is likewise pushing for the establishment of a Department of Migration and Development and the furtherance of the pro-recruiter Kuwait-PH bilateral agreement.

The creation of an Overseas Filipino Bank and a Department of Migration and Development is just a systematization and institutionalization of the government’s Labor Export Program.

There is an urgent necessity to end the impunity being enjoyed by ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz for his misbehaviors. One of the ways he can be punished is through his total expulsion from Congress.

In contrast to the pro-LEP and pro-recruitment agency agenda of ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz, the desire of OFWs and their families is the advancement of policies that will give them genuine protection and service.

OFWs and their families have had enough of the Duterte regime’s pro-migrant posturing. We are calling on the government to stop harbouring illegal recruiters and human traffickers. We demand that ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz be expelled from Congress and be totally banned from holding any governmental position representing OFWs.

Bertiz Alis!