On the 22nd death anniversary of overseas Filipino worker Flor Contemplacion, OFWs and families took to the streets alongside workers and other sectors to condemn the Duterte regime’s “broken vows”, among them the failure to end all forms of contractualization, the failure to provide free and decent housing for the poor and the implementation of other neoliberal attacks on Filipino labor.
These, along with widespread unemployment, landlessness and lack of basic social services, are the root causes of forced migration – something that Pres. Duterte promised to make “optional and not a necessity” when he assumed office.
“Now, with the passage of DOLE Department Order 174-2017, packaged as the government’s solution to workers’ problems, contractualization is legalized, aggravating the already rampant problem of labor flexibilization, depressed wages, and, ultimately, more massive unemployment. This without doubt will result in the forced migration of millions more of our workers to seek employment abroad because of desperation and the need to survive,” said Mic Catuira, Migrante International secretary-general.
Duterte’s earlier promise to end contractualization by 2016 was widely welcomed even by OFWs because it brought hope of coming home to a country with decent-paying regular jobs. “Now, with the passage of the DO, in light of the continuing crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Malaysia, our OFWs are to return to the country only to be forcibly driven away again to seek jobs despite risky conditions abroad,” Catuira said.
Joining the rally were the parents of Jennifer Dalquez, OFW on death row in Dubai, returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia and their families and OFW victims of government neglect.
Labor export intensified
Catuira also criticized Duterte for perpetuating a more aggressive and detrimental labor export policy in his labor agenda. “Duterte, for all his posturing and promises, has not proven himself different from his predecessors when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market.”
He said that the government’s response to the worsening crisis in Saudi Arabia is testament to the continuing bankrupty of the Philippines’ labor export policy. In July 2016, Duterte promised to repatriate some 11,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia by yearend. However, on November 22, 2016, DOLE Sec. Bello announced that they “have succeeded in bringing back 3,000 OFWs while the rest have managed to find good-paying jobs in other companies”, saying that the OFWs opted to transfer to other companies, yet their withheld wages and necessary money claims have not been resolved.
“These statements are not only contradictory but treacherous. It now appears that the government deems the Saudi crisis fait accompli, problem-solved, and therefore business-as-usual between the Philippine government and its biggest OFW labor importer.”
“Was the DOLE’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia not really for the main purpose of repatriating stranded OFWs but conducting damage-control for the beleaguered Saudi companies and local recruitment agencies through the facilitation of job transfers? If so, the promise to ‘end the Saudi stranded crisis’ by the end of 2016 was misleading and bound to fail from the start. Bello only succeeded in buying time and ‘rescuing’ the companies and local private recruitment agencies instead of the distressed OFWs. This is unsurprisingly in line with the ‘win-win’ solution and other deceiving, pro-capitalist neoliberal policies that the DOLE has been advocating thus far,” Catuira said.
OFWs support #OccupyBulacan
Catuira said that OFWs around the world also express solidarity with urban poor families under the flag of Kadamay who launched the #OccupyBulacan campaign on March 8.
“They are an inspiration to all sectors and testament to the correctness and strength of unity and collective action to secure the people’s rights and demands. That they remain steadfast despite harassment and threat of state fascism is proof of the Duterte regime’s neglect of the poor and yet another empty promise of change. The #OccupyBulacan families are also Filipino workers who suffer from depressed wages, contractualization and absence of adequate shelter and basic social services. We call on all OFWs and their families to support the #OccupyBulacan campaign,” Catuira said.
Migrante International also called for support for OFWs for food, water and other material support to help the barricades now being staged by Kadamay members in 5 different sites in Pandi, Bulacan. ###