Job Security and Regularization of Seafarers Amidst Crisis Tackled in Online Forum of Newly Organized Group SEA NETWORK (28 November 2020)

A newly formed group of advocates for seafarers rights and welfare held an Online Forum via Zoom and Facebook this afternoon to support House Bill 6588 that ensures the regularization of seafarers and a stop to contractualization.  The group of Convenors of the seafarers summit organized themselves into a new online collective known as the  Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network or SEANetwork who went all out in support of HB 6588 proposed by Congressman Ferdinand Gaite  of Bayan Muna and the Makabayan Bloc.

Bishop Antonio Ablon of IFI or Iglesia Filipina Independiente and based in Europe, one of the organizers of the network, began with an update of the distressed and precarious condition of employment of seafarers and how the Security of Tenure provision regularizing all seafarers who have worked for a cumulative period of one year will address this problem.  Ka Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU Chairman discussed the problem of contractualization of workers and supported HB 6588 that will end the contractualization of Filipino seafarers.

Cong. Ferdinand Gaite who authored the bill discussed the fact that there is now a substitute bill in Congress called House Bill 8057 which is also titled Magna Carta of Seafarers but this did not contain the most important provision of HB 6588 on Security of Tenure and regularization of seafarers.  Reacting from a later question of Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director of SPA Shelter-Free Help for Migrant Workers in Taiwan regarding the legal protection of the crew of fishing vessels, Atty. Edwin Dela Cruz remarked that under HB 6588, fishing crew are included but they are excluded in the substitute bill HB 8057.  This must be amended and corrected before the bill becomes a law.

Ms. Lala Tolentino  of Mission to Seafarers (Philippines) emphasized the fear of seafarers now of being blacklisted by their employers and of being refused to be rehired during the Covid 19 crisis, and how the security of tenure provision of HB 6588 could prevent this problem. 

Fr. Herbert Fadriquela IFI, of Mission to Seafarers UK shared the problems of seafarers of being stranded on board the vessels, lack of communication link with families, and low wages.  The most important thing in helping them is to empower them to fight for their rights and welfare. Rudy Batas of Migrante Philippines emphasized the need to form genuine organizations and unions of seafarers that they can use as platforms to defend their rights and protect them during the times of crisis, unemployment and abuse from their employers.

Fr. June Mark Yanez IFI Port Chaplain of Rostock German Mission to Seafarers launched his new music video entitled Mandaragat online,  also in support of House Bill 6588.

The group agreed to continue the call for security of tenure and the amendment of the new substitute bill HB 8057 to include the most important provisions of HB 6588 that were obviously left out in the committee version of the law. They also united to expand the campaign in the Senate where parallel versions of the Magna Carta of Seafarers have been filed. Ms. May Jose of Mission to Seafarers Family Club hosted the event. 

Carmelita Baltazar of Migrante International (Australia) introduced and launched the SEANetwork. This started as an informal group of advocates of seafarers rights who worked together to address the plight of distressed, stranded, and quarantined seafarers starting from the Diamond Princess crew, and later on the crew of Artania, Grand Princess, the fishing vessels Star Mariner, Ocean Star, Hong Ran, and those stranded seafarers in Uruguay. The network includes  advocates and leaders from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) led by His Eminence Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang, the IFI port chaplaincy in United Kingdom, Germany and Thailand, the Mission to Seafarers,  the MTS Family Club, Migrante International, United Methodist Church and the International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC)

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Migrante International on Bonifacio Day 2020: PARA SA TRABAHO, AYUDA AT SERBISYO SA MIGRANTENG PILIPINO AT PAMILYA. PAGGUNITA KAY GAT ANDRES BONIFACIO AT ANG KATIPUNAN

Just a day before the 157th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, the global day of action organized by Migrante International dubbed “Global Online Rally para sa Trabaho, Ayuda at Serbisyo sa Migranteng Pilipino at Pamilya. Paggunita kay Gat Andres Bonifacio at ang Katipunan” drew more than a hundred zoom participants from Filipino migrant organizations and network allies as part of their militant commemoration of Andres Bonifacio’s heroic contributions to the struggle for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines. The event which was live streamed via Migrante International’s facebook page serves as a kick off for the 10-day protest actions (December 1 to 10) which will lead to the International Human Rights Day on the 10th of December. 

Footages and photos of relief operations, donation drives, mobilizations and other activities of Migrante chapters overseas and in the Philippines were also shown with  musical performances of overseas-based Filipino cultural groups as backdrop. Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion commenced the programme by pointing to the criminal negligence and human rights violations of the Duterte regime. “The government is very prompt when it comes to levying all sorts of state exactions to OFWs,” Concepcion said as she likened the regime’s extortionate actions to “braising Filipino migrants in their own sweat and blood.” Concepcion assailed the removal of the DOLE-AKAP cash aid program in the government’s 2021 budget while Php 19.1 billion gets allotted for the regime’s militarist and anti-democratic machinations. 

Atty. Daisy Mandap of The Sun Hong Kong deplored the poor treatment of OFWs who are deprived of essential services they were supposed to receive from government agencies. Mandap cited the case of an ailing OFW who was not even provided with an ambulance upon arrival at the airport in Manila. Migrante Australia Mel Baltazar assailed the Duterte regime’s dereliction towards Filipino international students in Australia who lost their jobs which were their source of income to sustain them in their studies. Members of Migrante Australia raised funds to help some of the displaced Filipino students hit by the crisis. 

Migrante members in Saudi Arabia revealed corruption and sexual harassment accusations against Labour Attache Nasser Mustafa as well as the plight of many stranded and repatriated OFWs from Saudi Arabia who received none of the promised amelioration. Rhodney Pasion, deputy general secretary of Migrante Europe, relayed the dire situation of undocumented migrants who are struck by job displacements, starvation and house evictions brought about by the crisis. Pasion lashed out against the Duterte regime for neglecting OFWs in Europe especially undocumented migrants by closing off many embassy and consulate operations during the height of the pandemic. 

Lester Ramos of Migrante USA castigated the military’s voracity for funds as Php 4 Billion was slashed from disaster response to jack up NTF ELCAC’s red tagging campaign and malicious assaults against rights defenders and progressive civic groups. Malaya Arevalo of Malaya Movement USA asked, “Is asking for living wages an act of terrorism? Is it terrorism to demand amelioration for the victims of calamities and the pandemic?” Malaya Movement USA has been active in its lobbying campaign to make US politicians and government officials respond to the human rights situation in the Philippines. About 50 members of the US congress signed a letter calling on the Duterte regime and the Philippine Congress to repeal the controversial Anti-Terror Law. 

Chris Sorio of Migrante Canada called into mind the contributions of migrants in the 1896 Philippine revolution including Candido Iban and Francisco Castillo, two Filipinos from Australia who joined the Katipunan. Filipino migrant workers were also among the sectors that fought for the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship and the Estrada regime. The Malaya Movement in Canada has gathered 500 signatures in one of its lobbying campaigns at the Canadian government demanding it to respond to the alarming human rights situation in the Philippines. 

Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog decried the Duterte regime’s neglect of both land-based and sea-based Filipino migrant workers overseas coupled with the aggravating impoverishment of local workers in the Philippines deprived of aid and other social services at the ongoing crisis. Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando warned that the country will sink further in peril if the tyrannical Duterte regime is not ousted from power with its bloody record of extrajudicial killings, red tagging, corruption and Fascist reign of terror. 

Concluding the protest event, Dolores Balladares of Migrante Hong Kong announced Migrante International’s participation in the Bonifacio Day protest which will be held in UP Diliman on monday morning, 30 November. The Council of Global Unions (CGU) has also set this date as a global day of action for trade union and human rights as well as a day of international solidarity in support of the Filipino people’s struggle against human and trade union rights repression in the Philippines. Different sectors and groups will converge to protest over pressing issues like red tagging and persecution of rights defenders, the Duterte regime’s Terror Law and its repulsive handling of the pandemic. 

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#UselessPH #NasaanAngPangulo: ‘Relief action is NOT a crime! Stop terror tagging’ — Migrante International

Press Release

13 November 2020

To hide the Duterte regime’s inutility in delivering prompt response to disaster-stricken areas, NTF ELCAC resorted yet again to terrorist-tagging to undermine genuine bayanihan efforts by Filipino migrant communities now mobilizing to extend assistance to their kababayans. Migrante chapters and member organizations abroad have been raising funds to help gather goods and resources for relief operations in the Philippines. We will continue to contribute in every way possible because this is not only an exercise of our democratic right but an affirmation of our duty towards our fellow human beings. Through terror-tagging, the regime is suppressing volunteerism and humanitarian action among Filipinos not only locally but even abroad. 

Out of almost 200 countries in the world, the Philippines is right in the top 10 of the World Risk Index indicating that inhabitants of the country are among the world’s most vulnerable to disasters and natural hazards. Despite this, the Duterte regime axed the budget for disaster response by 4 billion, allocating only 16 Billion this year. This is way lower than the 38.9 Billion pesos earmarked by the Aquino regime in 2016. Meanwhile, Duterte is itching to hand over a blank check of Php 19.1 Billion to NTF ELCAC as a pork barrel chest for his military cronies. 

In terms of ensuring recovery and rehabilitation, the Duterte regime proves to be even more contemptible as what we have seen in its neglect of OFWs and their families displaced by the pandemic. A look at Marawi bears witness that the Duterte regime is a total sluggard in responding to the needs of Filipinos reeling from havoc and destruction. Duterte is always nowhere to be found in the direst hours as if he’s really intending to make Filipinos get accustomed to his late post-typhoon appearances. 

Unwanted government disaster response like blaming the public and exploiting Filipino resilience will never bring recovery and amelioration to damaged communities mired in their loss and misery. Duterte is just adding insult to injury by deliberately confusing the clamour for concrete action with swimming for recreation. Nobody is asking him to miraculously stop the typhoon and swim in the floodwaters. He is being obliged to oversee real time government response and put forward a comprehensive rehabilitation program because that is what is expected of him being the country’s highest government official. 

Photo: (Damayang Migrante, 8 November 2020) Relief effort by Migrante members to fire victims in Brgy. Siniguelasan, Bacoor City.

Migrante International will carry on with its relief efforts as we continue to demand better disaster response from the national government. Filipino migrant communities want to see and hear specific mitigation measures and government plans for rehabilitation. Stop red tagging and suppressing Filipino organizations undertaking real bayanihan at this period of our people’s adversities. 

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‘Time to go’: Migrante International to Trump, US imperialism and Duterte’s puppet regime

Migrante International expresses its solidarity and support to the democratic struggle of the Filipino-American community against systemic racism, fascism and imperialism. From the very beginning, our task has always been to continue building our organized resistance no matter who among the two establishment candidates gets elected. In his greed to remain in power, Trump is now inciting his violent right-wing supporters to disrupt the ‘transition of power’ with unsubstantiated accusations of election rigging. For all his atrocities, we pronounce our judgment that Trump is fired and really needs to go. 

Biden’s victory however does not delude us to consider that the US politics of war and aggression will cease under his presidency. US imperialism will reassert itself more than ever before to salvage its crumbling global hegemony as it battles with another emergent imperialist power, China. 

Photo: 2017 anti-Trump protest in Manila (Aaron Favila, Associated Press)

In the Philippines, the US-Duterte regime attempts to make it appear that the Philippine government is breaking up from its long-lasting puppetry to US imperialist interest by issuing a notice of VFA termination. Officials from both sides however are already discussing a new defense pact which we expect to be placed on the table and ratified once Biden officially ascends to his presidential throne. Duterte’s absolute pardon to murderer and rapist Pemberton already serves as a sign of things to come. 

Migrante International lauds our kababayans who exercised their right to vote. That being said, the ballot is not the end but it should always get us to a higher phase of politicizing the masses. Wherefore, it behooves us to intensify our organized resistance against Duterte’s puppetry and murderous tyranny as we generate a fiercer revolutionary solidarity with all oppressed peoples of the world to cast US imperialism to its final doom. 

Oust US-Duterte!
Down with US imperialism! 

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Migrante International on the senate’s ‘probe’ on red tagging

Just days after the Philippines was struck by typhoon Rolly which left thousands of our kababayans devastated by the extensive wreckage it left behind, the senate hearing summoning the Makabayan bloc only proves that Duterte and his military cronies Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr are proving to be inutile parasites who have no intention of rendering genuine service other than pestering the public with one distraction after another. It is obvious that neither the pandemic nor an ongoing calamity will ever stop Lacson from slam choking disaster-stricken Filipinos with NTF ELCAC’s voluminous lies. He is after all a leading proponent of the Duterte regime’s Terror Law which was enacted at a time when everyone is getting whacked by the worst economic collapse in Philippine history. 

PHOTO: The Philippine Star

Instead of augmenting government response to the economic and public health crisis, the Duterte regime is itching to hand out a Php 19.1 Billion blank check to NTF ELCAC in its all-out outburst to attack progressive organizations and individuals raising legitimate criticisms. Its notoriety even made international headlines when hundreds of Facebook accounts linked to the military and police were taken down for spreading fake news. Aside from outspoken celebrities, even Filipino migrant groups abroad are targets of state-sponsored red tagging. This is why NTF ELCAC must not only be defunded but be totally abolished. 

Now, Duterte’s attack dogs are ganging up on the Makabayan bloc whose track record of excellent legislative work and genuine public service can never be denied. Makabayan legislators have worked tirelessly to raise the issues confronting stranded seafarers, distressed OFWs and repatriates. They have forwarded bills and resolutions of prime importance to the migrants sector including the Magna Carta for Seafarers and the amendatory bill on Duterte’s mandatory Philhealth collection. 

Migrante International declares its unequivocal support to the Makabayan bloc, rights defenders and outspoken celebrities who are now targets of relentless red tagging and vilification being unleashed by the Duterte regime. These attacks are acts of state terror meant to suppress those who amplify the voices of the oppressed and marginalized. The Duterte regime only needs to look at the public outcry generated by Parlade’s actions for it to behold an indignant public that rejects NTF ELCAC’s lies and deceptions. 

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“Put Mauro behind bars!” — Migrante International on PH envoy to Brazil caught abusing household worker

Migrante International is appalled and outraged by the sheer cruelty of Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro. Mauro made life for her household staff a living hell and we call on the Philippine government to cancel her diplomatic immunity and to press criminal charges for physically abusing her 51 year old household worker. Mauro’s violations should be raised before the ombudsman to strip off her right to claim retirement and other benefits. Most of all, Mauro should be placed behind bars. 

Since Duterte’s branch of government has been a dumpsite of rubbish officials, crooks and abhorrent reprobates who usually get recycled to other positions after they get busted in their offenses, we call on the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Mauro will not re-emerge as an appointed official in DFA or in other government agencies. Mauro must be banned forever from holding any position in government. 

PHOTO: Philippine ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro (ABS-CBN News)

We call on DFA, OWWA, DOLE and other relevant government agencies to ensure that the victim gets her wages, benefits and compensation. Immediate assistance must be extended to her family as well. The mental health of the distressed OFW should likewise be addressed through psychosocial services. 

Desiring to escape poverty in the Philippines, Filipino migrants endure hardships just to provide a better future for their families. They expect appointed diplomats and embassy officials to uphold their rights and welfare as they work and reside in other countries. OFWs are no strangers to grievous behaviours of Philippine embassy and consulate officials. Just this year, Migrante International received reports about corruption and extortion activities involving embassy officials in Syria, maltreatment of distressed OFWs by embassy officials in Saudi Arabia and the attempt by MECO officials in Taiwan to deport a Filipino caregiver for merely expressing her criticisms of the Duterte regime. 

This recent report of another Filipino migrant woman being abused shows that violence against women is rife not only in the Philippines but also in host countries were OFWs are peddled as cheap labourers by the Philippine government. President Duterte himself admitted before national television that he sexually abused their housemaid. The shaming and harassment of Filipino women is being normalized by a misogynist and machofascist Duterte regime. Migrante International demands perpetrator accountability and an end to violence against migrants and Filipino women. 

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Free Reina Mae Nasino! Justice for Baby River! — Migrante International

Migrante International is one with freedom loving Filipinos in grieving for Baby River who lost her life after forcibly being taken away from her mother, Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino, who has been detained based on trumped-up charges. 

Unlike big criminals and corrupt politicians who enjoyed extensive furloughs, special privileges and even absolute pardon like in the case of US soldier Joseph Pemberton, the Duterte regime has placed all sorts of obstacles just to deny a decent burial for Baby River. 

We continue to uphold Nasino’s innocence from all false charges thrown against her by the Duterte regime. May Baby River’s blood be upon the heads of the Duterte regime’s military and police officials. They themselves have made known their atrocities before the world and even unto the grave. For a moment we grieve but we shall press on with our struggle for justice. 

Free Reina Mae Nasino!

Justice for Baby River!

Free all political prisoners! 

Stop the attacks! 

Resist Duterte’s tyranny! 

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Relatives demand immediate repatriation of 52 Syria OFWs. Philippine Embassy officials in Syria accused of corruption and extortion.

Loved ones of 52 OFWs in Syria called on the Duterte government on friday morning for immediate repatriation. All of the OFWs, mostly female trafficking victims have been currently staying inside the Philippine embassy for more than two to three years on average. Some were even trafficked when they were still minors. 

Pastor Marie Sol Villalon, anti-trafficking ministry head and program manager of the United Methodist Church’s Manila Episcopal Area called on the government to combat trafficking and provide welfare services to OFW victims. “The Duterte government should never allow our kababayans to be trafficked and enslaved. The United Methodist Church rejects the commercialization and exploitation of people. There’s an ongoing war in Syria so this should have never happened.” Offering their messages of solidarity, Bishop Ciriaco Francisco and Pastor Dan Jalo also re-echoed the urgent calls of Syria 52.

Trying to hold back his emotions, Naeem Ameril related his sister Alea’s plight during the Syrian war when ISIS took control of Aleppo where she was working and now she’s faced with even more troubles under the COVID-19 crisis. Aleaia is a victim of human trafficking when she was 11 years old. As early as 2013, her sister has been begging to return home. Ameril has been going back and forth to DFA-OUMWA, OWWA and other government agencies but to no avail. “I already talked to OWWA administrator Hans Cacdac and I even went to Malacanang’s complaint center but I was only given a referral slip. None of them acted on their promises.”

Alea has been stuck for 1 year inside the Philippine embassy along with 51 other OFWs. Ameril says that they are not even allowed by Philippine embassy officials to speak to her sister over the phone. 

Aiza, not her real name, was promised by the recruiter for deployment to Europe but found herself trafficked to Syria where she was abused, starved for weeks and was almost raped by her employer. “I was stuck for four (4) months inside the Philippine Embassy in Syria. If it were not for my uncle who is a lawyer, I wouldn’t have been able to return back to the Philippines,” Aiza exclaimed. 

Filled with contempt against the abuses inflicted to the remaining OFWs inside the Philippine Embassy compound in Syria, Aiza blasted Philippine embassy officials for corruption and extortion abuses. “Philippine Embassy officials in Syria are driven by their greed for money. When I asked them to send me back home, they demanded Php 25 thousand from me as well as from my fellow OFWs inside the embassy compound.”

Speaking for Stranded PH, a group formed by stranded OFWs, Marc de Jesus said, “We will not stop until the Syria 52 are repatriated and provided amelioration by the Duterte government. It angers us that Philippine Embassy officials in Syria are even extorting stranded and distressed OFWs. There will be no trafficking if there are no corrupt officials.”

Two relatives of Syria 52 also relayed their messages via video recordings during the press conference. They called on the Duterte government to respond to their pleadings. 

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion hit the Duterte government’s budget priorities at a time when big multitudes of OFWs are stranded and wanting to go home. “OFWs will not be provided with increased funding for legal assistance and other DFA services. The regime allocated more funds for war, militarization and in attacking human rights instead of delivering services for our kababayans and OFWs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. DFA and the Duterte government are both answerable to the corruption issues being raised by Syria OFWs. The OFWs are already inside the Philippine Embassy but they are being held incommunicado by embassy officials. This is a serious violation of their rights and their families back home are very worried and alarmed. For victimizing distressed OFWs in Syria with extortion, corrupt officials must be held accountable and face the consequences of their actions before the law. We also reiterate our call on the Duterte government to bring home Syria 52 so they can be reunited with their families.” Concepcion concluded. 

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Allow international and UN rights mechanisms to do actual work on the ground! — Migrante International challenges Duterte regime

While the latest UN Human Rights Council resolution fell short of our expectation for a full and thorough investigation into the widespread killings and grave human rights violations in the Philippines, Migrante International would like to remind the Duterte regime that it is in no way an absolution for the crimes it committed against victims of state-terror. In fact, it recognizes the existing human rights crisis in the country and that the Philippine government will remain under the radar of the UN rights body in the coming years. 

Despite the lies peddled by President Duterte’s underlings through blatant terrorist tagging and false information to delay the UN’s full-blown investigation, the recent call by members of the EU parliament looking into the possibility of withdrawing preferential trade benefits enjoyed by the Philippines due to human rights concerns should already serve as a warning to the Duterte regime. 

Protest picket before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Anakbyan Europa)

More than just technical assistance, the best way to seriously promote and protect human rights in the Philippines is to ensure that perpetrators will be held accountable. The extrajudicial killings that claimed the lives of thousands including OFW cancer patient Allan Rafael who was tortured and slaughtered inside a Manila police station, and Migrante Iloilo founding organizer Jory Porquia, shot inside his place of residence remains unresolved to this day. Instead, we have seen Duterte’s agents of impunity showered profusely with favours. Among them is former Caloocan Chief Chito Bersaluna who was even promoted to head the entire Bulacan PNP just a few months after leading violent police operations that killed OFW sons Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, Reynaldo de Guzman and many others. 

The recent shutdown by a social media site of fake news pages notorious for attacking government critics exposed the involvement of AFP and PNP personnel in actively antagonizing human rights defenders. AFP and PNP initially disowned the pages but later on asked Facebook for their restoration. These pages have been used to demonize the regime’s victims who have been set under the throes of state terror resulting in trumped-up charges, illegal arrests and killings. Migrante members and leaders overseas have not been spared from various forms of attacks and harassment. It should no longer be a surprise if the Duterte regime’s well-funded lies and deception reach all the way to international platforms to cover up its crimes.

Filipino migrant organizations under Migrante International and their solidarity networks will continue to engage in international platforms as we continue to press the Duterte regime to allow UN rights mechanisms to do actual work on the ground. Migrante International shall strive even more relentlessly in defense of human rights in the Philippines to ensure that delivery of justice will trounce the Duterte regime’s impunity. 

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Filipino groups and solidarity supporters call for end to Duterte’s attacks on migrants’ rights advocates

With the Duterte regime facing backlash after Facebook busted a fake news network of more than 100 social media accounts and pages linked to the police and the military, Filipino and foreign solidarity groups held a press conference on monday, 28 September 2020, to call for an end to harassments perpetrated against Filipino migrants rights’ advocates. 

BAYAN USA and Gabriela USA chided PCOO Usec. Lorraine Badoy and the Philippine military for maliciously circulating photos of BAYAN and Gabriela leaders in the US along with labels tagging them as terrorists through facebook pages such as For the Global Public and Enlightened Youth. “This act of labelling, terror tagging and false accusations endangers our lives and security for us as leaders and for our Gabriela organizations,” Gabriela USA said in their statement. 

Expressing solidarity for progressive Filipino migrant groups espousing national democracy, Joe Iosbaker of Chicago’s Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “”In the Philippines, red tagging by the thugs of the Duterte regime have led to an untold number of deaths. We condemn it and we condemn the Duterte regime for his human rights abuses which are now far worse than the Marcos dictatorship.”

Speaking from Germany, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Antonio Ablon, who also currently serves as the coordinator for the Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines related how he, along with Marlon Lacsamana of Migrante Europe and Fatima Rico of Anakbayan Europe were tagged as terrorists by a certain Jeanette Angel Lopez. Bishop Ablon welcomed the recent EU resolution calling on European business entities to ensure that human rights are being observed in their business operations in the Philippines. 

Filipino activists, solidarity friends and some members of the media during the presscon on 28 September 2020

Members of the European Union parliament likewise sought the possibility of withdrawing preferential trade benefits being enjoyed by the Philippines. The bishop believes that the Duterte regime is retaliating against progressive Filipino migrant groups for their continuing response to Filipino migrant welfare issues and their lobbying work for justice and peace in the Philippines. This includes the human rights report brought to the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland last year resulting in the UN body’s call for a comprehensive report on the human rights violations specifically drug-related extrajudicial killings under the Duterte regime. 

Fr. Rudolf Scheltinga of the Old Catholic Church’s St. Agnes Parish in the Netherlands called for the red tagging and vilification of Filipino activists to stop as he lauded their efforts to fight for justice and human rights in the Philippines.

A year ago, members of Emilio Aguinaldo DDS group in Hong Kong started intensifying their attacks when UNIFIL-Migrante Hong Kong openly criticized Duterte for broken promises to migrant workers like the cancellation of the Overseas Employment Certificates requirement or OEC and providing jobs to Filipinos back home. They posted banners, distributed pamphlets and posted items on social media vilifying and terror tagging Migrante, BAYAN and Gabriela. They even became more aggressive by posting threats to deport them and harm their families. 

Rev. Berlin Guerrero of BAYAN Australia said that early this year NTF ELCAC spokesperson Gen. Antonio Parlade and PCOO. Usec. Badoy arrived in Australia and conducted their so-called ‘Peace Forums’ in Sydney and Melbourne. “Their presentation had nothing to do with achieving just and lasting peace in the Philippines but on the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program which vilify and malign legitimate people’s organizations in the Philippines, in Australia and other parts of the world,” Guerrero said. 

“With the 3,000% increase in NTF-ELCAC’s proposed 2021 budget from PHp 622.3 Million in 2020 to Php 19.1 Billion in 2021, they have more money to vilify Filipino citizens overseas. This is where our taxes go. Instead of allotting this money to help people affected by COVID-19  pandemic, they poured a large amount of budget to NTF-ELCAC. They are protecting Duterte from the people’s wrath due to his incompetence in responding to disasters and callousness to the people’s plight, so they slander us hoping that the people will believe their lies,” UNIFIL Migrante Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Pelaez enunciated.  

Sister Patricia Fox, whose advocacies earned her animosity from the Duterte regime leading to her deportation said, “Migrante has been instrumental in helping the workers. Gabriela has taken up many issues like domestic violence and in terms of raising consciousness and of course, Anakbayan among the students. They’ve been making heroic efforts to provide various forms of support especially at this time of the pandemic. So the red tagging is so disgusting but it also shows that people are rising up in the Philippines and Filipinos around the world. We raise our voice even louder with the passage of the Anti-Terror Law. Filipinos overseas who dare to use their right to condemn brutality and injustice, this Anti-Terrorism Law reaches out even as far here so we stand in support of Filipinos as they struggle for justice, freedom and genuine democracy.”

Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion welcomed Facebook’s removal of almost a hundred fake Facebook accounts and fake news pages. “This revealed to the Filipino people clear evidence of state-sponsored and funded online attacks, red tagging and mass deception. AFP and PNP deliberately tried to hide their identities and their ties to these fake accounts but were not successful. This proves that this is a coordinated and deliberate effort by the Duterte regime to mislead people and attack progressive organizations and individuals raising legitimate criticisms,” Concepcion stated. 

The group likewise reiterated its demands for the junking of the Terror Law, the shutdown of fake news sites and fake accounts on Facebook and the abolition of the NTF ELCAC. It also expressed support for the continuing call of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the European Union parliament to end human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. 

Concepcion also explained why calls by Filipino progressive groups for Duterte’s ouster and the junking of the terror law are part of the right to freedom of expression. “The 1987 constitution tells us that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. The Duterte government has been trampling on the law, the Philippine constitution. The passage of the Terror Law is one example. More than 30 petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the Terror Law. This Terror Law was passed right in the middle of a pandemic when the Philippine government should be attending to the economic and public health crisis. The Philippines now has the longest lockdown so the response of the Duterte government has really been a failure. With regards to the plan to postpone the 2022 elections, the pandemic should not be used by the government to suppress the rights of the Filipino people most especially our right to vote.”

During the press conference, a unity statement was launched to “demand an immediate stop to the tagging of activists and progressive organizations worldwide as ‘communist terrorist groups’ by the Duterte regime” as well as the continuing terror tagging being perpetrated by NTF ELCAC. The unity statement has so far already garnered signatories from 102 Filipino organizations from different countries in the Asia-Pacific region, North America and Europe. 

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