Withdrawal of Labour Attache’s mandatory health check requirement a victory for HK OFWs

Press Statement
22 January 2019

Withdrawal of Labour Attache’s mandatory health check requirement a victory for HK OFWs
March to POLO for the scrapping of OFW Compulsory Insurance still continue! 

Filipino domestic workers laud Philippine Labour Attache Jalilo de la Torre’s immediate decision to permanently rescind the Implementation of Additional Requirement for Contract Processing.

Filipino community leaders strongly expressed their opposition to the pre-employment advisory in a dialogue held at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office on Sunday 20th of January 2019. This outpour of rage resulted in the withdrawal of the proposed mandatory pre-employment health check.

While they appreciate the Labour Attache’s concern on the rising health cases, a mandatory health check before the employment of domestic workers is not the solution; instead this would result in termination of work and loss of opportunity to get proper medical attention in Hong Kong.

The leaders assert that medical attention should be provided to the domestic workers within the period of employment. They propose that instead of the punitive pre-employment requirement for the migrant workers, the POLO can devise pre-employment undertaking for employers to sign for the protection and health security of domestic workers.

Most importantly, the Filipino community urge the POLO to work with the Hong Kong government to implement the policies that would provide health care and protection for the foreign domestic workers such as the 11-hour uninterrupted rest, suitable accommodation, and proper food.

Beyond doubt, the collective voice of the OFWs prove to gain positive and fruitful benefits for their rights and welfare. Without the outrage expressed by OFWs, the mandatory pre-employment health check would have pushed through. The result of the consultative meeting definitely attests to this.

The struggle for our rights definitely does not end here. The mandatory insurance is still being imposed on us by the Philippine Overseas Employment Governing Board. Which is why we are inviting all OFWs to join the rally on Sunday, 27th of January, at 2:00 PM at the pavement of the Court of Final Appeal, before marching towards the Philippine Labour Office (POLO) to call for the non-implementation of OFW Compulsory Insurance and scrap it permanently.

Onwards to greater victories!

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Communique of the Migrante International 8th Congress

Prepared by Migrante International Secretariat

“Boldly expand our reach and lead the struggle of overseas Filipinos and their families to oust Duterte!”

United in this theme, Migrante International successfully held its 8th Congress in Manila Philippines from December 15 to 17, 2018.

The three-day event was attended by 133 participants, 60 of whom are delegates representing 16 countries and territories namely: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Hongkong, Macau, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines.

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Along with them were 6 global council members representing the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and the Philippines. Major partners like SANDIGAN or Samahan ng mga Domestic Workers sa Gitnang Silangan, St. John Neumann Migrants Center and Compass PH were likewise in attendance as observers.

The gathering cemented Migrante International’s status as the world’s leading international alliance of progressive Filipino organizations, federations, institution and alliances based overseas and in the country fighting for the rights and welfare of our dear compatriots and their beloved families while actively contributing to the struggle for national democracy and liberation.

Delegates were made aware of the significant timing of the event since it was held at the back of the recently concluded Intergovernmental GCM (Global Compact for Migration) Conference in Morocco where 164 UN member states including the Philippines adopted the agreement. Migrante International shattered the government-held myth on migration as tool for development. The 8th Congress likewise served as a major build-up event for the December 18 International Migrants Day which was observed by Migrante members around the world.

Importantly, leaders and representatives of OFW communities viewed the event as their opportunity to hand down their final verdict on President Rodrigo Duterte as he approaches the latter leg of his term.

Opening the 8th Congress with a welcome address was Garry Martinez, outgoing chairperson of Migrante International. In his opening remarks, he pointed the delegates to the great challenges facing Filipino migrants as they struggle against the tyrannical attacks perpetrated by the US-Duterte regime.

Julie de Lima, an NDFP peace panel member and a migrant community leader herself delivered the keynote speech buoying the member organizations to expand and consolidate Migrante International and strengthen the international campaign to oust the US-Duterte regime. In her statement, she hailed Migrante International for being a worldwide presence in upholding the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants while doing the same for their families left behind back home. The history of struggle among compatriots for national liberation and democracy was likewise recounted vis-a-vis with how one US-controlled regime to another perpetuated the roots of forced migration and the labor export program.

In exposing the crimes of the US-Duterte regime, Julie de Lima bid Migrante to work further by reaching out to the people, state and private institutions as well as in various international bodies and formations in host countries. She underlined the necessity of placing the organizing work among seafarers as a top concern in the next 4 year plan. Migrante International will be very much strengthened when it succeeds in organizing seafarers. Meanwhile, abiding more religiously on social investigation and a more systematic approach in reaching out to migrants must be carried out.

Surging forward in international solidarity work to support class kins from other migrant nationalities in host countries must be steered towards the anti-imperialist struggle. Julie de Lima likewise stressed that Migrante International must strengthen itself to be at the core of building the broadest international united front by attending to the tasks of representation, solidarity and proto-diplomacy.

In the same manner, Migrante International must likewise involve itself in the broadest international front to fight climate change and promote environmental protection. Lastly, to counter the falsehoods and lies of the US-Duterte regime and its army of paid trolls, Migrante International must have a robust propaganda machine consisting of writers, IT techies, and a strong presence in digital and print media campaigns led by committees and organs for propaganda at all levels.

Providing input on the international situation was Amy Padilla of IBON International. She spoke about the onslaught of neoliberalism and imperialism and how the citizens of the world are waging a massive liberatory struggle to break free from the clutches of militarism and the final stage of monopoly capitalism.

Sonny Africa of IBON Foundation likewise presented an overview of the Philippine situation while supplying the audience with facts and figures that mark the country’s faltering economy accompanied by the exacerbation of authoritarian and exploitative elitist rule.

After the keynote speakers delivered their inputs, each global council member representing major territorial divisions namely the US, Canada, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe and the Philippines reported on the current profile of Filipino compatriots in their respective regions as well as the issues and highlights of their campaigns from 2015 to 2018. Furthermore, each global council member provided updates on important organizational developments and expansions within their respective divisions in the past three years.

A significant leap in the organizing work among compatriots in the global regions is the historic founding and formation of Migrante USA in September 2018. The area and magnitude of work facing Migrante USA is immense since the US is host to the highest number of overseas Filipino compatriots numbering up to 4.7 Million people, 59 % of whom belong to the working class. At at time when the tide of mass resistance and political awakening is fast swelling among Europeans, it is likewise significant to laud the establishment of Migrante Europe in December 2016.

In December 2017, Migrante Philippines was founded as the US-Duterte regime was wreaking havoc while employing state terror to tighten the grip of the ruling elite and its imperialist masters over the country. The organizing work of Migrante Philippines among the families of OFWs, returned migrants and advocates further boosts the growth of progressive organizations in the Philippines to advance the struggle for liberation and national democracy. These great developments in the global regions will pave the way for a more vibrant and robust future for Migrante as a whole.

Ramon Bultron , Migrante International’s newly-elected deputy secretary general, presented the global trends on migration and development. He also gave feedback and significant insights on the Global Compact for Migration and how the agreement still propagates the myth of migration as a tool for development. Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of the International Seafarers Action Center spoke about the current developments in the international shipping industry, the situation of seafarers and the importance of advancing the organizing work for the sector.

The second day commenced with recognition and approval of new members by the voting body of delegates. A US-based institution, the Filipino Migrants Center was welcomed to the fold and membership was likewise granted to other newly established mass organizations and country-wide / region-wide formations.

With the active participation of the entire plenary, members of the presidium discussed the rules of participation which formally oriented all delegates to the form and conduct of all proceedings in the 8th Congress.

To have a more pronounced and clear-cut description of the movement’s nature, contents of Migrante’s orientation were reviewed and updated in light of the ever changing dynamics and internal conditions. The plenary affirmed its viewpoint that Migrante International is an entity composed of progressive organizations of overseas compatriots.

A better grasp on the history of Philippine migration patterns and each regime’s intensification of the labor export program (LEP) necessitated  the rephrasing of some paragraphs in the LEP segment and the inclusion of major additions describing the period spanning the US-controlled regimes of Estrada, Arroyo and the incumbent Duterte regime. Contributions of Filipino compatriots in the revolution against Spanish and American colonial powers zeroed in on the significance of continuing the people’s struggle for national liberation in all its forms up to the present times under a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system.

Totally grasping the direct relationship between the struggle for the rights and welfare of our overseas compatriots and the need to advance the movement for social change in the country was deemed crucial. For a long time, rights and welfare has been reduced to mere counselling. However, it is an integral issue in the Filipino society. The time has come to reclaim its political essence and stand firm in our affirmation that Rights and Welfare is a national democratic agenda and a major basis of our AOM (arouse, organize, mobilize) work among Filipino migrants. Campaigning on related issues addressed to host countries are to be undertaken with other nationalities.

New figures related to the profile of overseas compatriots were likewise added. Included therein were new paragraphs related to the rising number of Filipinos as international students overseas as well as the major issues hounding seafarers in the international maritime industry. Completing the update on the orientation document was the affirmation that Migrante International is an integral part of the national democratic movement in the Philippines to effect social change for the benefit of the Filipino people even if the main arena of work is among overseas compatriots.

Contextualizing on the Fascist attacks by the regime as backdrop, the executive committee report delved on the triumphs of Migrante International in continually expanding and consolidating its membership. The lessons of the past and the challenges that lie ahead were enumerated including stirring up the fight for rights and welfare and the strengthening of mass organizations.

In addition, the Executive Committee gave recognition and expressed support over the establishment of Migrante Philippines in December 2017 in its strong resolve to further promote the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos alongside stepping up the organizing work among OFW families, returned migrants and migrants’ rights advocates at the home front.

Admonitions were pronounced against NGOism and reformism in engaging with allies, traditional organizations and institutions. Migrante International tasked itself on advancing its leadership in the International Migrants Alliance to consolidate its members by strengthening their political aptitude.

Discussions and debates on the proposed amendments to the constitution was followed by the election of new executive committee members. Receiving unanimous vote from the body of voting delegates are the following newly elected officers:

Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson
Arman Hernando, Vice Chairperson
Dolores Balladares Pelaez, Secretary General
Ramon Bultron, Deputy Secretary General
Victor Salloman, Finance Officer

After the new executive committee was presented to the congress body of delegates and participants, each global region appointed their representatives to the Global Council. The new Global Council members are the following:

Joy De Guzman, (USA)
Norman Carnay, (Asia-Pacific)
RJ Maramag, (Europe)
Marco Luciano, (Canada)
Gerry de Guzman, (Middle East)
Cherry Clemente, (Philippines)

Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Beverly Longid from the International Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-determination and Liberation concluded the second day with a discussion on the human rights campaign and the need to isolate the Duterte regime in the international community through a more intensified campaign work and lobbying. With upbeat enthusiasm among Congress delegates and participants, the third day began with Carol Araullo of BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) presenting on the challenges under the Duterte Regime. Araullo asserted that the future of the country is in our hands and that our organized and collective struggle will triumph over the Fascist Duterte regime.

The General Program of Action for 2019 to 2021 hinged on strengthening and expanding our fold through educational and campaign work. The aim is to achieve 100 % growth in membership by 2021. Campaign for concrete political and economic issues must be underlined to bolster the oust movement against the Duterte regime. Improvement in strategies for organizational expansion, alliance work, international solidarity work, and internal affairs are to be translated through more creative methods and intensified efforts. Special tasks include enhanced vigilance in the upcoming electoral season, full support for the electoral campaign of Manggagawa Partylist and the senatorial candidacy of Neri Colmenares as well as advanced preparations for the 25th anniversary of Migrante International on 2021.

The 8th Congress climaxed with the strong and unanimous call by OFW leaders from different organizations, federations, alliances and institutions under Migrante International for the ouster of the US-Duterte regime due to his innumerable crimes against migrants and the Filipino people through the constant barrage of tyrannical and neoliberal attacks perpetrated by the entire state apparatus.

In a parody just before lunchtime, Duterte was depicted as the Grinch who constantly spoils and shatters the Christmas wish-list of Filipino migrants. Duterte the Grinch was captured and sentenced to ouster as demanded  by the audience. The final verdict was read out loud before the congress body.

Formal proceedings concluded with the adoption of two major resolutions. To systematize coordination between the home office and the member organizations for rights and welfare cases, a plan to hold a major Rights and Welfare training and conference this 2019 was framed. Another important resolution was on the human rights campaign and lobbying efforts against GRP under the US-Duterte Regime. Migrante International will take on significant role alongside ICHRP (International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines) and Karapatan in leading this international campaign. The resolutions passed included supporting local campaigns like Stop the deportation of Loida Quindoy, Justice for Larry (Nicolas), campaign against education trafficking, etc.

Warm greetings and messages of solidarity poured in especially during the solidarity night from the following: Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Makabayan Senatorial Candidate Neri Colmenares, International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), International Migrants Alliance (IMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Gabriela, Kalumaran, and from Sumifru workers under NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU (Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm – National Federation of Labor Unions – Kilusang Mayo Uno), ILPS Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).

The second to the last highlight of the three-day event was an evening filled with cultural presentations. Tatay Cesar Veloso recited Mary Jane’s poem Isang Kislap ng Pag-asa / A Spark of Hope. Dessa Ilagan performed solo pieces from the album Saka Lamang Papayapa: Mga Awiting Peacetalks. Edwin Quinsayas of Sikad (Sining Kadamay) excerpted monologues from the theater piece Sa Digma ng Halimaw.

Tag-ani Performing Arts Society performed on stage a 20-minute excerpt from the musicale Pagsambang Bayan followed by cultural presentations from each global region consisting of Migrante International delegates.

To close the 8th congress, a special finale was rendered by Sining Bulosan as a prelude into a moving tribute that featured a 10-minute slideshow honoring the martyrs’ contributions to the struggles of compatriots. In our struggle for justice and genuine freedom for every oppressed Filipino, their valiant sacrifices will forever be inscribed with utmost esteem in our collective memory.

Girded with zeal and fervour, delegates and participants of Migrante International 8th Congress went forth far and wide to build upon the triumphs of yesteryears while bearing in mind the great lessons that strengthened and consolidated its commission to serve the immense community of overseas Filipinos in the struggle for national democracy and liberation in the Philippines. As Migrante International marches forward to its 25th year on 2021, it hoists a stronger resolve to realize its vision of a society that will never be torn apart for the need to survive.

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Members present in the Congress: USA: Migrante USA, Migrante Los Angeles, Migrante Orange County, Migrante New York, Migrante Washington DC, Migrante Long Beach, Migrante Daly City, Migrante New Jersey, Migrante Youth Fort Washington, Migrante San Diego, Filipino Migrant Center. CANADA: Migrante Canada, Migrante Ontario, Migrante Alberta. EUROPE: Umangat-Migrante Italy, Ugnayang Pilipino sa Belgium, Pinay sa Holland, Migrante Switzerland, Filipino Domestic Workers Union. MIDDLE EAST: Migrante Riyadh – KSA, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, Migrante UAE, Samahan ng mga Migrante Manggagawa sa Qatar. ASIA-PACIFIC: Migrante Taiwan, Migrante Nagoya, Migrante Macau, Migrante New Zealand SOUTH KOREA: New Era Foundation, Pagiribang Bicolnon, Aguman, HONG KONG: Pinatud a Saleng Ti Umili, Filipino Lesbian Organization, Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association, Likha Filipino Migrant Cultural Organization, Association of Concerned Filipinos, 7. Pangasinan Organization for Welfare Empowerment and Rights, Friends of Bethune House, Migrante Pier, Filipino Migrant Women Association, Filipino Migrant Workers Union, AUSTRALIA: Migrante Melbourne, Migrante Perth, Anakbayan Perth, Migrante Melbourne North. PHILIPPINES: Migrante Philippines, CHAPTERS: Migrante Youth-University of Rizal System, Migrante Isabela, ATIS Abra Migrants Desk, Migrante Nueva Ecija, Migrante Cavite, Migrante Caloocan, Migrante Central Visayas, Migrante General Santos, Migrante Davao

Observers: Gabriela Switzerland, Samahan ng mga Domestic Workers sa Gitnang Silangan (SANDIGAN), Kalipunan ng Migranteng Pilipino at Pamilya (KMPP), St. John Neumann Migrants’ Center – Redemptorist Church, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Compass PH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Migrante raises alarm over passport fiasco

Migrante International expresses its utmost alarm over the massive passport fiasco which now places extensive amounts of private personal information of passport applicants under serious threats. This is indeed distressing considering that it occurred while we are fast approaching the midterm national elections. We fear the dangerous implications it pose on the welfare of our dear OFWs. Aside from the consequent inconveniences it will cause them, any private information leaked will surely make OFWs and all the other passport applicants vulnerable to identity theft and other fraudulent schemes.

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We demand that the Department of Foreign Affairs clearly present to the public all the actions that it will undertake to oblige the private contractor to turn over and subsequently delete the data it currently holds. The fact that its contract has already been terminated means that it should no longer have any business in retaining all the private information it collected from passport applicants. Hence, their continued possession of enormous volumes of sensitive data is already a serious form of leakage and an infringement on the right to privacy.

As OFW advocates of national integrity, we have always opposed the direct control and involvement of profit-driven private entities in many government transactions and projects. Corruption has been pestering many government agencies for so long since the government’s compliance with neoliberal policies normalizes the engrossment of public officials in striking deals with big private contractors whose only aim is to maximize their profits at the expense of the welfare and security of OFWs and the Filipino people in general.

Moreover, if the government is impotent in protecting the passport data from being held hostage by a “pissed-off” private contractor, we can definitely have a broad idea of how much worse it can get once the implementation of the national ID system is in full swing. Under the present system, the government has this strong preference to prostituting our sovereignty by awarding large-scale contracts to dubious foreign contractors just like the 12-year Php1.6 Billion contract awarded by the Philippine Statistics Authority to US-based firm UNISYS which has figured prominently in data breach controversies overseas.

There is no doubt that investigations will never suffice unless the privatization of data processing in the Department of Foreign Affairs and all the rest of government agencies is ceased to give way for the development and improvement of in-house capacities. Allowing foreign contractors to access and control data processing is already a threat to national security and public safety. Blaming previous administrations and purportedly holding the culprits accountable while sticking to the same old rotten system of privatization will just appear to be mere grandstanding unless the government and the DFA wilfully decides to adopt a nationalized program in the processing of public data.

For whatever inconveniences this passport fiasco will inflict on the public, Migrante International demands that a full refund of the passport processing fee be distributed back to all affected passport applicants. In the implementation thereof, we warn the DFA not to make life difficult for all the people affected by this mess.

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Migrant groups blast Duterte anew on recent rape remarks

As the public still reels from the uproar over Duterte’s recent confession on molesting their female household worker, the president just made another controversial statement rationalizing rape as a cultural practice and as a matter of “territory.”

In his speech during an event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Wednesday, Duterte said, “ilang Filipina abroad, alam ninyo, na pag nanduon ay worker, paid, or working as a slave, rape is part of territory. Kasali sa kultura.”

50285542_568541903612301_4731232455971831808_nVarious groups representing women and the migrants’ sector expressed condemnation over the president’s latest rape remark. Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion said, “instead of ensuring justice for all the rape victims and providing full protection to all our women OFWs, you gave us a remark that virtually justifies the commission of heinous crimes against them.” Concepcion was recently elected as Migrante International’s chairperson and has long been a migrants’ rights leader among Filipino communities in the US. “Kailanman, hindi namin matatanggap ang sinasabi mong kapalaran namin na halayin at alipinin sa ibang bayan,” she added.

President Duterte in his same speech during the DTI event described OFW families as dysfunctional. “Pag wala ang nanay, nandiyan ang tatay, the eldest daughter becomes the surrogate mother. Pati anak niya. Kasi wala ang asawa. Now, pag ang tatay at ang nanay pumunta, magtrabaho sa middle east, sila ay iiwan sa lolo at lola,”Duterte stated.

When asked about Duterte’s remark on OFW families, Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando was highly emotional as he took account of his elder sister and other female relatives working overseas. He retorted, “Mr. Duterte, it is your government that sent our mothers and sisters abroad to be enslaved through your labor export program.”

In 2016 alone, Migrante International was able to document 1,549 cases of maltreatment and 308 cases of rape and sexual abuse among OFWs in Kuwait.

“Your criminal neglect is distressing enough for us to condemn your inhuman regime. Yet again, this latest remark of yours deserves greater condemnation. Your slave society thinking as reflected in your remark has put them in greater danger because it aggrandizes the abuses inflicted by their foreign employers,” Hernando added.

Pinky Alamo of Samahan ng mga Domestic Helpers sa Gitnang Silangan (SANDIGAN) reiterated their group’s demand on the government to assume full responsibility in working for the attainment of justice for all OFW victims of abuse and maltreatment. Alamo described Duterte’s speech as “filthy and deplorable.” A victim of attempted rape herself, Pinky Alamo said, “hearing Duterte’s obscene remarks on women is like reliving over and over again all the traumatic experiences we went through from our abusive employers. We call on Duterte to stop the abuse!”

Wary of Panelo’s usual joke-centric excuse, Migrante International challenged the Duterte government to “repudiate this abhorrent statement” and “apologize to our hardworking women migrant workers.” The group likewise called on women OFWs to collectively assert their rights and welfare “by fighting the regime’s labour export program and strengthening the struggle to uproot the causes of forced migration in the face of Duterte’s inutile approach to their plight and sufferings.”

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Migrante International calls for Duterte’s ouster

On the final day of Migrante International’s 8th Congress, overseas Filipino groups from Europe, North America, Middle East and the Asia-Pacific convened to hand down their final verdict on President Rodrigo Duterte. Enumerating the regime’s “atrocities” against the migrant sector and to the Filipino people, Migrante leaders were unanimous in calling for Duterte’s ouster.

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Joanna Concepcion, newly-elected chairperson of Migrante International stated, “OFWs can no longer endure the constant barrage of tyrannical and neoliberal attacks being hurled against us and our families. His broken promises dashed our hopes of ever seeing Filipinos being liberated from the curse of the government’s labor export program. Everything that the regime pronounced from the day he assumed office is all made up of lies and deceptions.”

Expressing outrage, the groups scored the endless piling up of state exactions ranging from TRAIN Law to the mandatory SSS coverage and insurance which OFWs regard as the regime’s heightened effort of bleeding OFW pockets dry to salvage the moribund Philippine economy.

Concepcion cited recent data from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which revealed that the amount of the country’s foreign debt has already exceeded its depleting foreign reserves at the close of the third quarter. As of end-September, Philippine national debt ballooned to $76.4 billion surpassing the $74 billion gross reserves. The sufficiency of foreign reserves plunged to a near 10-year low, a level which the country has not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis. Migrante blamed the trade deficit to high importations for Duterte’s Build Build Build program. This requires huge sums of foreign currency which led to the peso’s depreciation.

“As our families in the Philippines are battered by the unjust rise in the cost of goods and services due to Duterte’s TRAIN law, the ever increasing value of our foreign debt is now weighing heavily upon us. No doubt, the Duterte regime would have no other recourse but to extort OFWs further to death and plunder our hard-earned money to augment private profit through his pro-elite Build Build Build program,” Concepcion stated.

Migrante did not hold back in scoring the Duterte regime for trampling down on the country’s sovereignty by allowing Chinese installations in the West Philippine Sea and US troops in our inland territories. The group also decried Duterte’s failure to end contractualization and his legitimization of the government’s labor export program.

Delegates recounted the regime’s negligence in the cases of Irma Jotojot, Jakatia Pawa, Henry Acorda, Mary Jane Veloso and all other OFW victims of abuse and injustices overseas. Overseas Filipino community leaders vowed to make Duterte pay for all the blood spilled in his “fake” drug war which human rights groups say have claimed thousands of innocent lives including those from OFW families like Kian delos Santos and Allan Rafael.

The group likewise castigated the Duterte administration for Martial Law in Mindanao, the persecution and killings perpetrated against peasants, Lumads, lawyers and church people; media repression, injustices against hundreds of political prisoners, and the regime’s ploy to install an outright dictatorship through charter change. “It’s high time that the Filipino people advance the termination of Duterte’s rabid tyrannical rule,” the group stated.

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Duterte’s “innumerable crimes” led to OFWs finally handing down their verdict to “Oust the US-Duterte regime.” During their pronouncement, President Duterte was depicted by OFW leaders as “DiGrinch” who constantly spoils their Christmas by offering them “fake gifts.” The parody taken from the Hollywood film “The Grinch” winded up with his execution symbolizing Duterte’s ouster from power.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcDWqUuhhwY

 

OFWs shatter PH government’s myth on migration as tool for development

At the back of the recently concluded intergovernmental adoption by the Philippines and 163 other UN member states of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) which was held in Morocco, several OFW leaders and family members from different countries gathered on Wednesday for a year-end briefing on the state of Filipino migrants under Duterte.

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Joanna Concepcion, executive director of Filipino Migrants Center (USA) pointed out that GCM propagates the false illusion of migration as a tool for development and that it will only intensify the Philippines’ labor export program with the instrument normalizing migration as an ordinary part of reality. “While GCM included the language of human rights in its contents, its non-binding nature does not really hold governments accountable in addressing the troubles faced by migrants,” Concepcion stated.

Aside from aggressiveness in entering new OFW labor markets like China and Russia, Arman Hernando of Migrante Philippines scored the Duterte administration for constantly peddling OFWs even in the absence of protective bilateral measures. Hernando likewise raised the alarm on the Duterte government’s barrage of state exactions like the mandatory insurance, TRAIN law and mandatory SSS coverage to serve as guarantees to foreign countries and investors on loans directed for his Build Build Build program.

In a study conducted by Migrante in October, the 3000 % increase in the amount of SSS exactions from OFWs would translate to Php144 Billion in the first year of implementation alone. “Since this is the biggest state exaction imposed on OFWs, Duterte is unmatched as the only president in the history of the Philippines’ labor export program who salivated after this humongous amount of money. Normalizing migration through the Philippines’ adoption of the Global Compact only emboldens the Duterte regime to introduce more state exactions,” Hernando stated.

This was seconded by Thea Reyes, wife of an OFW based in UAE. Between sobs, Reyes decried state exactions imposed by the Duterte government including the TRAIN law and was skeptical on Duterte’s Build Build Build to employ Filipino workers. “Permanente ba talaga nitong mapapauwi ang asawa ko? Parang hindi naman. Mga dayuhang kapitalista lang ang makikinabang,” Reyes asked as she longed for her husband this Christmas.

Families of Filipino migrants in the US and Japan are deploring the heightened criminalization and deportations of migrants and the Duterte government’s indifference on their plight. In a live video conference, Tabitha Ponciano, Portland coordinator of the Justice for Larry Campaign (US) and Lilia, the mother of Larry Nicolas, related the danger faced by Larry and many other Filipinos facing deportations despite their long-time legal and permanent residence in the US. Larry is one of the many Filipino victims detained by ICE or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the United States. Duterte himself stated that he won’t help Filipinos facing immigration problems in the US. “If you get caught there and deported, I will not lift a finger,” Duterte warned.

Butch Pongos of Migrante Japan currently leads a campaign to stop the deportation of Loida Quindoy. Like Larry Nicolas, Quindoy was also a long-time resident of Japan whose visa got cancelled and is now threatened with deportation. According to Jayson Mendoza, Loida’s son, they are not receiving any substantial help from embassy officials. “Sa katunayan, gobyerno pa mismo ang gumagawa ng paraan para mapabilis ang kanilang deportation. Mga embassy officials pa ang nag-iikot para maghikayat sa mga Pilipino na magpa-deport na lang,” Mendoza lamented.

Pongos revealed that there are about more than 500 OFWs currently held in different immigrant detention centers in Japan.

In the Middle East, Filipinos are besieged by the socioeconomic crisis gripping countries like Saudi and Qatar which are now working on the nationalization of their labor sector. Noel Tolentino of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa Qatar (SAMMAQA-Qatar) revealed the widespread termination of workers, depression and non-payment of wages even among those employed by big private companies. Tolentino said, “kung sa Saudi may Saudization, sa Qatar naman ay may Qatarization. Ibinunga na rin ang krisis na ito ng pulitikal at ekonomikong hidwaan sa pagitan ng mga bansa sa Middle East.”

Nanay Celia, mother of Filipina on death row Mary Jane Veloso who just arrived from a GCM side-event in Morocco, burst into tears as she attested to her family’s chronic ordeal with the ill effects of migration starting from the physical abuse she endured as a household worker in Saudi, the maltreatment experienced overseas by her daughters Maritess and Darling to the 9-year incarceration of Mary Jane Veloso who is still on death row. “From generation to generation and from one regime to another, OFWs and their families have been victims of impunity and injustice,” Nanay Celia lamented.

These plights of OFWs likewise prompted Arman Hernando of Migrante Philippines to react on the impending job loss for 600 thousand Filipino workers next year due to the reenacted budget laid out by the Duterte government. “As the problems faced by OFWs are amplified by crises left and right, the Duterte regime could have increased its budget for legal assistance to Filipinos working overseas. Wala talagang matinong pagbabago sa mga patakaran ng pamahalaan,” Hernando concluded.

Closing the year-end briefing, Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez pointed to the horror stories related by OFWs substantiating that migration does not really lead to development but only creates tragic social costs to Filipino families and to the country as a whole.

Earlier’s “Year-End Briefing on the State of Filipino Migrants under Duterte” is one of Migrante International’s assemblies and activities leading to the International Migrants Day on December 18.

Filipinos in the US call for the immediate release of ICE-detained Larry Nicolas

On December 4, friends, loved ones and supporters led by Migrante Portland and Migrante Seattle trooped to the court to demonstrate support for Larry Nicolas who is unjustly detained in a private U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. The group called for his immediate release and to stop his imminent deportation. The hearing on Larry’s case was however posponed as the judge sought additional information on his condition.

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Larry Nicolas has been a legal and permanent resident in the US for 17 years. In August 2018, on the day of his release from jail, he was secretly whisked away by ICE agents and detained at the Northwest Detention Center, a private immigration prison in Tacoma.

Larry has been struggling with a life-long mental condition which got him involved in a conflict and led to his incarceration. While in jail, he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and was able to get access to mental healthcare and psychiatric services which greatly improved his condition. This led to the dismissal of the restraining order filed against him and was ordered to be released in August 2018.

Nestor Nicolas, Larry’s father criticized ICE agents for withholding information on his whereabouts when he was transferred to Tacoma. Nestor stated,”they should’ve let us know, so we’d know where to find our son. If he didn’t call, we wouldn’t know where to find him. They didn’t let us know. He has a family here. He has kids. He has parents.They should have let us know before they took him to a different city.”

According to Migrante, Larry’s case is a preview of a more massive scale of arrests, detention and deportations of immigrants.

In September, Trump raised a proposal that would punish legal immigrants for accessing social welfare benefits including medical assistance. Migrante blasted this anti-migrant policy as the they likewise called for Larry’s immediate release.

The Nicolas family and Migrante expressed fear that Larry’s deportation would be a “death sentence considering the worsening crisis in the Philippines and the government’s indifference to Filipinos facing similar situations.”

Larry’s daughter Jy’violette stated, “I don’t want my dad deported to the Philippines, not only because he’s a big part of my life, but because he’ll die if he goes to the Philippines.”

In January 2017, when asked about the US-crackdown on immigrants, Duterte said, “If you are not allowed to stay there, get out. If you get caught there and deported, I will not lift a finger.”

Arman Hernando, spokesperson of Migrante International did not mince words as he chastised the Duterte government’s inaction. “Duterte’s inutility in challenging Trump’s Fascist persecution of migrants and their families totally debunks his fake pro-migrant posturing. Duterte is best at glorifying OFW contributions to the economy with US-based Filipinos as number 1 remittance contributor but completely disregards their welfare when they are besieged by harmful immigration policies.”

 

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Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yFew8dVFN0&list=PLTEMZEIUtw0uJI1d8w1J4RgIDqR2e0Ygk&index=3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5X1RFWFQzk&index=2&list=PLTEMZEIUtw0uJI1d8w1J4RgIDqR2e0Ygk&fbclid=IwAR0JOfr4XfnOeP-JinL6X6NJnIxh_ItKqSwRqxhYpUz2-rFTNsDx1EsEUhE

https://www.gofundme.com/justice-for-larry-nicolas

https://www.facebook.com/MigrantePortland/posts/2809877762428000?comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22O%22%7D