“Do not exclude stranded and distressed OFWs from free mass repatriation program in Lebanon!” — Migrante International to Duterte government

Struck by the worst economic crisis since the civil war decades, ordinary citizens and foreign workers now find themselves being dealt with the heavy blows of the ongoing neoliberal onslaught in Lebanon. More than 1,000 Filipinos were reported to have flocked in droves to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to register for the free mass repatriation scheduled in February next year. 

On its website, the Philippine Embassy in Beirut instructed Filipinos to submit documents like passport, their birth certificate and marriage certificate to avail of the government’s “one-time” repatriation program. Unable to flee and their travel documents held by abusive employers, Migrante International fears that many OFW victims of maltreatment are in danger of being shut out from this repatriation program just because government-issued papers are not in their possession. We call on the government to ensure that these OFWs be urgently accorded with repatriation assistance. 

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PHOTO: Flag of Lebanon

OFWs coming back to the Philippines will come across a government without a long-term and effective system of reintegration. Like the Lebanese people, Filipinos in the same way are hounded by Neoliberal policies imposed by the Duterte government like tax hikes and dissolution of social services. Only by addressing the roots of forced migration like landlessness and unemployment due to the government’s failure to pursue national industrialization can repatriated Filipinos be effectively reintegrated.

The civil unrest and economic crisis in Lebanon should serve as a wake-up call to the Duterte government in its stubborn adherence to corrupt Neoliberal economic policies that harshly beset people with mounting hardships. Migrante International vows to monitor the repatriation process of the Philippine government as we carry on with raising the pressing issues and demands of our hardworking Filipino migrant workers. 

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Migrante International’s message of solidarity to Migrante Europe on its 2nd Congress (8 December 2019)

With warm militant greetings, Migrante International sends its best wishes to all chapters and member organizations of Migrante Europe as it holds its 2nd Congress this 8th of December 2019 with the theme, “Expand and strengthen our unity! Promote and defend the rights and welfare of Filipinos and their families in Europe and abroad! Contribute and participate in the struggle for national freedom and democracy!”

This day marks an important milestone in our history since it also coincides with the exact date when Migrante Philippines and Migrante Youth were founded two years ago as a result of persistent organizing among repatriates, OFW families and would-be migrants. Our work of reaching out to more Filipino migrant workers and their families is more significant than ever in light of the mounting waves of peoples’ resistance we now see in many parts of the world. 

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Before us lies an enormous mission of contributing to the national democratic struggle in the Philippines by bolstering the numbers of organized youth, women and unionized workers. There is also a pressing need to encourage more Filipino compatriots to dedicate an extensive period of time for mass work and integration in the homefront. 

With blatant corruption and neoliberal wreckage in the Philippines, Duterte’s bluster can never conceal the exacerbating blight that afflicts swelling numbers of Filipinos. According to the latest SWS survey, an estimated 10 million Filipinos found themselves jobless in the third quarter of 2019. Unemployment rate accelerated at 21.5 percent. This does not even take into account those workers who are paid starvation wages and continually stricken by contractualization. 

Meanwhile, farmers in the countryside bewail Duterte’s rice liberalization law that opened the floodgates of the country to unrestrained rice importations. It is quite clear that the Duterte regime has no intention of addressing the roots of forced migration through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform. As a result, more and more Filipinos are driven to the far ends of the Earth in their longing to survive and bring food to the table for their loved ones. 

In their moments of distress, they are only met with government negligence as in the case of Abu Dhabi based OFW Mary Jean Alberto whose bereaved family is still deprived of justice. The Philippine government has proven time and again that it only looks at OFWs as milking cows through various state exactions and their remittances to salvage a depressed domestic economy.  

As the crisis in the Philippines escalates, the US-Duterte regime is unleashing the most hideous features of its despotic rule. Recently, combined forces of AFP and PNP stormed the offices of progressive mass organizations in Bacolod, illegally arresting 57 activists and rights workers. Conjugated with a de-facto Martial Law through Executive Order 70 which warrants a Whole-of-Nation-Approach, the US-Duterte regime has no other aim but to quell dissent and persecute progressive voices that have been resolute in raising the legitimate demands and grievances of the long-oppressed Filipino people. 

In the face of the Duterte regime’s ruthless acts of terror, we will neither shrink nor cower. We confronted the regime’s attack dogs and asserted our rights thereby leading to the release of almost all of those who were illegally arrested in Bacolod. This tells us that only by being steadfast in our actions and principles can we truly fight for the rights and welfare of those victimized by a rotten and unjust system that ceaselessly drags our country to perdition.

Duterte’s latest termination or removal of Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs just two weeks after her appointment only goes to show that the regime has everything to hide just to protect big time drug criminals like Michael Yang, Allan Lim, Peter Lim, Peter Co and Kerwin Espinosa whom the regime has attempted to absolve numerous times. 

Verily, the fake war on drugs is nothing but a brutal war being waged against the poor and with the apparent intention of annihilating Duterte’s rivals in the drug trade. We will not mince words to reiterate that Duterte is the supreme drug lord and chief benefactor of big time drug criminals in the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, Duterte’s approbation of US imperialist hegemony in our national affairs and China’s incursion into our territorial waters paves the way for more plunder of our resources and violation of our sovereign rights. The regime is out here salivating after more loans to finance its tyrannical ambitions. 

The people’s mass actions in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and elsewhere bid us to register our strong support in their battle against Fascism and neoliberalism. Your presence as Filipino compatriots in countries far and wide is essential in bannering international solidarity for all the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world who valiantly wage the struggle against imperialism. It is also a head start in exposing the crimes of the US-Duterte regime through extensive international lobbying work in your respective host countries.    

In all our militant pursuits, it is therefore imperative that we commit ourselves to cultivating a deeper understanding of what these are all about and that is no other than to SERVE THE PEOPLE! Rouse then and gird your armour on! Let us press forward in one accord with all the toiling Filipino masses as we clear the path for a future where no family will ever be torn apart for the need to survive. Boldly advance the struggle of Filipino migrants for national democracy and social justice. 

 

End forced migration!

Stop labour export!

Oust the US-Duterte regime!

 

Long live Migrante Europe!

Long live Migrante International!

Long live the Filipino people!

 

Migrante International on Bonifacio Day: Filipino migrants and OFW families unite in the struggle against the Duterte regime’s Neoliberal and Fascist attacks

Seeking to liberate the Philippines from centuries of Spanish colonial bondage, Gat Andres Bonifacio along with other revolutionary minded Filipinos founded the Katipunan. 156 years after his birth, many Filipinos continue to derive inspiration from the father of the Philippine revolution. As we look back on his heroic life, we pay our highest tribute and homage to Andres Bonifacio for being a true patriot and a hero of the working class.

From the ranks of the oppressed masses, the Katipunan multiplied in great numbers and rallied the Filipino people to rise up and mount an armed revolution against an enormous global colonial power. Andres Bonifacio’s love for the downtrodden Filipinos and his abhorrence of the injustices inflicted against them ignited that burning desire within him to offer his life for the cause of national liberation. In martyrdom, he was murdered by the cohorts of Emilio Aguinaldo who is a traitor corrupted by personal ambitions. 

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PHOTO: Painting from Museo ng Katipunan

Centuries after the beginning of the colonial onslaught in the Philippines, our country today continues to be a subject of foreign domination and semicolonial woes. Unlike Bonifacio’s Katipunan, which was founded by Filipinos, the US-Duterte regime’s very own Armed Forces of the Philippines was founded by Americans in 1935 to protect US interests and is currently based in its main military headquarters Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo appropriately named after the eternally damned traitor who ordered the execution of Andres Bonifacio. 

Aguinaldo’s level of treachery is exhibited by the despotic rule of President Rodigo Duterte. This regime brazenly places our country as a trampling ground for the predatory neoliberal interests of both US and China. As bargaining chips, Filipino workers are likewise peddled to be exploited as cheap and docile workers under its rotten labour export program. To secure more loans and induce a higher credit rating, Duterte is hell-bent on imposing more burdensome state exactions on OFWs next year including the mandatory SSS and the higher Philhealth premium rate in compliance with his fraudulent Universal Health Care Law. 

The impending creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos a few weeks from now would further facilitate the upward siphoning of OFW monetary contributions to subsidize private profit. SSS has already expressed as early as two years ago its lechery in investing a part of its fund for Duterte’s floundering Build Build Build program. On top of that, big privately-owned healthcare facilities including dialysis centres have been amassing tons of money from Philhealth over the years through scandalous “ghost treatments.”

Amidst the extractivist plunder of our natural resources for big foreign corporate gain, the lives of Filipino workers linger in darkness as they are deprived of national minimum wage and employment security. With a staggering 21.5 percent unemployment rate as revealed in the latest SWS survey, the number of jobless Filipinos soared to 10 million, the highest in Southeast Asia. This does not even include those who are forever in the cyclical peril of losing their jobs due to contractualization. In addition, the livelihood of millions of farmers are jeopardized due to Duterte’s Rice Liberalization Law which is apparently favourable to big comprador developers and wealthy land grabbers. 

Like millions of OFWs, the agonizing socio-economic injustices in the country banished Mary Jane Veloso and Mary Jean Alberto into the farthest corners of the Earth in their desire to support their loved ones back home. As the former languishes in prison, the latter was sent back to the country inside a box. Their tragedies point to the government’s negligence and apathy towards Filipinos in distress. The deliberate impoverishment of the Filipino people by the local ruling class and the country’s neo-colonial subjugation by foreign imperialist powers tell us that the strife against the dark forces is far from over. 

The same maladies that Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros sought to vanquish not only persist to this very day, but have been transmuted into the more fatal schemes of neoliberalism and Fascism. Millions upon millions of our people groan in the mire of scarcity and absence of social services while the wealthy few delight in their ill-gotten spoils. 

More than just ritualizing our commemoration of Andres Bonifacio, may we truly honour his heroism by forging ahead with his unfinished revolution and advance the cause of national liberation and democracy. In loyal service to the Filipino masses, let us follow in his footsteps and unite in this great struggle. From the pueblos of Chile and Bolivia, to the streets of Palestine and the Philippines, let us join hands with all freedom-loving people of the world in the global revolt against neoliberalism, Fascism and imperialism. 

Long live Gat Andres Bonifacio! 

Long live the national democratic struggle! 

Long live the Filipino people! 

“Justice for Mary Jean Alberto and her family!” – Migrante International on the day of Mary Jean’s burial

For a 44-year old single parent like Mary Jean Alberto, seeing her children complete their education and attain a bright future was her greatest desire. However, realizing a comfortable life for her family was just so impossible in a country where workers are afflicted with unstable jobs and depressed wages. 

Parting from the warm embrace of her loved ones, Mary Jean Alberto decided to leave for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on 7 July 2019. Her sons Rojan and Ronel were hopeful that when life gets better, they will all be reunited again. Little did they know that it would be the last time they get to see her alive. Just a few hours from the time that she sent her messages of distress, pleading to be rescued from the hands of her employer, she was declared dead on 2 October 2019. It was none other than Mary Jean’s employer who revealed it to her family by phone. 

Justice for Jean by Migrante

According to the employer, Mary Jean killed herself by jumping from the 13th floor unit of the high rise building where she was working. The world crumbled for the Alberto family upon finding out the gruesome death of their mother. For somebody who has always been known as a stouthearted and a resolute woman, her bereaved family refused to believe that Mary Jean committed suicide. Her daughter Rohjean who is also an OFW in UAE recounted the joyous time she spent with her mother just a few days before her death. 

It took eleven days before the Philippine embassy offered help to the family. By that time, pieces of evidence that could have provided answers surrounding her death were already cleared by the employer. Rojan, Ronel and Mary Jean’s ailing mother Nanay Flordeliza received her back inside a casket. In their great sorrow and anguish, they demand justice for their slain. How was it that the path which they thought would lead to the fulfillment of their dreams brought so much pain, agony and even death? How many deaths will have to occur before the government wakes up from its slumber and correct its unrelenting negligence?

Migrante International is one with the Alberto family in seeking justice for Mary Jean. They want the perpetrator to be brought to justice. Her tragic case points to government apathy and the absence of a clearly laid out program to assist OFW victims and their troubled families. The Alberto family should get assistance and negligent government officials should be held accountable.

Mary Jean’s supporters and concerned residents in her community understand the correlation of her death along with the issues faced by OFWs wretched by the government’s corrupt labour export programme to the overall problem of the Filipino people battered by the unaddressed roots of forced migration and underdevelopment. 

The strong resolve of  Mary Jean’s loved ones, friends and fellow residents in the community to unite in this time of grief is not merely an observance of a sacred custom but their conscious wielding of solidarity to struggle for justice. 

As long as genuine services to OFWs are absent and the Philippine government continually denies Filipino workers with regular employment and living wages, justice will remain elusive for Mary Jean Alberto and to all Filipino migrants in distress.  

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“Free Bacolod 57! No to Duterte’s de-facto Martial Law!” — Migrante International

In the strongest terms, Migrante International condemns the sweeping arrests of 57 activists and rights workers in Bacolod City based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence. The raids were conducted by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police storming the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). 

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Photo: Kodao

Among those arrested is Anne Kreuger, an organizer for the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN)  and a field staff of Paghimutad, an alternative media outfit based in Negros. She was arrested during her stay at Gabriela’s Bacolod office. Anne Kreuger was a close friend of Henry Acorda, the OFW slain in Slovakia. In 2018, Anne worked closely with Migrante and the Acorda family to seek justice for her friend Henry. Friends and loved ones of Henry are grateful to Anne for her selfless efforts on behalf of the victim and his family. Deplorably, the Duterte regime repays justice advocates like Anne with cruelty and imprisonment. 

 

Just a day before the round-up, NCRPO Acting Regional Director Debold Sinas conducted a ‘dialogue’ at the Quezon City Hall of Justice with Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert who then issued the ludicrous search warrants brandished by state forces on the night of the raid. Previous warrants issued by Villavert also led to the arrests of other rights defenders and peace advocates like Vic Ladlad and Esterlita Suaybaguio. In this most recent case, we can’t help but ask why a Quezon City court would issue a warrant intended for distant locations in the Visayas. This menacing pattern of warrants-with-wings clearly points to abuse of power and authority.

As for Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s stubborn insistence that the arrested activists are members of the New People’s Army, we can attribute this to his main function of overseeing Malacañang’s factory of lies. Andanar as well as the rest of Duterte’s minions wallow in their delusion that they can keep fooling the people forever by adhering to Goebbels’ propaganda technique of repeating colossal falsehoods. The people know better and no amount of concealment will bury the glaring ills of a country sinking deeper into crisis.

Migrante International likewise denounces the arrest of Cora Agovida (Gabriela-Metro Manila), and Michael Tan Bartolome (Kadamay-Metro Manila). The couple was arrested and detained on Thursday along with their children aged 2 and 10. Along with Bacolod 57, we are calling for their immediate release and an end to the spate of arrests and killings in the province. 

Since Duterte came into power, the death toll from the extrajudicial killings of activists in Negros has already climbed to 85 as butchers from AFP and PNP enforce his Executive Order No. 70 which later spawned Memorandum Order No. 32. Under these impositions, the islands of Samar, Negros and the entire Bicol region are now under de-facto Martial Law. Furthermore, EO70 institutionalized the regime’s whole-of-nation-approach through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) wherein the Duterte regime has been using government resources to denigrate Migrante International and other progressive organizations among members of various Filipino communities abroad by maliciously tagging them as fronts of the CPP-NPA. 

Without a doubt, the unjust operation in Bacolod against activists and rights workers demonstrates the savage desire of the Duterte regime to quell dissent and persecute progressive organizations that raise the upright demands of the impoverished sectors of Philippine society. If the Duterte regime believes that unhampered tyranny will obliterate our collective struggle for national democracy, he is clearly mistaken. Looking at the course of events in different parts of the world, Duterte is already trembling at the boiling contempt of the masses in his own backyard. 

We will not stand idly as the Duterte regime tramples on our rights to freely organize and express grievances against an unjust system of tyranny and oppression. None of these mass arrests, raids, and killings will silence the outcry of the Filipino people against the Duterte regime’s despotic rule. ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We shall overcome! 

 

Drop trumped-up charges!

Free Negros 57!

Stop planting of evidence!

Resist crackdown!
Free all political prisoners!

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Families and supporters demand justice for slain Abu Dhabi OFW Mary Jean Alberto. Holds picket-dialogue at OWWA.

More than three weeks have passed but the bereaved family of Mary Jean Alberto is yet to hear about the results of the forensic investigation on her remains. Mary Jean Alberto is a single mother of three who was hired as a family driver for a Moroccan Family. Waiting for her license, she found herself being ordered by her employer to do household work. Mary Jean really felt dejected realizing that she was really hired as such upon receiving her visa indicating that she was registered as a housemaid.

The family learned about her gruesome death after they were informed by her Moroccan employer that she committed suicide by jumping off from the 13th floor of a high-rise residential building. For her sons Ronel and Rojan, they believe that there was foul play behind the death of their mother. How can the Moroccan employer claim that the thudding sound when Mary Jean fell was heard all the way from their bedroom on the 13th floor where they were sleeping as they claim? These are the questions Mary Jean’s grieving loved ones are asking.

 

Prior to her death, Mary Jean has already sent distressing messages and photos of her bruises to her sister, her daughter Rohjean and her former co-worker Rose pleading to be rescued from her dire situation. Without regular rest days, Mary Jean was overworked to starvation from 5:00 am to 3:00 am. On the 1st of October, just a day before she died, Mary Jean sent her last message stating that her employer attempted to strangle her. 

Hinging on these accounts, Migrante International sides with the family in their refusal to believe that their mother really committed suicide. Mary Jean wanted to return alive to her family that is why she made known her cries for help. 

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Mary Jean’s grieving family has been going to and fro, from one government agency to another asking for assistance. Her sons are now due to hold a dialogue with OWWA which is another agency inappropriately named to purport that it works for the welfare of OFWs. In reality, it has only become an extortionate coffer that myopically sees itself as a fund manager of monetary contributions from OFW members. 

Now on their own and without their breadwinner, how will the Alberto family face a future in our country wrecked with uncertainties and economic difficulties? As they meet with OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, we hope that they will get the services they deserve to help them with funeral and burial expenses, get scholarships and livelihood assistance. 

Desirably, OWWA should work for the welfare of OFWs primarily because they are overseas Filipino workers and not because of their OWWA payments. It should work true to its name for the welfare of OFWs, both documented and undocumented alike. Instead, it has been functioning as if it is a business entity. 

In the same deplorable manner, it took 11 days before the Philippine Embassy was able to provide a lawyer to process her death certificate and reclaim her belongings. By that time, the employer’s house has already been cleared of all possible pieces of evidence vital for the investigation. For a government accustomed to procrastination, we see this as a denial of justice for Mary Jean Alberto. OFW victims do not deserve this kind of treatment. 

The family and loved ones left behind by Mary Jean are already struggling with the pain of this tragedy while bearing the brunt of government procrastination and neglect. We demand that the government do its part and ensure close coordination with the family as investigation continues. Migrante International is one with the Alberto family in their quest for justice and in their desire for a speedy resolution to Mary Jean’s case. Most of all, we want an end to the government’s virulent labour export program that has sent vast numbers of OFWs back to the country inside caskets. 

 

Serbisyo, hindi negosyo!

End labour export!

Justice for Mary Jean Alberto!

Justice for Jean by Migrante

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On the SC ruling allowing Mary Jane Veloso to testify

Migrante International welcomes the Supreme Court decision to finally allow Mary Jane Veloso to give her testimony against her traffickers through written deposition. With this ruling, Mary Jane will be able to bring to light the horrors of her ordeal. This will likewise allow the authorities in the Philippines and Indonesia to examine how big international drug and human traffickers victimize unsuspecting migrant workers and travellers. It shall also serve as a precedent for overseas Filipinos who may in troublesome circumstances later find themselves victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. 

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PHOTO: Rappler

We recognize that this significant SC decision is also engendered by the untiring efforts of Mary Jane’s family and supporters who refused to just let her case be swept away into oblivion. Migrante International is grateful to all those who stood by with the Veloso family right from the beginning up to this latest phase in her family’s legal battle here in the Philippines. We thank our allies both here and abroad for their outpouring of support in our last ditch effort to ensure that Mary Jane be presented as the prosecution’s last witness on October 28 which is the final court hearing set by the Nueva Ecija RTC for the presentation of prosecution witnesses.

Our hopes are now high that with Mary Jane’s presentation of her written testimony, it shall make way for that much awaited moment when she will be finally reunited with her loved ones in the Philippines. More than ever before, Migrante International will continue to fight for the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families, more so for those who are in the most adverse situations. 

 

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