“Militarization of evacuation mission to the Middle East detrimental to OFW safety” — Migrante International

With the Philippine government’s deployment of two battalions of military combatants to the Middle East, the Duterte regime is adding more fuel to the fire in an already conflict-ridden region. Their presence as foreign combatants sent by a warmongering president who holds a pro-US default position makes this military contingent a hostile force in the region and is therefore a menacing threat to the safety and security of OFWs. This only goes to show that the Duterte regime is apathetic to the welfare of Filipino migrants in the Middle East. If there is any genuine concern and sincerity on the part of the Philippine government for the imperiled OFWs, it should be sending social workers, health care professionals and translators instead of militarizing evacuation operations. 


PHOTO from GMA News

Lest we forget that in 2003, it was none other than OWWA which confirmed that no evacuation took place at all during the US-Iraq War despite the release of US$293,500 to Cimatu. Instead, the budget allocation was used to purchase military assets and the troops sent were actually ordered to aid the US military in its terrorist war of aggression in Iraq. We fear that the evacuation fund allocated for this operation might once again be converted into a ‘war fund’ with Cimatu being tapped anew as mission envoy by the corrupt Duterte administration. 

Migrante International reiterates our ardent call and challenge to the Duterte regime to save OFWs in the Middle East and renounce the US imperialist war of aggression against the people of Iran. 



Duterte’s enemy tag on Iran and appointment of Cimatu as MidEast envoy, pose dangers to OFWs — Migrante International

The Duterte regime’s tagging of the Iranian side as the ‘enemies’ and his default position of siding with the US terrorist aggressor points out to his apathy towards the welfare of OFWs in the region. He is neither capable of guarding his repulsive tongue nor of exercising prudence in this turbulent moment in history. By eating his own words thereafter and saying that he might still reconsider his neutrality, Duterte is implying that he is more than willing to allow the Philippines to become the US military’s launching pad against Iran. This then makes AFP a hostile force in the Middle East which is detrimental to its supposed task of evacuating Filipinos to safety. Worst, the Duterte regime should have realized that by putting OFW lives at stake for his pro-US default position, he has only turned Filipinos in Iraq and Iran into collateral pawns in favour of US aggression against the Iranian people. 

If this regime is really concerned about the situation of OFWs in the Middle East, then Duterte should make a clear stand of opposing US intervention in Iraq. He should have known that it was the US imperialist war freaks who started this strife by luring an Iranian general on an official diplomatic mission to attend de-escalation talks arranged by Trump which was later unveiled as a US-planned assassination operation. 


PHOTO from GLOBALRESEARCH.CA: US-Saudi drops neutron bomb to impoverished outskirts of a city in Yemen.

The last thing imperiled OFWs need at this time is a thief sent by Malacañang in the person of Cimatu. Migrante International is appalled that the ‘Pabaon General’ is once again being tapped by the US-Duterte regime for evacuation coordination in the Middle East. May we remind the Duterte administration that it was none other than OWWA which confirmed back in 2003 that no evacuation took place at all during the early stages of the US-Iraq war.  The former Arroyo regime allocated US$293,500 to Cimatu’s massive evacuation operations in the Middle East but as it turned out, the funds were spent to deploy 51 Filipino soldiers and to purchase military equipment to aid the US military in its terrorist invasion of Iraq. 

Aside from Cimatu’s involvement in the Php 150 Million botched repatriation mission in Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Cimatu was likewise one of the notorious ‘Pabaon Generals’ who were accused by former AFP budget officer Col. George Rabusa of receiving at least Php 50 Million send-off money from the former Arroyo regime. 

Notwithstanding the fact that he is assigned as Environment Secretary, the Duterte regime can’t simply get enough of him for his corruption skills and this only demonstrates Duterte’s insincerity in securing the safety and security of OFWs. We warn the Duterte regime that concerned Filipino migrants and their families will pay close attention to evacuation fund outflows to ensure that efficient and actual repatriation of affected OFWs occur and that not a single cent will end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials especially with Pabaon General Cimatu in charge. 

Cimatu is bound to fail on his supposed mission to rescue imperiled OFWs as his appointment was forwarded by US puppets and war hawks in AFP. Given his notorious record of corruption, his appointment as evacuation head is a slap in the face of migrants who are longing to return safely to their families. 

The Philippines has nothing to gain from Duterte’s warmongering and conspiring follies against the Iranian people. It is incumbent that the government focuses all its energy in saving Filipinos from emergent perils instead of having Duterte spout hostile wranglings against Iran. Migrante International strongly condemns the Duterte regime’s warmongering stance and puppetry to US imperialist interests at the expense of the safety and security of OFWs. Together with peace-loving Filipino migrants and their families, we say NO to the US terrorist wars of aggression. We pronounce PEACE and SOLIDARITY with the struggling Iranian and Iraqi people. 



The Middle East is host to about 2.4 million Filipino workers and as early as the first half of 2019, Migrante International already banged the alarm when it published warnings to the Duterte regime on the impending doom that is laying siege on OFWs. It was June last year when the US-Saudi conflict with Yemen turned into a full-blown ground battle deeper into the border regions of Asir, Jisan and Najran within Saudi territory where more than 40 thousand Filipinos work and reside. 


PHOTO from LiveLeak: US-Saudi drops neutron bomb on the impoverished outskirts of a city in Yemen.

Failing to learn from the lessons of Iraq, Syria and Libya, the Duterte regime did not present clear contingency measures to ensure the safety of OFWs in peril. Now that the US is threatening to launch another imperialist war of aggression against Iran to fulfill the interests of transnational oil giants and arms contractors, the Duterte regime is once again approaching the deadliest minute without any concrete plan of action. 

Instead of carrying out immediate measures like proactively offering repatriation enlistment to Filipinos and setting forth long-term reintegration programme for returning OFWs, the Duterte regime is more keen on going ahead with his planned visit to Kuwait in what could be another junket for corrupt government officials like how it was in his Israel trip last year. There has also been more chatter and prattle on the creation of a ‘Department of OFW’ which is not even a pressing solution for this looming threat

Worse, Duterte and his minions were just too busy last year politicking and electioneering to take notice of OFWs in clear danger of being caught up once more in this apocalyptic region of the world. How long will distressed OFWs wait before the Duterte regime takes action? By showing off its pretensions of preparedness for mass repatriation, the Duterte regime is just exercising its overt skill in fakery. Failing miserably, it can’t even efficiently repatriate overwhelming numbers of OFWs stranded in countless shelters in the Middle East. 

Rather than being a passive onlooker in the international community, the Duterte government must present its objection against the US war of aggression on Iran and persuade Trump to permanently pull out US troops in the Middle East to de-escalate conflict and to allow the advent of just peace and stability in the region. The US military has no business remaining in the Middle East other than to stoke bloody hostilities against non-dominated countries like Iran and Syria. Migrante however do not expect the Duterte regime to oppose its US imperialist master for he has consistently proven himself to be a compliant puppet to imperialist dictates. 

Dropping more bombs and waging the most number of wars than any other global power, US imperialism is no doubt the world’s number one terrorist. In the strongest terms, Migrante International denounces the US wars of aggression against Iran and the people of the Middle East. Likewise, we decry the Duterte regime’s puppetry and indolence on the back of this imminent US terrorist threat that not only endangers millions of OFWs but all the freedom-loving people of the Middle East and of the entire world. 

Save OFWs! 

No to US war on Iran!

End US occupation of Iraq!

US troops out now!


OFW group Migrante International enraged by OFW death in Kuwait; blasts Duterte’s labour export program

Migrante International expresses its deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of Jeanelyn Villavende whose life ended tragically from the hands of her Kuwaiti employer. We weep with rage as the Duterte regime’s labour export program has claimed another casualty on the back of the high unemployment rate and the absence of job security in the Philippines. 

Instead of wholly passing the blame on the Kuwaiti government in reference to the 2018 agreement signed between the two countries, the Duterte regime must face up to its reprehensible failure in addressing the Philippines’ labour woes that continue to drive away thousands of Filipinos everyday into distant lands. While we also demand Kuwait’s swift action in bringing the perpetrator to justice, the Duterte regime deserves more chastisement in denying permanent justice to Filipino workers in their own country. 


PHOTO: bomboradyo.com

The government’s referral to the “eye for an eye” principle as if it is the utmost realization of justice for Jeanelyn Villavende will just turn out to be the Duterte regime’s way of absolving itself from its voluminous offenses against OFWs and the entire Filipino people. The death cases of Joanna Demafelis and Constancia Dayag in Kuwait point to the endless cycle of homicidal enslavement that OFWs go through as a result of the government’s constant peddling of Filipino workers as export commodities to salvage an ailing domestic economy.

Jeanelyn’s step-mother mentioned that it was her desire to escape poverty and help her father who was a struggling farmer that compelled the slain OFW to leave the country for Kuwait. Woefully, she ended up brutally killed and with her aspirations dashed to the ground. 

It is therefore the Duterte regime’s stubborn refusal to address the long-time demands of workers and farmers that deprived Jeanelyn Villavende of fulfilling her yearning to provide a life of comfort and security for her family. Government agencies may rush to provide short-term aid to her grieving family but that will never be enough to terminate the tragedy of forced migration that has cost an OFW like Jeanelyn her life. 

As we amplify the Villavende family’s call for justice, Migrante International will continue to monitor the developments in her case and make sure that every OFW and their families will have their voices heard as we seek accountability from the Duterte regime in its stiff-necked adherence to its deadly labour export program. 

Justice for Jeanelyn Villavende! 

Junk labour export!


On International Migrants Day, OFW community leaders hit state exactions, departmentalization, red-tagging and labour export program under the Duterte regime (18 December 2019)

As part of its observance of the International Migrants’ Day, Migrante International held a Year-end press briefing on the state of Filipino migrants under the Duterte Regime on Wednesday, 18 December at its home office.  In anticipation of the impending congressional approval this month of the Department of Overseas Filipinos at the House of Representatives,  members of migrant groups in South Korea, Hongkong, Japan, New Zealand, UK and USA described the major issues and struggles faced by Filipino migrants and OFWs. 

Shiela Tebia of Hongkong decried the mandatory SSS (Social Security System)  and other state exactions being imposed on OFWs. “The Duterte government exhibits aggressiveness and efficiency in extorting OFWs through these mandatory exactions and yet when we plead for help in times of our distress, they just turn a deaf ear to our cries,” Shiela lamented. About 20 OFW groups and federations in Hong Kong have formed an alliance called RAGE or Rise Against Government Exactions to oppose contribution hikes.


Speaking from Seoul via video conference, Chat Dimaano said that the Duerte government has been planning to reroute OFW insurance contributions in South Korea into SSS. Filipinos in South Korea fear that they will have to wait until they turn 60 or 65 before they benefit from their premium once this scheme is implemented. Dimaano recalled Duterte’s promise on OFWs as he also raised alarm on the exploitation of foreign farm workers in South Korea. “The monthly minimum wage for workers in South Korea is 1.7 Million Korean Won but they are only paid 400,000 Won. Duterte promised that working abroad will soon become an option but we are certain that it is far from being fulfilled,” Dimaano stated.

On the issue of human trafficking, Gary Labao of New York revealed that about 70 Filipino teachers were among the 300 victims of human trafficking in the US. They have been fighting for 10 years to legalize their status. It took these teachers 5 or more years after arriving in the US before they finally got hired. Some of the victims have already given up and just decided to return back to the Philippines. “We already raised this to Philippine embassy and consulate officials but we have never seen any concrete action from them,” Labao said.

Japan has also been a notorious destination for education trafficking through its short-term study program. Butch Pongos of Migrante Japan pointed out to the proliferation of Japanese language schools in the Philippines targetting students and young Filipino graduates desiring to work or study in Japan. Butch said, “these Japanese language schools are engaged in aggressive recruitment by offering job placements. Aspiring students pay up to US$5,000 or 600,000 Japanese Yen only to end up getting exploited as manual labourers once they arrive in Japan. Some even run away to escape their harsh conditions, and in desperation they apply as student refugees to continue their stay.” Migrante Japan blames complicity and connivance on the part of the Duterte government and these language schools as there is no ongoing effort to stop their illegal trafficking operations.

Likewise, Mikee Santos of Migrante Aotearoa related how the New Zealand government has been promoting its international student visa program which gave a false expectation of easier residence pathway to students from the Philippines and other Asian countries. Most student visa holders do not become residents and are forced to enter into unfair labour relations to extend their stay or improve their chances. Santos said that the Duterte government is not doing any concrete efforts for Filipino victims many of whom are sinking in debt after spending up to Php 1.5 Million worth of exorbitant fees.

Meanwhile, OFWs based in the Middle East reel from the political and economic crisis hounding the region. Escalation of conflict in Saudi Arabia this year has led to armed clashes with Yemenite forces flaring within its territory, especially in the border regions of Asir, Jizan and Najran where more than 40 thousand Filipinos live and work. Joseph “Erap” Valenzuela said that Migrante KSA currently handles more than 500 cases of runaways, mostly domestic helpers as well as 1,500 workers laid off due to Saudization. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been ardently prioritizing the employment of Saudi locals in vital sectors. 

Thousands of Filipino workers were left with unpaid salaries and without access to benefits after operations of big construction firms like Saudi Oger collapsed due to mounting debt. Valenzuela also denounced the absence of a bilateral agreement to ease the repatriation of OFWs restrained by the Kafala system. “Filipino workers were duped into believing false assurances by officials of the Duterte government that they will get their benefit claims after their arrival back in the Philippines. The Duterte government had the audacity to spend huge amounts of money for a ceremonial cauldron while neglecting stranded and despairing Filipino workers. Moreover, OFWs on death row are not even getting a cent for their blood money to save their lives from execution,” Valenzuela lamented. 

The onslaught of right-wing policies in Europe, the US and even in the Philippines has also exacerbated the criminalization of migrants. Undocumented and other irregular migrants are threatened by fierce crackdown and prolonged detention according to Fr. Herbert Fadriquela who is based in the UK. He also pointed out to big travel junkets of government officials bringing with them fake Lumad leaders who actually head paramilitary units implicated in the killings of land rights defenders in Mindanao. 

Gary Labao of New York described the situation in the US as similar to Europe where leaders and members of progressive organizations like Migrante International, Migrante Youth, Gabriela and Anakbayan are being vilified by government officials and fake Lumad leaders who hold seminars using taxpayers money in migrant Filipino communities. Labao likewise questioned the setting up of PNP posts in Washington DC and San Francisco. 

Joseph Valenzuela of Migrante KSA said, “The Duterte government is making life hard for overseas Filipinos who are fighting for their rights and welfare but we will never stop serving our fellow Filipinos abroad.” Shiela Tebia of Hongkong said, “if there are only job opportunities in the Philippines, nobody will be forced to leave their loved ones for overseas deployment.”

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion concurred with their statements. “Attending committee hearings at the House of Representatives, we were told that the Department of Overseas Filipinos will resolve the tough issues faced by Filipino migrants but for us, it will only facilitate the Duterte government’s greed for extracting OFW money and peddling Filipino migrants through labour export. Departmentalization is not the solution but addressing our demands for stable jobs and just wages in the Philippines is what we want. We observe International Migrants’ Day today to celebrate and honour Filipino migrants in their struggle for genuine change in our country. Duterte seeks to silence us but we will continue to fight for the advancement of our rights as Filipino migrants,” Concepcion concluded.  



#WeFightAsOne: Grill the US-Duterte regime in the fiery cauldron of accountability for its despicable crimes! — Migrante International on the 2019 International Human Rights Day

For the defense of life and liberty, Migrante International is one with all freedom-loving people of the world in observing the International Human Rights Day commemoration. Today, we once again commit ourselves in asserting the fundamental human rights of the Filipino people against a bloodthirsty US-Duterte regime which flagrantly wields its hostility against the interests of the Filipino masses. 

Under the influence of their imperialist masters, President Duterte and his cohorts in AFP and PNP are on a murderous rampage to attack the people’s democratic rights in all fields: political, economic, and cultural. Perilous times are right upon us for whosoever dares to confront the greed of the ruling class and defy Duterte’s despotic rule is persecuted, even worse, branded as a terrorist.


PHOTO: The Catalyst

In actuality, it is the Duterte regime that has been using the entire state-machinery to perpetrate acts of terror. The entire island of Negros alone has been turned into an extermination camp where massacres and mass arrests occur frequently. In 31 October, a raid led by the police and military in the offices of BAYAN, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, Gabriela, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers brought about the arrest of not less than 59 people, many of whom were distressed transportation workers, rights activists and cultural workers. 

This was followed by more arrests and killings in different parts of the country. Based on figures released by KARAPATAN, there have already been 293 extrajudicial killings, 3,229 illegal arrests and detention, 11 enforced disappearances, about 450,000 forced evacuations, more than 3,000 forced or fake surrenders and 204 cases of torture under Duterte from July 2016 to November 2019. These figures do not even include the violations in Duterte’s fake war against drugs where more than 16,000 deaths are currently under investigation. No wonder, a foreign think tank in June named the Philippines as the 4th most dangerous country in the world for civilians. 

OFW families are not spared from this bloodbath. On 5 July 2019, Bryan Conje, the son of a Saudi-based OFW was found lifeless after being shot by Navotas police. Surfeited by impunity, President Duterte is intent on overindulging cutthroats from AFP and PNP. In due course, President Rodrigo Duterte will face the International Criminal Court to answer for all his crimes as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court are moving forward with their probe into these killings. 

Hankering to quash the waxing outcry of resistance from the people, the US-Duterte regime institutionalized Fascist tyranny through the formation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in accordance with Executive Order 70. The Whole-of-Nation-Approach allows AFP and PNP to muster all government resources and institutions to impose state terror in furtherance of imperialist interests. 

Faced with the continuing plunder of our country’s resources and violation of our economic rights, the Filipino people must build stronger unity with other oppressed people of the world to resist the imperialist aggression of the US and China. The impoverishment of the masses is aggravated through various Neoliberal schemes like the TRAIN law, state exactions on OFWs, contractualization, rice liberalization law, and the further institutionalization of the government’s labour export program through the impending creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos. 

The hapless public is squeezed dry to channel more wealth to the predatory ruling class. On the other hand, the cries for help of disaster victims in the northern and southern part of the country fall on deaf ears as the government directs more of its budget to its bloated warchest. Desperate survivors who were out in the streets pleading for food and aid were threatened with arrest by the police and the military. This is the gravity of injustice being inflicted on the most vulnerable segments of the population. 

Contributing to the global fight against Fascism and Neoliberalism as what we are seeing in the broad mass actions in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Haiti, Lebanon and in many other parts of the world is fundamental to our national democratic experience in the Philippines. The presence of organized Filipinos overseas plays a significant role in exposing the crimes of the US-Duterte regime before the international community. Only Duterte’s ouster and the complete overthrow of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism shall give deliverance to the Filipino people from perdition. 

Today, we fight as one and defend together against the ruthless attacks on our freedom and democratic rights. It is time to write our country’s destiny and terminate the sufferings that the Filipino masses have long endured. Let us arise and fasten our solidarity until the day comes when we shall finally behold and revel in the light of the people’s liberation from all forms of tyranny and oppression. 

Defend people’s rights!

No to martial law! 

No to tyranny and dictatorship!

Stop the attacks against the Filipino people!

Stop the killings!

Makibaka, huwag matakot! 



“Do not exclude stranded and distressed OFWs from free mass repatriation program in Lebanon!” — Migrante International to Duterte government

Struck by the worst economic crisis since the civil war decades, ordinary citizens and foreign workers now find themselves being dealt with the heavy blows of the ongoing neoliberal onslaught in Lebanon. More than 1,000 Filipinos were reported to have flocked in droves to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to register for the free mass repatriation scheduled in February next year. 

On its website, the Philippine Embassy in Beirut instructed Filipinos to submit documents like passport, their birth certificate and marriage certificate to avail of the government’s “one-time” repatriation program. Unable to flee and their travel documents held by abusive employers, Migrante International fears that many OFW victims of maltreatment are in danger of being shut out from this repatriation program just because government-issued papers are not in their possession. We call on the government to ensure that these OFWs be urgently accorded with repatriation assistance. 


PHOTO: Flag of Lebanon

OFWs coming back to the Philippines will come across a government without a long-term and effective system of reintegration. Like the Lebanese people, Filipinos in the same way are hounded by Neoliberal policies imposed by the Duterte government like tax hikes and dissolution of social services. Only by addressing the roots of forced migration like landlessness and unemployment due to the government’s failure to pursue national industrialization can repatriated Filipinos be effectively reintegrated.

The civil unrest and economic crisis in Lebanon should serve as a wake-up call to the Duterte government in its stubborn adherence to corrupt Neoliberal economic policies that harshly beset people with mounting hardships. Migrante International vows to monitor the repatriation process of the Philippine government as we carry on with raising the pressing issues and demands of our hardworking Filipino migrant workers.