“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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Let Not Mhelody Bruno Be Just Another Statistic – Let Justice Be Hers!

Migrante Australia, a national alliance of Filipino migrant organisations raises concern over the death of Filipino transgender woman Mhelody Bruno, 25 years old, who was reportedly killed while on holiday in Australia. The police reported that Mhelody was found unresponsive in a home unit on Tarcutta Street, Wagga Wagga, where paramedics conducted CPR before bringing her to the hospital. Despite efforts to revive her, she died shortly after 10:00AM on Sunday, 22 September 2019. Mhelody was about to return to the Philippine but she was killed just a week before her flight home.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mhelody’s family in Surigao and will do what we can to assist them in this time of grief and uncertainty. We echo their cry for justice for the crime committed against Mhelody Bruno.

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PHOTO: Rappler

This is the second time this year that a Filipino national died whilst working in regional Australia. Last March 2019, Jerwin Royupa was killed allegedly after jumping from a vehicle following an altercation with his employer. His death remains unresolved.

Also about two years ago, Charma Annear was brutally murdered by her estranged husband in November 2016 in the remote country town of Laverton, Western Australia. The WA Supreme Court found Mr Mervin Annear, guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced in April 2018 with 10-years imprisonment.

This spate of violent and suspicious deaths of Filipino nationals experiencing exploitation as migrant workers or as tourists must be stopped and the Australian criminal justice system must do its work to bring justice to the families of these victims.

We call on all concerned government agencies and the Filipino community in Australia to extend support and assistance to Mhelody Bruno’ family as they seek justice and the repatriation of her body back to the Philippines.

We also extend the invitation of the Filipino community in Wagga Wagga to a Vigil for Mhelody/Justice for Mhelody on Monday, 1 October 2019, 7:00-10:00PM at Victory Memorial Gardens, Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Justice for Melody Bruno!

Migrante Australia P O Box 606, Laverton 3028, Australia * Email: migrante@ilpsaustralia.com Contacts: George (Butch) – 0413 041514(VIC); Mel – 0414 247154(WA);; Manny (Bebot) – 0404 105899(NSW) Lina – 0407 841010(NSW); Berlin – 0499 303911(Albury-Wodonga); Reyvi – 0421 116776(Vic) Steph – 0422 171969(VIC)

On the appointment of Mocha Uson as OWWA Deputy Executive Director

It is not a surprise that Duterte is recycling a degenerate like Mocha Uson. He needs to beef up his army of apologists and attack dogs to distract us from the worsening socio-economic conditions facing millions of Filipino people. Mocha Uson’s active participation in discriminating against and demonizing OFW activists who are critical and outspoken about his policies, poor record and criminal neglect in addressing their concerns serves Duterte’s political agenda in silencing organized voices who are defending their democratic rights.

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Duterte is putting the hard earned money of OFWs at easy disposal of a government official with a record of wasting people’s money in purveying fake news and senseless junkets. He has appointed someone whose actions are contradictory to the mandate of OWWA to care for the welfare of all OFWs, regardless of their beliefs, and whose actions have been more detrimental than helpful to the interests of our OFWs such as the “rescue mission” she co-organized in Kuwait last year– a publicity stunt that only placed the lives of our migrant workers in harm’s way.

It is clear that Duterte is not serious in resolving the mounting problems facing our OFWs and we are extremely concerned that discriminatory practices in the delivery of services to our OFWs who are not loyal to Duterte will be rampant.

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“Resist and remember the continuing horrors of Martial Law!” — Migrante International on the 47th anniversary of the Martial Law proclamatio

Coveting after autocratic rule, President Ferdinand E.Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 (PROC. 1081) dated 21 September 1972 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law. Following this declaration, the US-Marcos regime wasted no time arresting activists and shutting down hundreds of institutions deemed critical of government policies.   

Hundreds of media outlets were closed down and Marcos assumed both legislative and executive powers. It did not take long before the impoverished many sank further into the abyss of economic cataclysm. Contrary to the delusional claims of Marcosian worshipers about the Philippines being among the richest countries in Asia that time, it was actually during this period that our country saw itself overtaken by one Asian country to another in terms of development.

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Fast forward to 2019, the Philippines is still trapped within the pangs of Fascism and constant economic crisis. The US-Duterte regime seeks to outdo the dictator Ferdinand Marcos by turning the Philippines into Asia’s largest killing field. Ordinary people and activists alike risk illegal arrests, trumped-up charges, torture and execution. 

On 5 July 2019, Bryan Conje, the son of a Saudi-based OFW was found lifeless after being shot by the Navotas police. No stable jobs await OFWs returning to the Philippines. Only death, terror and misery abound. Similar cases of killings in the name of Duterte’s “war against drugs” and “crimes” have resulted in casualties numbering thousands. 

Most of the bloody operations conducted by the police target poor communities. Meanwhile, Mayor Sanchez who was convicted in the rape and murder of UP students along with other big time criminals from wealthy families were let loose by Duterte from incarceration. 

The bloodbath in the countryside is just as worse as in the cities. From 2017, rights groups have already recorded 87 people killed in the island of Negros alone. Fifteen (15) of which were shot in just one week by military and police elements during the last week of July this year. It is no coincidence that these violent killings are rampant in places where Duterte sends additional military and police forces to contain perceived “threats against national security.” 

Duterte has been augmenting the number of troops in Negros since November 2018 when he signed Memorandum Order 32. This is just a part of Duterte’s Executive Order 70 institutionalizing the “Whole-of-Nation Approach.” With most of the slain coming from poor peasant communities fighting for their small farms against big wealth landowners and landgrabbers, it is President Duterte himself that should be branded as the number one threat to national security. 

In accordance with EO70, the Duterte regime has likewise formed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict under the guidance of officials from both AFP and PNP. Attacks against progressive organizations are becoming more brazen even in the arena of public media. The entire state machinery has been parading an array of fake news and false information to delegitimize the advocacies of people’s defenders.

In seminars conducted by NTF attaches overseas, red tagging and vilification of Migrante International is prevalent. Military Attache – Col. Antonio Faro Olaguera and Philippine Embassy Second Secretary Allan Hencel U. Campos have been visiting international schools in Saudi Arabia where there is a significant number of Filipino students to conduct such seminars. 

Using government resources, the Duterte regime is driving a wedge among overseas Filipino communities to prevent OFWs from finding out the truth about the government’s rotten labour export programme. 

At a time when the armed conflict between Saudi and Yemen has already escalated into a full-blown ground battle deeper inside Saudi territory as early as June this year, Philippine embassy and consulate officials should have been spending their time working on concrete contingency measures to secure 40 thousand Filipinos in border regions. 

For more than two decades, Migrante International has upheld the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers. It has served to amplify the voices of OFWs in distress left unheard and neglected by a government reeked by greed and corruption. We will not stand idly as the Duterte regime intensifies its brutal repression of dissent to prevent us from raising the legitimate grievances of Filipino migrants. 

As we march with democratic forces to magnify our resistance against Duterte’s Fascist rule, let us remember those who have gone before us in their sacrifices. Altogether, we shall smash the Duterte regime’s abuse of power and make him accountable for his crimes. More than ever before, let us stand united and surge forward to wrest power from those that seek to oppress and slay us. Only the people’s active resistance will save our country from being thrown back into the bloody clutches of absolute tyranny and dictatorship. 

Never again! Never forget!

Demokrasya, hindi diktadura! 

 

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