Resist and frustrate Duterte’s looming fascist dictatorship – Migrante

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Migrante International condemned in strongest terms the violent dispersal of homeless and urban poor folk led by Kadamay who trooped to the main office of the National Housing Authority (NHA) yesterday to set-up what it dubbed “Homeless Camp”.

Eight months after the #OccupyPabahay movement in Pandi, Bulacan, tens of thousands are still homeless despite a Joint Resolution by the Senate and Congress ordering the NHA to immediately allocate vacant and idled AFP/PNP housing to the homeless, priority of whom are Kadamay members who led the Occupy movement.

Yesterday’s violent dispersal by the Philippine National Police (PNP) resulted in the arrest of a Migrante member and injury to scores of others. Arrested by the police was Paul Reyes, a member of Migrante’s campaign staff. He is being charged with four cases: malicious mischief, violation of BP 880, concealment of name and direct assault. He is currently detained at PNP Station 9 in Quezon City. Migrante is mulling filing counter-charges agains the PNP, as Reyes is severely injured due to police beating and mauling during the violent dispersal.

Migrante International fully supports the call for decent and affordable public housing for the poor.

“Majority of OFW families come from impoverished families of workers and peasants. Like the urban poor, OFWs also suffer from depressed wages, contractualization and absence of adequate shelter and basic social services such as public housing. These are factors that drive our Filipino workers away to seek better-paying jobs abroad. The #OccupyPabahay movement launched by Kadamay last March served as an inspiration to OFWs and testament to the correctness and strength of unity and collective action to secure the people’s rights and demands. That the poor and the homeless remain steadfast despite harassment and threat of state fascism is proof of the US-Duterte government’s continuous neglect of the poor,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that yesterday’s violent dispersal, the continuing harassment and persecution of activist leaders and organizations and the legal opposition, extrajudicial killings, the recent cancellation of talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, and threats of a “crackdown” on the legal democratic movement are “clear and desperate” moves by Duterte to install himself as a fascist dictator like his idol Marcos.

“We vow to frustrate any and all moves by the US-Duterte regime to sabotage, belittle or suppress the ever-growing mass movement of the people. We are aware that Duterte is more than capable of creating scenarios for the declaration of nationwide martial law. We will not be intimidated. Should Duterte make good his threat to declare martial law nationwide, under the pretext of the installation of a so-called ‘revolutionary government’, we vow to be ever vigilant and continue with efforts to mobilize the broadest number of Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to call for an end to his fascist rule,” Hernando said. ###

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Shame on Duterte for refusing humanitarian aid for Rohingyas – Migrante

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International strongly criticized the Duterte government for voting against the United Nations General Assembly committee draft resolution calling for humanitarian aid access and for Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to Rohingya Muslims.

Shame on the Duterte government. Pres. Duterte’s negative vote is yet another testament to his government’s stance on human rights and social justice and his cold-blooded prejudice against the poor and oppressed.

The Rohingya crisis is not just an issue of border security or trafficking. It has turned into a humanitarian crisis that the UN and the ASEAN should resolve immediately in the most humane and compassionate way. It has become a concern of all freedom-loving peoples and the responsibility of all states around the world.

The world continues to watch in horror as thousands of trafficked Rohingyas are being left to die, without proper food, shelter and protection, women and children being raped, as ASEAN states continue to refuse them entry into their borders.

Migrante International also expressed grave concern over news reports of migrant detention camps and mass graves uncovered along the Thailand-Malaysia border. Thailand’s cruel and militarist crackdowns on trafficked victims and undocumented migrants continue to plague the Rohingya peoples and other trafficked victims.

Migrante International also strongly criticized the Myanmar government for discriminating against the Rohingyas, treating them inhumanely and criminalizing them as illegal migrants.

Migrante International stands in solidarity with our brother and sister refugees and asylum-seekers. Migrants, particularly Filipino migrant workers, are not oblivious to the horrors, hardships and harshness of being turned away, rejected, prosecuted, criminalized and spurned. Where there are conflicts and wars, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are restrictions and stringent immigration measures, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are uncertainties and threats of imminent death, so Filipino migrants are.

​Filipino migrant workers are also no strangers to civil strife in their homeland.​

In the Philippines, thousands of Lumad communities have been displaced due to martial law and militarization in Mindanao. Heightened attacks on indigenous communities, especially on Lumad schools, have caused thousands upon thousands to flee their ancestral lands in search for protection and in fear of their lives.

The bigger tragedy is that these attacks are perpetrated by the Duterte government through the military, given license by a counter-insurgency program patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency Guide on “war on terror” – the very same policy that has caused millions of migrants and refugees to flee their lands, by the same proponents that uphold labor export and other neoliberal policies that drive peoples to forced migration in search of so-called greener pastures at the risk of danger or even death.

Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants around the world to stand in solidarity with the Rohingyas. Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants to oppose imposed borders and merciless immigration and refugee policies that trample on the fundemental rights of refugees and migrants of the world.

No to borders. H​umanity and compassion should know no barriers. ###

On the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers

image from iPleaders Blog

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today said that while the Duterte government hails the pending signing of the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers as the “centerpiece” of the Philippine chairmanship, migrant workers from the Philippines and the ASEAN are yet to assess if the final document adequately protects migrant workers’ rights or provides redress mechanisms, especially for those in distress.

In 2007, the ASEAN made a leap to address the issues of migrant workers by adopting the ASEAN Declaration of the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. However, the drafting of the instrument had come to an impasse since 2009 after members of the committee, specifically migrant-sending countries, failed to agree with provisions proposed by committee members and migrant-sending countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. The dispute involves whether the instrument will be legally-binding, will protect undocumented or irregular migrant workers, will cover migrants’ family members and will cover migrant workers who are not from ASEAN member states.

If the consensus still does not address these core issues, then President Duterte just signed a “landmark” spoiler for migrants rights that, ironically, the Philippines has been contesting for 10 years now.

There is also a lack of clarity, consultative process and scarcity in information-sharing with relevant stakeholders, including migrant workers themselves. Proposed changes to the draft instrument, to exclude families, undocumented migrant workers and to remove legally-binding clause of the draft, would have a significantly negative impact on migrant workers. If Duterte brokered the signing of such a consensus, then he cannot boast of having signed a “centerpiece” agreement for ASEAN migrant workers.

Why legally-binding?

With the lack of comprehensive legislative protection of migrant workers in destination countries where most violations happen, it is important in the continuing battle for protection of migrant workers that the consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers is binding. If the implementation is optional for member states, migrant workers will not be able to maximize its benefits wherever they may work or migrate, however strong the principles and provisions may be.

The concept of ‘non-interference’ has been effectively instituted in ASEAN through the ASEAN Charter and had been used consistently as a method to avoid state human rights obligations in deference to the need to ‘respect state sovereignty’. The emphasis on ‘regional particularities’, principles of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘non-interference’ allowed the perpetuation of human rights violations in deference to the goals of regional and inter-governmental collaboration and economic development. The consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers should be legally-binding and obligate ASEAN member states to fully commit to the protection and promotion the rights of all migrant workers.

There is also a need for urgent review of existing legislation and national laws with the aim to harmonize such with a legally-binding consensus. Likewise, existing legislation and national laws that would contradict or be inconsistent with the legally-binding consensus should be repealed. These efforts should also include destination countries outside of the ASEAN if the source countries of migrant workers are in ASEAN in order to better ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

Why include undocumented migrant workers?

The 2007 draft instrument related only to documented migrant workers so the framework does not correspond with the reality of migration, particularly in the Mekong region where the majority of migrant workers are living and working abroad with undocumented status.

 It is also important to note that undocumented migrant workers are not necessarily only those who entered a destination country illegally. They may include those who lose status when their work permits were not renewed, they leave their employer even if due to abusive and exploitative conditions, and, those whose employers cancelled their work permits.

Most countries in ASEAN and Asia Pacific do not have specific legislations pertaining to the protection of undocumented migrant workers and mostly deny the growing magnitude of this problem. The solution by some states for undocumented persons is typically deportation. Some corrupt immigration officers may also trade detainees to traffickers to be sent to work on fishing boats and other work. Migrant workers who are arrested are charged for working without appropriate permits and violating visa requirements or being involved in prostitution. There are no screening processes for identifying trafficked victims from undocumented migrant workers.

However, sadly, embassies and consulate offices that should serve as sanctuaries and support mechanisms for undocumented workers have been found lacking. In the case of the Philippine government, for instance, the proposal of establishing a diplomatic outpost in Sabah has been denied, mainly because it would risk the country’s diplomatic ties with migrant-receiving Malaysia.

Why include families of migrant workers?

There are often social costs to the families of migrant workers, including family dislocation with children growing up without a parent or parents. When migrant workers leave their children behind, the children are more likely to suffer academically, have emotional problems, suffer from substance abuse, be forced into the labor force at an early age, and suffer physical or sexual abuse.

Women typically bear the major responsibility for care of the family. Therefore, measures to fulfill women migrant workers’ rights must improve the treatment of women migrant workers as workers, and must minimize the hurdles women migrant workers face in maintaining their family and cultural obligations.

Furthermore, the UN Convention on Migrant Workers recognizes family as the fundamental group unit of society. As such, family unification is a major goal of the Convention. States Parties are directed to “take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the unity of the families of migrant workers.” This provision benefits not just women who are “left behind” by their migrant worker husbands, but it benefits migrant workers who wish for their families and children to join them. Where children are able to accompany the parent or parents when they migrate for work, there are also protections needed in host countries, such as ensuring that children of migrant workers have access to social security, health care, education and other basic social services.

Family reunification/reintegration in countries of destination is the second-best option as forced migration continues to force families apart. The best option is still for sending countries to come up with alternatives to migration, such as job generation, land reform and the provision of sufficient basic social services.

 

There is also a need for the creation of an ASEAN-level body, structure, commission, or possibly even a tribunal, to address migrant-related violations and concerns. This formation may be a consultative body which would specifically focus on migrant workers, with the powers to investigate and recommend appropriate actions to member states; or in the form of an ASEAN-level tribunal or court dedicated solely, with judicial functions, to facilitate trials of and impose sanctions on violators; or reprimand, if need be, governments that would violate the consensus.

Because there is a lack of support mechanisms in both sending and receiving countries, the tendency is always to deport or repatriate victims of abuse and exploitation resulting in the denial of justice and non-persecution of perpetrators. This attitude of “exporting the problem” limits and hinders migrant workers’, for instance victims of rape and/or sexual harassment, access to justice.

Migrante International believes that national, regional and international migration policy must take place within a human rights framework that protects, promotes and fulfills the rights of migrant workers. Human rights standards in general, as well as those concerning migrants, have been codified into international human rights law, through treaties and conventions, as well as incorporated into domestic law. These have been the foundation of many state efforts in the ASEAN region to realize the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of migrants. While there has been progress in the past decades, the achievements have been minimal and, considering the present condition of migrant workers, insufficient.

Also, while there have been efforts within ASEAN member states to defend rights of migrant workers, they have not necessarily led to greater protection and instead even gone against migrants’ rights. For instance, some have resulted in the criminalization of victims, such as of undocumented/irregular workers and trafficked migrant workers. Crackdowns on work places, tightening up on movement, and border controls may have effectively restricted the right of nationals to migrate. The creation of the impression that there are sufficient mechanisms and legal responses to migrants in crisis may have also encouraged migration, resulting in the increasing number of distressed migrant workers unaided upon the onset of crises because of a lack of national and regional level mechanisms of protection.

Migrante International reiterates that the most basic right of migrant workers is to be able to have decent, regular work and livelihood at home without having to seek these in other countries under likely very difficult conditions. This draws attention to how recommendations need to first of all be grounded in a solid understanding of the root causes of forced migration which create the basic conditions for rights violations. Addressing these root causes and implementing policies that prevent forced migration are vital and should proceed astride more immediate efforts to advance migrant workers’ rights.

Another key point is the recognition of the right of migrant workers to organize among themselves. The united action of migrant workers, their families and advocates, to provide venues for redress when there are none is a significant step in the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers in the ASEAN. ###

 

Migrante mulls OFW permits suspension as band-aid solution, calls for immediate abolition of OEC

photo by UNIFIL-Migrante

Migrante International criticized the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) latest issuance suspending the processing of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) saying that it is another “band-aid solution” to a longstanding problem and called for the immediate abolition of the “useless and money-making government exaction.”

Last November 9, DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III issued Department Order No. 185 Series of 2017 (DO 185) suspending “the acceptance and processing of all new applicants for OECs for all OFWs, including direct hire workers.” It will take effect tomorrow, November 13 and will last until December 1. According to Bello, the suspension is due to “persistent reports” of workers becoming victims of illegal recruitment. Around 75,000 aspiring OFWs are expected to be affected by the suspension.

“Bold and momentous as it may seem, DO 185 is but a band-aid solution to the rampant illegal recruitment practices that DOLE is fully aware of. It does not address the root causes of illegal recruitment and human trafficking. Unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers will only find a way around this Order and tie OFWs to more exploitative arrangements,” said Arman Hernando, Spokesperson of Migrante International.

Hernando asserted that DOLE should not just penalize the corrupt government officials and reorganize the POEA. Their identities should be disclosed to the public including the names of the individuals and business entities that they are coddling, and be ordered to pay all their victims.

Migrante also challenged DOLE to “immediately and completely” abolish the OEC before the year ends.

“Now it has become clearer that OEC is but a useless and ‘legalized kotong’ scheme of the government. It has become a tool of officials to amass ill-gotten wealth and let labor exportation businesses to exploit and profit from OFWs. It must be abolished now,” asserted Hernando.

Migrante argued that if the government is truly sincere in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking, it should genuinely address issues that would stop forced migration and put an end to the policy of labor export. ###

OFWs sue Taiwan multi-national and Apple partner for labor rights violations

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More than a hundred women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) trooped to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to file charges against their former employer Siliconware Precision Industries Co. Ltd. (SPIL) for labor rights violations.

SPIL is “World No. 3” in the industry of providing comprehensive semiconductor assembly and test services. It is a major supplier for leading mobile phone brands such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei. For over a decade, SPIL contracts 3,000 Filipino workers for its seven factories in Taiwan.

The OFWs, who named their group as SPILiansUnite and was organized by Migrante International, are former factory workers from Taiwan who served under SPIL for 3 to 12 years. In their their complaint, the group declared:

“Nangibang-bayan kami at nanungkulan sa SPIL bitbit ang pag-asa na sa pamamagitan ng pagtrabaho sa Taiwan ay mabibigyan namin ng magandang kinabukasan ang aming mga pamilya. Subalit makalipas ang maraming taon, bigo ang aming mga pangarap dahil sa hindi makatarungang palakad ng SPIL katuwang ang mga lokal at foreign agencies na kaugnayan nito. Hindi kami pinasahod ng tama, siningil ng iligal at labis na mga bayarin, hindi tinupad ang aming kontrata, isinawalang bahala ang aming kalusugan at iba pang paglabag sa aming mga karapatan.”

(We went abroad and worked for SPIL with the hope that through our employment in Taiwan our dream of a brighter future for our families will be fulfilled. Sadly, after several years, our dreams were shattered because of the unjust systems of SPIL and its partner local and foreign agencies. We were not rightly paid, exacted illegal and exorbitant fees, breached the terms of our contracts, disregarded our health and well-being, and violated many of our rights.)

Aside from SPIL, the OFWs also sued their foreign agencies or brokers in Taiwan (Mengo Manpower Group, Champion Manpower Services, Pan Asia Human Resources) and recruitment agencies in the Philippines (JS Contractor Incorporated, MIP International Manpower Services, Grand Placement & General Services Corp, Global Gate Manpower Services Inc).

The OFWs explained that the local and foreign agencies charged them with P65,000 to P85,000 for placement fees while they are only allowed to collect an amount equivalent to one-month salary of the worker (around P30,000). They were also made to for their own air tickets while their contracts stipulate that it will be provided free. They also alleged that they were underpaid by 30-40%.

In their dialogues with the government officials, they urged the POEA and DOLE to immediately investigate on the case and impose sanctions against SPIL, local and foreign agencies and block them from “further victimizing other OFWs.”

Migrante International condemned Philippine government agencies for being complicit to the labor violations of SPIL. The group cited that the Manila Economic Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan is well aware of the OFWs’ complaints but acts as a “mouthpiece” of SPIL.

“The complicity of MECO is deplorable. But the exploitation of the workers and the wanton violation of their rights entirely stem from the lop sided labor-export deal that the Philippine government has entered into with SPIL and Taiwan authorities. This is testament to the state’s peddling of migrant workers as cheap labor for big businesses,” said Migrante in a statement.

Migrante and SPILiansUnite held the protest action at POEA and DOLE while the Philippines prepares as host to the 50th ASEAN Summit and 12th East Summit to highlight the bankruptcy of the government’s four-decade adherence to the “neoliberal” policy of labor exportation. ###

Why OFWs support the 2-day transport strike

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition’s 2-day transport strike not just for sentimental reasons. After all, the iconic “Katas ng Saudi” is symbolized by the very jeepneys that the Duterte government is now pushing to phase-out.

No, OFWs realize that their present conditions can now hardly sustain their families’ daily needs. And their savings, if at all, can hardly afford the P1.6 million cost of one e-Jeep. So, goodbye, “Katas ng Saudi”. There goes another opportunity for our OFWs to invest in something that would contribute to nation-building, in this case, mass transport that benefits millions.

More importantly, OFWs support the transport strike not because they are anti-modernization. OFWs are the last people to shun the benefits of a modern, efficient and systematized mass transport. In progressive host countries where they are, OFWs already experience how mass trains, buses and other means of public transport service and prioritize millions who do not have means. Of course, they want the same for millions Filipinos in the homeland, for their families, children and relatives who are motorists and commuters alike.

OFWs support the transport strike because they reject any and all so-called “modernization” schemes in which they and their families and the general public bear the brunt. They reject the Duterte government’s PUVModernization program because it is anti-poor and anti-masses. It plans to replace the humble jeepney with something “modern” that both drivers/operators and commuters cannot afford. Instead, mass transport will be privatized, monopolized by big corporations that can afford to pay millions and millions for a fleet of 20 units, the minimum number required per operator in the program.

Only the Ayalas, Aboitizes or the multimillionaires who funded Duterte’s presidency can afford the PUVModernization scheme. These multimillionaires are engaged in utilities, manufacturing, mining and infrastracture. According to an investigative report by the PCIJ, Duterte has already appointed at least half a dozen and their relatives to his Cabinet six months after elections. Others are still waiting for payback, it seems, in terms of business and other government “modernization” programs. This is not the type of “modernization” that OFWs support.

Like the general public, OFWs are also exasperated with the incorrigible traffic problem. More so because they experience first-hand abroad how a systematized and efficient mass transport system and urban planning can make the Philippines a country that they would wish to come home to. However, Duterte’s PUVModernization program is not geared towards improving the lives of motorists and commuters alike but towards ensuring more profit for big businesses and foreign investors.

What do OFWs want? OFWs wish for a nationalized public mass transport system that genuinely and sincerely considers the present situation of motorists and commuters alike. Instead, the Duterte government is deliberately dividing the public transport sector and commuters on diversionary arguments, as if both do not share the same interests and vision for a better Philippines.

Is a nationalized public mass transport feasible? OFWs believe it is. If Duterte is really sincere in upgrading old jeepneys and resolving the traffic problem, it should channel government resources to subsidize mass transport, at no cost to both drivers/operators and commuters. It should re-orient Dutertenomics to a pro-masses agenda and depart from neoliberal dictates that burden the public, especially the lowly drivers/operators and the poor masses. Any efforts to “modernize” will not be fruitful if not founded on genuine rural development and national industrialization that would prioritize people over profit. ###

 

“OFW Bank” further institutionalizes bankrupt labor export program

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International objects to the creation of an “overseas Filipino worker bank” (OFB), saying that it is geared towards “managing OFW remittances for the perpetuation of a long-bankrupt labor export program”.

President Duterte recently authorized the transfer of shares of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PPSB) to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) for its subsequent conversion into the OFB through Executive Order 44.

The creation of the OFB is in tune with the Duterte government’s economic thrust of “managing migration” as a “tool for development”, a neoliberal prescription that does not in any way address the root causes of forced migration nor even attempt to curb it in the policy-level. Its main objective is to “manage OFW remittances” to enable a more fast-tracked, sufficient and concentrated system of profiting from overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) hard-earned incomes.

This in itself further institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances in accordance to neoliberal policies and dictates.

Previous administrations have been aggressive in crafting programs and services aimed at facilitating and encouraging forced migration. While acknowledging the many social costs and human rights violations, these are effectively downplayed by the hailing of OFW remittances. Instead, past administrations have unfailingly and resolutely promoted the labor export program as unequivocally beneficial to OFWs and their families. This is particularly done by overstating supposed development benefits for the economy and the income benefits of households.

Precisely, this is what the Duterte regime hopes to achieve anew through the creation of the OFB, to the detriment of our OFWs.

Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that decisively deviates from a policy of labor export and focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, Duterte’s economic compulsion is to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to increase, concentrate and manage remittances.

Further, the EO’s supposed vision to “provide OFWs with priority support for their growing financial needs” is plain braggadocio. Encouraging OFWs to embark on “microfinancing” will only bury them in greater debt to big banks and financial institutions, this time facilitated by the state itself. Meanwhile, enticing investments for so-called “microinsurance” may only be deemed as yet another state exaction scheme in which OFWs are encouraged to allot their earnings to premiums and contributions that will ultimately be useless to them. This has long been the case with the controversy-laden and corrupt-ridden OWWA funds.

Migrante International firmly stands on the position that, should there be “OFW banks”, these should ensure that OFWs’ hard-earned money are invested towards genuine rural development and national industrialization that will create jobs at home and end the vicious cycle of forced migration. Unfortunately, this thrust is hardly the case under the Duterte regime’s present economic agenda.

To address the problem of forced migration, the government’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. It should depart from neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances. Only then can OFWs look forward to a future in which they will not have to leave their families behind just to survive. ###