Asking for emergency powers after allotting Php14 Billion for Tourism is foolishness! Duterte resign now! — Migrante International

Our doctors are dying, our people are starving. In the streets, cancer and dialysis patients are walking miles and miles just to reach hospitals and treatment centres. People are wailing out of this tragedy but here we have the Duterte regime allotting a whopping Php 14 Billion for tourism! Where is President Duterte getting all the nerve to ask for an emergency power?

From the beginning of his term, Duterte already made a Php 31 Billion budget cut for health in 2016 while the 2020 allocation for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine was slashed by 57 percent. No wonder that the country has been experiencing a torrent of epidemics from measles to the worst dengue outbreak we have seen in 10 years. Polio has even made a grand comeback two decades after its eradication. The Duterte regime has failed big time in providing quality healthcare and medical services to the Filipino public. There is nothing universal about Duterte’s “Universal Healthcare” Law that is being extolled by his bootlickers. All responsibility is being passed on by Duterte to LGUs. Was it LGUs who made these budget cuts in the first place? This is a global pandemic that necessitates action at the national level, for heaven’s sake!

As we have seen in the past few days, big political personalities and senior government officials close to President Duterte are getting the highest VIP treatment in the COVID-19 tests despite the absence of symptoms. Abusing their power at the expense of thousands of ordinary people who endure days waiting for their results. Woe unto these ruling class parasites!

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While other countries are doing great strides in conducting mass testing, the Philippines is way far behind with only 1,200 tests conducted. This is way lower than Vietnam’s 15,637 tests and less than half of Palestine’s 2,519. Even Iran which has been hit hard by US sanctions has already made 80,000 COVID-19 tests. With 1,545 tests, the scarcely populated and landlocked country of Kyrgyzstan is enough to shame the Duterte regime. His health secretary stubbornly rejects calls for mass testing. 

If the Duterte regime can’t even provide relief and welfare to the local Filipino population who are just under his nose, then OFWs have more than enough reasons to fear that they have been trashed once more into oblivion. Welfare assistance for those terminated from their work is meagre. As thousands are stranded and hit by overseas retrenchments, destitution awaits them upon their return. 

President Duterte has Php 13 Billion as Contingency Fund and Php 16 Billion Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, what is this emergency power for? No doubt, this only redounds to Duterte voraciously salivating to have more power for corruption! More money for his opulence and depravity! He spoiled more than 3 years of his time granting boons to POGO operations when he could have built more hospitals, research facilities and treatment centres.  With doctors dropping down dead, our healthcare system is fast collapsing but the agony of the Filipino people fall on deaf ears. 

There is no more reason for the Duterte regime to stay in power. Duterte’s folly and incompetence are just too flagrant to be pushed aside. The deepest recesses of hell and eternal damnation should be reserved for Duterte and his entire legion of abusive officials and corrupt politicians who have plagued this country for too long. 

No to emergency powers!

Free mass testing now!

Duterte resign!

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“No to concentration camp in Sibakil Island!” – Migrante International on AFP WestMinCom’s proposal to isolate 131 stranded ship passengers from Sabah on an uninhabited island

Migrante International is deeply concerned for the 131 stranded ship passengers from Sabah, Malaysia. After their vessels were refused entry by ports for fear of COVID-19, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command is proposing that they be sent to Sibakil Island, an uninhabited island in Lantawan, Basilan where they will be confined in scorching tents. 

This very bad proposal made by AFP WestMinCom and the ports’ refusal to allow them entry was made at the back of the absence of sufficient medical personnel in seaports and the Duterte government’s long-delayed delivery of free mass testing kits and services to the public. Bringing this huge amount of people to an uninhabited island for “quarantine” where they will be far distant from healthcare and social welfare facilities is more like locking them up into a concentration camp.

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PHOTO: Inquirer.net

Despite the enormous wealth in natural resources, Region 9 and ARMM are the top 2 poorest regions in the country in terms of human development. This is due to government neglect, corruption, landlordism, and the long-standing armed conflict exacerbated by the Duterte regime’s failure to address the roots of poverty in the region. No wonder then that there are not enough hospitals and public health facilities where ports can refer arriving passengers for medical testing and treatment. 

These Filipino migrants from Malaysia have already experienced many hardships working overseas. Over and over again, we keep hearing stories of abuse, caning and imprisonment from Filipino migrants in Malaysia. Bringing them into isolation on an uninhabited island is adding insult to injury. Migrante International calls on the Duterte government and all concerned agencies to come to the aid of these stranded ship passengers by providing them relief, welfare and medical support. 

Libreng medikal! Hindi militar!

Ospital, hindi selda!

Free mass testing and treatment now! 

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“Duterte’s priorities in COVID-19 pandemic show no genuine concern for the people” — Migrante International

Maintaining his stone deaf attitude towards warranted pleas from the ground level, President Duterte went on a midnight rant threatening to slap LGUs with criminal charges. And while big political personalities have already been tested for COVID-19, tens of millions are left paralyzed by Duterte’s militarized lockdown. Worse, a whopping Php 14 Billion spending package for Tourism was allotted by the Duterte regime as healthcare providers express fears on the looming collapse of the country’s healthcare delivery systems. 

The allotment of Php 14 Billion for tourism is Duterte’s mockery against ordinary Filipinos. Since almost all tourism facilities in the country are highly privatized, this is Duterte’s way of subsidizing private profit when the impoverished masses need food, financial relief and medical assistance. The Duterte regime’s revulsion for the poor is further attested by the suspension of social pensions, cash assistance and other services to indigents when the government could have instead just provided Personal Protection Equipment to social workers and made adjustments to implement social distancing. 

President Duterte will long be remembered as the only president in history who right in the midst of a state of national calamity, presided over the suspension of social welfare services while generously subsidizing private profit. 

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We felt debilitating pain hearing about the agony of cancer and dialysis patients who were forced to walk miles just to reach hospitals and treatment centres due to the total ban on public transportation. Millions grapple with their little or zeroed cash as the government’s enhanced lockdown continues to divorce them from their work and livelihood. Meanwhile, the plight of OFWs do not appear to be reaching Malacañang’s radar. Migrante International calls on government agencies to include OFWs in their publicized COVID-19 infection tallies. 

Over 118 OFWs have already been infected with COVID-19 and those who are still sturdy and sound are beginning to lose their jobs. Just days ago, 200 Filipinos were unexpectedly laid off by Qatar Airways. Thousands of OFWs are either stranded or are set to return back to a country battered by a worsening humanitarian crisis. 

In the midst of these woes, the Duterte regime is unremitting in inflicting more Fascist crimes. Cultural activist Marlon Maldos was abducted and shot by military elements in Bohol on 17 March 2020. NDFP Peace Consultant Julius Giron along with two others were massacred during a raid in Baguio City. Based on trumped-up charges, Gloria Tomalon, the sister of Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat was arrested this morning in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Migrante International denounces all these atrocities. 

Instead of tormenting the people with more state-terror, the Duterte regime needs to address the problems caused by the militarized lockdown and listen more to assessments and inputs from the ground. Threats of arrest will only enrage citizens already reeling from hardships they now face. Migrante International therefore calls on the Duterte government to lift the suspension on social welfare services to give immediate relief to millions of indigent families who badly need assistance at this time of calamity. In the same manner, the Duterte government must not leave OFWs in the dark as they are among the most vulnerable sectors in this global pandemic. Most importantly, it is only through medical and public health intervention that the country will be able to address the COVID-19 pandemic and not through militarization and tyranny. 

Gamot hindi bala! Ospital hindi selda!

Libreng medikal! Hindi militar!

Libreng COVID19 testing sa mga mahihirap, hindi lang sa mga politiko at sikat!

Ayudang pinansyal, hindi turismo!

Serbisyo, hindi negosyo!

People over profit!

 

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Labor Unions, Port Workers, Filipino Advocates Rally Together In Support of 500+ Filipino Grand Princess Cruise Ship Workers Amidst Covid-19 Scare

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Migrante Northern California and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) joined several Bay Area based labor unions and workers advocates for a press conference raising concern about the treatment and well-being of the more than 500 Filipino seafarers aboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship, as well as the thousands of passengers who were at risk of exposure to a Covid-19 outbreak on the ship. The Grand Princess Cruise Ship, which was anchored 10 miles off the coast of SF was finally allowed to dock at the Port of Oakland on March 9 and remained there until Sunday, March 15. 

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Health experts already decried the example of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, where so many more passengers and workers were infected than needed to be, by quarantining them on a contaminated ship kept off the Japanese coast. 700 people tested positive for Covid-19 on the Diamond Princess, 80 of whom were Filipino crew members, and 6 people died from their exposure. 

While measures to disembark passengers were immediately attended to, the foreign workers of the cruise were kept aboard the ship. “Workers were being treated with less concern and dignity than the passengers who were disembarked first. There’s a need for transparency, cooperation, and government action for humanitarian relief and the health and safety of everyone – the passengers, the foreign workers, the port workers, and the surrounding community,”  said Terry Valen, President of NAFCON and Executive Director of the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco. 

Shortly after the press conference on Saturday afternoon, the Filipino workers were disembarked, screened, and repatriated back to the Philippines. “We’re relieved that the workers were able to finally leave the ship and go home,” said Nap Pempeña of Migrante-USA. “ The workers should receive appropriate and comprehensive medical and mental health services upon their return to the Philippines, and they should receive fair compensation and appropriate protection from lost wages based on their contract and their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if applicable. With more ships expected to be infected and to dock all over the world, the Philippine government must be ready to receive and support repatriating Filipino seafarers.” 

There are close to half a million Filipino seafarers on cargo ships, cruise ships, fishing and other vessels on the seas at any given time, making up to a third of all crew members on maritime vessels. Forced to work abroad due to unemployment, dismal wages and crushing poverty in the Philippines, Filipino workers experience exploitation, harassment, discrimination and hazardous working conditions aboard. The contractual and seasonal nature of their work exacerbates their hardship as shipping companies, recruitment agencies and government agencies sometimes evade liability when seafarers’ rights are violated. 

The case of the Grand Princess Cruise Ship highlights the challenges faced by Filipinos and other seafarers in general and exacerbated by inadequate response to the Covid-19 health crisis. With the service workers on land and offshore crucial to the healthcare system and to the upkeep of commercial establishments, travel and tourism industry as well as other workplaces, their vulnerability to contracting the disease increases due to their nature of work requiring physical presence and constant contact with other people. 

As the crisis worsens and deals negative impacts on various industries, workers will need not just access to healthcare, but also economic support to sustain themselves and their families.

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Migrante International welcomes travel ban exemption for OFWs returning to safe places in Mainland China

Migrante International welcomes the approval of the travel ban exemption for OFWs returning to Mainland China (except to Hubei Province). We ascribe this to the collective action of OFWs, their families and their supporters who never wavered in raising their demand to get back to their normal lives and carry out their occupations. Aside from the petition initiated by affected OFWs from Mainland China, the group held rounds of consultations with Migrante International which from then on led to the OFWs working relentlessly with us to reach out and lobby for their cause in the media, in different government agencies and in the House of Representatives. We were heard because we never kept silent. 

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PHOTO: From Majo Reyes

The OFWs did not hesitate to voice their frustration on the meager financial assistance provided to them by OWWA and in expounding on the dire impacts of their prolonged stay in the Philippines. Through the help of Gabriela Partylist and Bayan Muna, the OFWs were able to forward their petition and appeal letters to government agencies during the House Committee meeting on Health. 

We call on the Duterte government to continue providing assistance to our dear OFWs even after their return to Mainland China. Migrante International expresses its commendation to our OFWs from Mainland China for their strong resolve to fight for their rights and we vow to ever more strengthen our solidarity with them in the struggle to ensure their health and welfare as they work overseas for the sustenance of their loved ones back home. 

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PHOTO: From Majo Reyes

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“Duterte regime’s planned militarized lockdown, fatal to poor and working class Filipinos!” — Migrante International

As the Duterte regime scrambles to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, Fascist vipers from AFP and PNP are capitalizing on this emergency public health situation to push for a militarized lockdown in NCR. With the Duterte regime’s obsession for tyrannical violence and repression, Migrante International strongly opposes this draconian measure given that it is anti-poor and unnecessary.  This lockdown will only bring death and misery to millions of poor and struggling Filipinos who will be prevented from pursuing their livelihood. 

Severed from their jobs and itinerant trades, or from any other source of the little income they have, how will they survive? How will they bring food to the table? The poor are more likely to die from starvation than from the COVID-19 outbreak itself. Instead of a militarized lockdown, the Duterte regime needs to provide a more comprehensive response to effectively control the outbreak. 

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PHOTO: CNN Philippines

President Duterte only has to look at South Korea on how it managed to steadily decrease new COVID-19 cases without resorting to lockdowns. The country employed mass testing, medical technology, and effective public communication to reverse the upward trend of the epidemic. The fundamental health principle of prevention through voluntary public participation, multi-sectoral collaboration and free flow of helpful information will forestall panic and misinformation among the Filipino public. 

For all the braggadocio on the “Universal Health Care” that the Duterte regime blustered, the COVID-19 outbreak exposed it as a pure sham and that it has only been used as a vehicle for corruption. It is not universal and there is no quality health care. Other medical services outside of the COVID-19 diagnostic tests are not covered and patients would still have to pay out of their own pockets. A genuine universal health care at this period of public health emergency should include free testing, PUI monitoring and free treatment for infected persons. This is what the Filipino public wants to see and experience. 

We demand that the Duterte regime’s enormous amount of intel funds and pork barrel be rechanneled to subsidize and bring medical intervention to infected individuals and families. Immediate response must likewise be prioritized for the urban poor, contractual workers and frontline healthcare workers. For the long term, the health budget and allocations for social services must be significantly increased for the sake of the health and welfare of the Filipino people. 

Migrante International warns the Duterte regime to never exploit the ongoing public health crisis to crack down on legitimate dissent and the democratic exercise of peaceful assemblies. We will not stand idle if cutthroats from AFP and PNP will take advantage of the impending lockdown imposition to carry out illegal raids, killings, warrantless arrests and other terrorist acts to suppress the Filipino public. 

No to militarized lockdown!

Resist tyranny!

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Alberto family calls for vigilance after Mary Jean Alberto’s employer get 5-year sentence — Migrante International

An Abu Dhabi court handed down a 5-year sentence to the female Moroccan employer accused of being behind the death of Mary Jean Alberto, a 44-year old Filipino domestic helper who only started working for the Moroccan household in July 2019. Mary Jean’s daughter Rohjean who also works in UAE expressed her gratefulness. “We sincerely thank each and everyone of you for all the support, effort, and love you have given us, especially to me and my siblings. On behalf of our beloved mama, thank you so much! Definitely this is not yet the end of this fight but at least we reached this point.”

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PHOTO: Mary Jean’s daughter Rohjean holding her mother’s photo after the court decision.

Rohjean however urged for more vigilance following the elevation of the case to Abu Dhabi’s court of appeals. “As far as I know, the convict still has three chances of appeals, so her years in prison could still be increased or reduced depending on the outcome of the appeals,” Rohjean cautioned. 

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion backed Rohjean’s call for vigilance. “Migrante International welcomes the court verdict but we still need to be more vigilant in view of the possibility that the prison sentence could either be reduced or overturned in response to the employer’s ensuing appeals.”

Mary Jean Alberto died on 2 October 2019 after falling from the 13th floor of the high rise residential building where she worked inside the unit of her Moroccan employers. Just hours before her death, Mary Jean sent messages of distress to her daughter Rohjean and to her sister Marie pleading to be rescued from her employer. Her Moroccan female employer however denied accusations and argued that Mary Jean committed suicide by jumping from their unit. Recounting their mother’s terrible experience of abuse and maltreatment, the Alberto family rejected the employer’s version of their mother’s death.  

In media interviews last year, Mary Jean’s sons Ronel and Rojan decried the Duterte government’s snail-paced response to their mother’s case. It took eleven days before the bereaved Alberto family received offers of help from the Philippine Embassy in UAE. “It was only after the media covered our demand for justice that government officials scrambled to deal with our mother’s case. By that time, pieces of evidence that could have helped in the case have already been cleared by her Moroccan employer.” Ronel said. 

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PHOTO: Candle lighting by the SATS Community in Quezon City

Responding to this latest development in Mary Jean’s case, prayers were offered for the Alberto family during the community mass held at the St. Andrews Theological Seminary Chapel (SATS) in Quezon City on Thursday morning, 3 March. Students, faculty and staff of SATS along with community members of the Episcopal Mission Center also lit candles to express their support in continuing the fight for justice for Mary Jean Alberto.

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Students, faculty and staff of St. Andrews Theological Seminary after the community mass at the seminary chapel.

“This stride in the case of Mary Jean Alberto is attributed to the collective action of all her supporters: from the Alberto family, their community in Antipolo, the OFW community in UAE, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and the vigorous support of other Churches and Migrante members across the world. Right now and from day one, our commitment to support the Alberto family in their fight for justice is stronger than ever. May all Filipinos stand with them as their legal battle takes on a higher course,” Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International stated.  

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