“With the power and collective struggle of the Filipino people, the Duterte Fascist regime will be brought down in shame!” – Migrante International on the 34th EDSA People Power Anniversary

25 February 2020

Marking the 34th anniversary of the People Power Uprising, we were roused up today with the news that three (3) killings occurred within a 4-hour period in Cebu City. The rise of bloodshed in the Philippines which has claimed thousands of lives in the last 4 years can only be attributed to the sheer tyranny of the US-Duterte regime. This is indeed  a harrowing reminder that the evil days of dictatorship continue to cast the dark clouds of terror over the Filipino people. 

As it was during the time of Ferdinand Marcos, the objectives of the Duterte regime’s dictatorship remain parallel but to a greater extent, the perpetuation of corruption, culture of impunity, elitist rule and further aggravation of foreign domination fire up our severest contempt. 

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The Duterte regime’s depravity impels it to commit atrocities of the worst kind, neither seen nor heard even in the bloodiest junctures of the Marcos dictatorship. To this moment, justice is elusive for Jay-Ar Mercado who was killed by elements of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion just after his arrest on 25 January in Mindoro Oriental. The Tacloban 5 composed of human rights workers, a journalist and a climate activist wrongfully languish in prison. 

Recently, the Philippine National Police provoked nationwide fury for profiling transgender women and Muslim students. In the guise of crime-prevention and counter-terrorism, the armed mercenaries of this despotic regime have gone to the extent of criminalizing normalcy. The abuse of power by PNP and AFP inflicts terror even against common people who are simply trying their best to lead ordinary lives in this period of great tribulation. 

Instead of presiding over the stern damnation of the most vicious criminals contrived by an unjust political and economic system – the big drug lords, mining lords, big landlords, international traffickers and Fascist murderers, the Duterte regime itself has become the number one criminal threat to public security. Professing love for hardened scoundrels, Duterte has likewise set out on a personal vendetta against his perceived enemies at the cost of thousands of jobs in ABS-CBN. It is no secret that the closure of the media network will not only stifle press freedom but will afford lavish favour to Dennis Uy, President Duterte’s most beloved crony. 

Beyond our shores, Duterte’s Fascist avarice pesters Filipino communities in different parts of the world. Using public money and resources which should have been used to improve social services to OFWs and other marginalized sectors in the Philippines, Duterte dispatched Maj. General Antonio Parlade with a pack of other officials just weeks ago for their red-tagging junket in Australia. 

Projecting the facade of conducting a “Peace Briefing,” this brood of vipers spinned ridiculous tales to vilify Migrante International and other progressive organizations that uphold the rights and welfare of the Filipino people. If the Duterte terrorist regime believes that Filipino migrants and the entire Filipino people will be cowed by deception and persecution, he is grossly mistaken. Instead of pursuing peace and economic stability to bring back millions of overseas Filipinos from their banishment, the Duterte regime resorts to red-tagging and persecuting grassroots organizations that serve the marginalized Filipino masses. 

In the same manner as his predecessor Marcos, the US-Duterte regime has exacerbated its Labour Export Programme as part of its Neoliberal and Fascist agenda to dampen people’s unrest and preserve the semi-colonial and semi-feudal bondage of the Filipino society tormented by chronic crisis. 

Even in all its Machiavellian ferocity, the Duterte regime will never succeed in stamping out the upsurge of the Filipino people’s resistance.  Oppressed and forsaken, we as a people will rise above all our adversities to once again wield the power of our collective struggle. Like the reprobate Marcos dictator, the Fascist Duterte regime will inevitably go down in shame in the annals of history as a despicable tyrant hated and condemned by the Filipino people and the entire world. 

Encouraging the weary, freeing the captives and relieving the oppressed,  let us march forward with strength and revolutionary fervour to realize our national democratic aspirations. No matter how long and perilous the journey, we shall overcome in the strength of our collective struggle and unity. May we draw inspiration from those who have come before us. Those who fought and brought down dictators in the hope that we will live in just and lasting peace. 

Oust the US-Duterte regime! 

Fight tyranny!

 

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OFWS at pamilya na biktima ng pagsabog ng Taal iginiit ang makabuluhang calamity assistance sa OWWA

Sa pangunguna ng Migrante Philippines, dinumog kahapon (Pebrero 22) ng mga returned OFWs at kapamilya ng migrante na matinding nasalanta ng pagsabog ng bulkang Taal ang OWWA Region 4 para igiit ang makabuluhang ayuda. Anila hindi sapat ang P1,500-P3,000 para makaahon mula sa matinding pinsala ng kalamidad sa kanilang kabuhayan.

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Ang mahigit 60 na pamilya na dumulog sa OWWA ay mula sa mga bayan ng Agoncillo, Balete at Talisay ng lalawigan ng Batangas at nakatira sa mga komunidad na kasama sa 7-km danger zone. Marami sa kanila ang dati nang dumulog sa OWWA na dismayado sa programang Calamity Assistance ng ahensya dahil sa maliit na halaga at kumplikadong proseso ng ayuda samantalang malaki na ang naging kontribusyon nila mula sa ilang taong pagiging OFW.

“Ngayong pumutok ang bulkan ay ubos ang aming kabuhayan. Yung aming pinag-abroadan ubos,” sabi ni Virgilio Morta na mula sa Pulo Island sa Brgy. Calawit, Balete na naging OFW noong 1997 hanggang 2018. Aniya wala pa siyang nakuha sa OWWA mula nang mag-abroad. “Kapag kukuha ka ng pera, papahirapan ka pa. Pero kapag ika’y magbabayad madali lang, wala nang kuskos-balungos…Papabalikin pa ako sa bente-sais para sa P1,500, lugi pa sa gasolina,” pahayag ng pagka-dismaya ni Morta.

“Pumunta kami dito at nakailang balik na. Ang P3,000 ba ay saan makakarating sa kalagayan namin ngayon na talagang apektado ng pagsabog ng Taal…Dagdagan ninyo sana ang P3,000… Ang mahalaga ay makapagsimula muli kami,” ayon naman kay Natalia Garcia na taga-Banyaga, Agoncillo na dati ding OFW.

Hinarap sila ng kinatawan ng OWWA Region 4 at sinabing sinusunod lamang nila ang polisiya mula sa main office ng OWWA na P1,500-P3,500 lamang ang nakatakdang ibigay na assistance sa mga nasalanta. Dahil dito hiniling nila, kasama ang Migrante, na makipag-diyalogo sa mga policy makers ng ahensya para igiit ang signipikanteng dagdag-ayuda.

Hinamon ng Migrante ang ahensiya na tugunan ang makatwirang hiling ng mga OFW. “Panindigan ninyo ang inyong binabalandra na OWWA Cares. Dinggin ninyo ang makatwirang hiling ng mga biktima. Hindi kami nanghihingi ng limos. Ginigiit lang namin ang karapatan sa pondo ng OWWA na mula mismo sa pawis at dugo ng OFWs,” hamon ni Arman Hernando, Tagapangulo ng Migrante Philippines.

Ayon sa mga nasalanta, kinakailangan nila sa minimum ng P20,000 para panimulang makaahon sa kalamidad. Kalakhan sa mga dumulog ay kasalukuyang walang kabuhayan dahil sa nasirang mga pananim at natigil na maliit na negosyo.

Ayon sa Migrante, ang kanilang pagdulog sa OWWA ay bunga ng serye ng relief operations at community consultations na kanilang isinagawa sa iba’t ibang bayan ng Batangas mula nang pumutok ang bulkang Taal.

“Ngayong pumutok ang bulkan ay ubos ang aming kabuhayan. Yung aming pinag-abroadan ubos,” sabi ni Virgilio Morta na mula mismo sa Pulo Island sa Brgy. Calawit, Balete na naging OFW noong 1997 hanggang 2018. Aniya wala pa siyang nakuha sa OWWA mula nang mag-abroad. “Kapag kukuha ka ng pera, papahirapan ka pa. Pero kapag ika’y magbabayad madali lang, wala nang kuskos-balungos…Papabalikin pa ako sa bente-sais para sa P1,500, lugi pa sa gasolina,” pahayag ng pagka-dismaya ni Morta.

Hinarap sila ng kinatawan ng OWWA Region 4 at sinabing sinusunod lamang nila ang polisiya mula sa main office ng OWWA na P1,500-P3,500 lamang ang nakatakdang ibigay na assistance sa mga nasalanta. Dahil dito hiniling nila, kasama ang Migrante, na makipag-diyalogo sa mga policy makers ng ahensya para igiit ang signipikanteng dagdag-ayuda.

Hinamon ng Migrante ang ahensiya na tugunan ang makatwirang hiling ng mga OFW. “Panindigan ninyo ang inyong binabalandra na OWWA Cares. Dinggin ninyo ang makatwirang hiling ng mga biktima. Hindi kami nanghihingi ng limos. Ginigiit lang namin ang karapatan sa pondo ng OWWA na mula mismo sa pawis at dugo ng OFWs,” hamon ni Arman Hernando, Tagapangulo ng Migrante Philippines.

Ayon sa mga nasalanta, kinakailangan nila sa minimum ng P20,000 para panimulang makaahon sa kalamidad. Kalakhan sa mga dumulog ay kasalukuyang walang kabuhayan dahil sa nasirang mga pananim at natigil na maliit na negosyo.

Ayon sa Migrante, ang kanilang pagdulog sa OWWA ay bunga ng serye ng relief operations at community consultations na kanilang isinagawa sa iba’t ibang bayan ng Batangas mula nang pumutok ang bulkang Taal.

 

Bukas na liham sa mga M/V Diamond Princess crew members at kanilang pamilya (Panawagan ng proteksiyon sa kalusugan, kabuhayan at kagalingan)

Hindi matatawaran ang patuloy ninyong pagtatrabaho sa gitna ng peligrong dulot ng COVID-19. Nananatili kayo sa lugar na kontaminado ng virus na matagal nang dapat na nilisan. Nagbibigay-serbisyo kayo sa sitwasyong dapat ay ginagawa ng mga may special skills at kahandaan. Lubos ang aming pagkilala sa inyo dahil dito. Ngunit mas matimbang doon ay nag-aalala kami sa inyong sakripisyo. Higit sa lahat hinahangad namin na kayo ay mailayo sa lubos na kapahamakan.

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PHOTO: Associated Press / File

Kaya naman po kami ay nananawagan na sama-sama tayong tumindig at iparating sa kinauukulan ang inyong kalagayan. Pagtulungan nating maagap na kamtin ang inyong mga makatwirang kahilingan. Dapat lamang na ilaan sa inyo ang mga sumusunod:

1. Kagyat na mabigyan ng impormasyon at mapasailalim sa isang komprehensibong plano ng proteksiyon mula sa impeksiyon ng COVID-19;

2. Tiyakin ang pinakamabilis, walang diskriminasyon, husto at nararapat na serbisyong medikal (physical at mental) sa lahat ng crew members lalo na sa mga may karamdaman at positibo sa COVID-19;

3. Agarang pagbabalik sa Pilipinas sakay ng mga dedicated flights na may kasamang medical team na may kakayahan at sapat na kagamitang tumugon sa lahat ng peligrong dulot ng COVID-19;

4. Makatanggap ng dagdag-kompensasyon sa inilaang serbisyo sa buong panahong pagtatrabaho at reparation sa mga panahong hindi makakapagtrabaho dulot ng peligrosong kalagayang ito;

5. Tiyakin na makababalik sa kaparehong katayuan sa trabaho pagkatapos makaahon sa panganib ng COVID-19.

Katuwang ninyo ang Migrante at hahamigin natin ang suporta ng pinakamaraming bilang ng mga nagmamalasakit na mamamayan upang tiyak na mapangalagaan ang inyong kalusugan, kabuhayan at kagalingan.

Contact:

Hotline – 0921-2709079 / Facebook – Migrante International

Duterte government to send back 10,000 OFWS to Hong Kong and Macau with waived rights — Migrante International

On Tuesday, 18 February, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed that the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease has mandated that returning OFWs need to sign a “written declaration” to state that “they know the risk of going back to their places of work”. Reports cite that 10,000 OFWs have been waiting for the resumption of flights back to Hong Kong. Just exactly as we feared, the government really wants to browbeat OFWs into relinquishing their right to claim government assistance in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. This “written declaration” is nothing but the government’s euphemism for its issuance of waiver forms intended to transgress the rights and welfare of OFWs needing government protection. 

It is actually in times like these when government assistance and assurances are needed the most by OFWs. Instead, the government intends to abdicate its responsibility towards Filipino migrants. The Duterte government wants thousands of OFWs to leave with waived rights. If there’s an entity that needs to issue a “written declaration” to pledge assistance to OFWs, it should be no other than the Duterte government. From the outset, its corrupt labour export programme has been placing OFWs at risk. Migrante International reiterates its position that this waiver policy sets a dangerous precedent for the government to justify its neglect of OFWs in times of crisis or threats and to pass the blame on migrants for getting on with their deployment despite the risks.

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PHOTO: AFP / Anthony Wallace / File

This waiver is contradictory to what Malacañang said that “the government will always protect and provide support and assistance to all Filipinos whether here or abroad.” OFWs do not feel protected and supported that is why they are willing to leave. If the government is recognizing its responsibility, why require a waiver? Why not provide info kits on COVID-19 with emergency hotlines they can call? The government should also negotiate with airlines so that OFWs will no longer be required to pay additional fees for rebooking. 

OFWs are torn with the dilemma of either being stranded in Philippine poverty and unemployment or expose themselves to viral outbreaks just to bring food to the table for their families. The Duterte government should be ashamed of itself for all its failures to the Filipino people which force them to risk life and limb overseas just to escape the distressing conditions in Philippine society. Filipino migrants are willing to take the rist not only to get back to their work and other affairs but because they also believe that they will get better medical care and attention in Hong Kong and Macau as compared to the poor state of public health system in the Philippines. They do not feel safe here in the Philippines with the absence of advanced health care facilities to handle the emergence of infectious diseases. 

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After DFA announcement on the travel-ban exemption, Migrante International presses government to clarify what it meant by “certain procedural formalities”

Just a day after OFWs and Filipino migrants expressed their demand to the Duterte government for the ban to be lifted, the Department of Foreign Affairs through Undersecretary Brigido Dulay made an announcement that stranded Filipino migrants may now return to Hong Kong and Macau. While this unofficial announcement may be a cause for excitement for many stranded migrants – returning OFWs, permanent residents and students – who are eager to resume their work and get reunited with their families, Migrante International is asking the government to issue its official statement with clarification on what it meant by “certain procedural formalities” to avoid confusion and added burden to returning and newly deployed migrant workers and residents to Hong Kong and Macau.

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PHOTO: Pinoy Formosa

We warn the Duterte government that returning OFWs and migrants should never be required to sign waivers nor provide medical certificates or undergo any other additional process that will prolong their stay just to comply with these so-called “certain procedural formalities” mentioned by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Dulay. 

The government should not impose additional burdens on stranded migrants. OFWs deserve to obtain clearer information and details from the government regarding the travel ban exemption and migrants should not be obligated by any means to surrender their right to demand and receive government assistance. Migrante International will remain vigilant on how the Duterte government responds to the COVID-19 public health issue. 

 

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Stranded OFWs raise urgent appeal to lift the travel ban to Hong Kong. Daughter of a quarantined Filipino seafarer in Japan calls for medical repatriation

In a press conference held at the Migrante International home office on Monday, 17 February, OFWs affected by the travel ban expressed their demand to the Duterte government to lift the COVID-19 travel ban and grant exemption to returning migrant workers, students and residents. 

Eleveneth Baldero, a domestic helper from Hong Kong relayed her fear of losing her job due to the travel ban. “We are affected by the travel ban because contractual workers like us are fearful of getting terminated if we are unable to return back to our employers on time. My contract is set to expire on 6 March that is why I’m really worried. Financially, I am running out of money to sustain my stay here in the Philippines. This is why I really need to return back to Hong Kong,” Baldero said.

17 Feb PR

Rowena Lee was unable to hold back her tears thinking about her ailing mother in Hong Kong who was just discharged recently from the hospital. “This is a very big problem for us since my 75-year old mother in Hong Kong still needs medical attention and I really want to return so I can be with her. She is all by herself. I was only allowed by our manager to spend my leave up to 28 February. We hope that the government will lift the ban because we have needs to address and bills to pay like rent. Our family needs us. It will be very hard for us if we get forced by the situation to borrow money just to extend our stay here. I am pleading to the government to lift the travel ban so we can return to our normal lives. We are struggling because we are not earning anything here.”

Working as a company employee, Tess Aquino is a permanent resident and has been in Hong Kong for 23 years. Aquino arrived here on 15 January for her annual leave and was set to fly back on 9 February. She heard about the travel ban on 2 February and received an email notice from Philippine Airlines informing her about her flight’s cancellation. “I have attempted all possible ways to return back to Hong Kong. I was told by my company to try travelling to Hong Kong via Vietnam. Travel agencies refused to book my flight because of the travel ban and I was told that I will only be wasting my money because even if I make it to Vietnam, they would still not allow us to get to our final destination which is Hong Kong. For now, my company allowed me to temporarily work as home-based but for how long? I don’t think our employers will wait for us forever if this continues.”

Tess Aquino also re-echoed UNIFIL-Migrante Hong Kong’s view on the “terrible state of public health” in the Philippines. “If there are only adequate employment opportunities here in the Philippines, there could have been no need for us to leave the country. The government is now telling us that we cannot return back to our work. This is almost akin to taking away our lives. If we get sick here in the Philippines, local salaries here won’t be enough to shoulder medical expenses. We really need to have the Duterte government grant exemption to returning OFWs, students and residents.”

Former (FMWU-Hong Kong) Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union Chairperson Feliza Guy Benitez said that leave granted to OFWs usually lasts for 14-days . “If OFWs get terminated because they exceeded the 14-day leave, it will be hard for us to get back again to zero just to process all the application papers and the government won’t even pay for it.” Benitez also read the Urgent Appeal Joint Statement signed by 131 Hong Kong-based Filipino organizations. The statement called on the Duterte government to lift the ban imposed on 2 February to Filipinos travelling to Hong Kong. 

The statement cited reported estimates saying that there are around 25,000 overseas Filipino workers who have been unable to leave the country because of the ban. “We all feel that the travel ban which was imposed without a warning or consultation is unjustified and oppressive. It was decided upon without a comprehensive understanding of how it would affect us, and was not even in line with health protocols set by the World Health Organization. The abruptness by which it was carried out also belied the concern for Filipinos abroad that President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed in numerous speeches and interviews.” 

Aside from the 25,000 stranded OFWs, an additional 1,000 are affected by the travel ban consisting of Filipino residents, students and small business proprietors. “Health-wise, we also feel safer in Hong Kong where we are assured of excellent public health care at little or no cost to us. Some of us who have private medical insurance get the added bonus of being treated at private hospitals, also for free,” the joint urgent appeal statement said.

OFWs also blasted the miniscule amount of compensation offered by OWWA to qualified OFWs. “Each stranded OFW was offered Php10,000 compensation from the OWWA Fund, an amount that would not even pay for the expenses they had to bear after being stranded at the airport. Moreover, non-OFWs were given no help at all, when many of them don’t even have houses in the Philippines, and have to pay for food and lodging while waiting for the ban to be lifted. They are also in danger of suffering even more if they lose their jobs, as they pay high rents and other expenses such as school fees for their children in Hong Kong,” the joint urgent appeal stated.

“When I went to OWWA, I was told that I am not covered because they are only processing compensation up to 16 February. I really do not know whether I will still receive any compensation from the government,” Eleveneth Baltero added.

Feliza Guy Benitez decried the state of public health services in the Philippines. “People who need medical attention are safer in Hong Kong because of their advanced healthcare system. It will be harder for OFWs to settle back here in the Philippines because of high unemployment, low wages and contractualization.”

When asked about the proposal which seeks to require OFWs to sign a waiver freeing the government from any responsibility should they decide to proceed with their travel to Hong Kong, the stranded OFWs objected. Tess Aquino said that the waiver is “problematic because it is going to free the government from its responsibility towards us OFWs.” Migrante Philippines Rights and Welfare coordinator Lao Castillo said, “The waiver requirement is tantamount to obliging OFWs to surrender their right to receive government assistance. It is a dangerous precedent especially in times of conflict or crisis situations.”

Stranded OFWs at the presscon concurred with the joint urgent appeal statement issued by 131 Hong Kong-based organizations. “For all these reasons, we urge President Duterte to listen to our plea. Exempt Hong Kong from the travel ban. Allow us to go back to Hong Kong,” the urgent appeal stated.

Meanwhile, Victoria Lavado, the daughter of the Filipino seafarer of the cruise ship Diamond Princess is troubled by the situation of her father along with around 500 other Filipino seafarers who were placed under quarantine in Japan after 10 foreign ship crews which include 1 Filipino contracted COVID-19. “It took a long time before they received safety masks and they are still forced to work as if it is business as usual. There is no separate quarantine area for those who are already infected and they can still mix with other crews despite the risks. This is why I was really worried when I found out from reports that there are already 30 to 60 crews who are getting infected with COVID-19 daily. We really want the Duterte government to work on medical repatriation for my father and for the other Filipino seafarers. The government must find a way to provide quality medical services for them here in the Philippines which is unfortunately notorious for its poor public healthcare and medical facilities.”
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On the airline flight cancellations due to the COVID-19 travel ban

With the COVID-19 travel ban imposed by the Duterte government, thousands of OFWs and overseas resident visa-holders are seriously affected by airline cancellations which have been extended up to the 28th of March. Not only will this have a negative impact on the livelihood and income of OFWs but they are at risk of getting terminated from employment. This is likewise upsetting for overseas Filipino residents who are unable to get reunited with their families in Hong Kong. Migrante International reiterates its demand to the Duterte government to grant travel ban exemption to returning OFWs, residents, and students who will be travelling back to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to resume their work, residency and academic studies. 

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PHOTO: Rappler

The Duterte government must provide significant support and compensation for stranded OFWs bound for Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan who have lost income and employment. These Filipino migrants have already been ripped off by the government and by private recruitment agencies with tons of money during their application. It is unacceptable that they should only receive a minuscule amount from OWWA for all the inconvenience and trouble that they are going through. This is an extremely inadequate response by the Duterte government for those who are about to lose their jobs and income. 

OFWs are also expecting DFA to reach out to foreign authorities to facilitate visa extension for Filipino migrant workers and students stranded in the Philippines and in the cited countries. Migrante International chapters are already providing rights and welfare assistance to distressed OFWs and migrants hit by the travel ban and flight cancellations. 

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