Justice for Joanna Demafelis and Other OFW Deaths in Kuwait! Justice for All OFW Victims of Government Neglect!

We mourn with the family and loved ones of Joanna Demafelis who suffered unimaginable cruelty from the hands of her employers in Kuwait. For over a year, Joanna’s body was stuffed inside a freezer found inside an abandoned apartment. Investigators found physical signs of torture.

Migrante International points to the blood stained hands of Duterte as the primary culprit for his regime’s failure to keep its promise of protecting the lives of OFWs. It was not too long ago when last year’s execution in Kuwait of Jakatia Pawa has caught the country by surprise. The Philippine embassy in Kuwait received official information about her execution 18 hours before it was carried out. There was negligible response from Duterte as he is known to be a supporter of death penalty.

One year on, there’s still no let up to the ever-increasing number of brutal killings and executions perpetrated against OFWs in their host countries under Duterte’s watch. Duterte himself acknowledged that there were more than a hundred OFW deaths in Kuwait last year and more than a dozen of which are currently being investigated due to possible foul play.

Filipino workers continue to clamor for the government to address the roots of forced migration and end its labor export program. Duterte’s hardline pronouncements against Kuwait remain to be mere grandstanding and sheer hypocrisy unless problems marking labor conditions in the Philippines are resolved. The Philippines continues to be notorious for labor woes and anti-poor policies hounding its local workforce forcing millions to search for better life abroad. Recently, the Duterte administration enacted TRAIN or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion which spiked the prices of commodities upward. Migrante decries the heartless stance of the Duterte regime towards Filipino workers here and abroad.

Migrante challenges Duterte to investigate erring officials who failed to look into the plight of OFWs in distress. We call on the Duterte administration to publicize the bilateral agreement it intends to sign with Kuwait with regards to the protection of Filipino workers and ensure that the voices of OFWs will be heard and their demands be included.

As we grieve with the loved ones left behind by Joanna Demafelis, we echo the outcry of OFWs worldwide in calling for her attainment of justice and for many other OFWs who suffered the same fate. May the perpetrators be punished as we also raise our call for justice for all the many victims of the government’s negligence towards distressed migrants in dire need of immediate help. ###


The Real Devil Unmasked


By Migrante-Philippines

Before proceeding to NAIA to welcome more than a hundred OFWs from Kuwait, Duterte once again uttered colorful language to mask himself as a sacrificial lamb being led to the slaughter.

“You come home and I will sell my soul to the devil to look for money so that you can come home and live comfortably here,” Duterte said during the oath-taking event for newly appointed officials.

This statement was made after the tragic story of Joanna Daniela Demafelis shocked the public. For over a year, her corpse was stuffed inside a freezer and initial investigations reveal signs of torture. Several more cases of OFW deaths in Kuwait are also undergoing investigation and Duterte himself said before the media in Davao that there are as many as 120 Filipinos who died in Kuwait last year. Eventually, Duterte ordered a deployment ban of domestic workers to Kuwait. Just before we could even bind our emotional wounds caused by these gruesome horror stories, Malacanang made a mockery of newly-arrived repatriates by driving them away once more as China is now being considered by his regime’s labor authorities as the next destination of displaced OFWs.

Masquerading as an “Angel of Light,” there is no doubt that Duterte the devil has mastered the art of deception and trickery. Has he not even realized the glaring contradiction when he expressed his wish to have OFW repatriates live comfortably in the Philippines only to expel them the next moment? Certainly, no words can describe the uplifting feelings of their loved ones after heaving a sigh of relief knowing that their mothers, fathers or siblings are finally back home safe from the shadows of death in a distant land instead of arriving inside a casket. But alas, they are to be sent away anew by no other than one of the manifestations of the devil himself, President Rodrigo Duterte. As the Philippines accumulate piles of debt from Chinese loans and as one land mass after another in our territorial waters is being devoured by China, our hardworking people are pimped out by the government’s atrocious Labor Export Program.

More appalling, Duterte expressed gratefulness to contractual kings Lucio Tan and Gokongwei and vowed to protect their business interests for shouldering the flights of OFW repatriates. It is no secret that these vicious wolves that Duterte are dressing in sheep’s clothing are among those who torment local Filipino workers with low wages and contractual jobs that prod them to search for greener pastures overseas. It is quite ironic that Duterte even demanded from the Kuwaiti government to improve their labor conditions for Filipino workers when in the first place, those OFWs left the Philippines because they are afflicted back home with greater labor woes perpetuated by these very same wolves he graciously showered with flattering remarks. Adding insult to injury, access to government services continue to be poor and prices of commodities soar unabated due to the US-Duterte regime’s unscrupulously enacted TRAIN or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion. Truly, these features of forced migration are the roots of all evil besetting our workforce.

Migrante is firm in its position that in order to finally end forced migration, the Philippines needs to institute labor reforms like enacting a national minimum wage closer to the living wage and totally abolishing all forms of contractualization. Importantly, it must also endeavor to address the wretchedness of agriculture through a genuine agrarian reform coupled with national industrialization. These reforms could have been tackled had the US-Duterte regime and his peace-spoilers in the military did not terminate the GRP-NDFP peace talks which was already on the final stages of presenting the CASER draft or the Comprehensive Agreement for Social & Economic Reforms.

Unless these reforms are achieved we can always expect Duterte the devil and his succeeding heirs to continue resorting to all forms of deception and arrogantly stand as false messiahs in lying wonders. It is essential that the Filipino people guard their hearts and minds against deceitful serpents wallowing in puppetry and subservience to foreign imperialist interests. Indeed, the US-Duterte regime is drunk in the wine of his neoliberal fornications. ###

Never again to a fascist dictatorship! Resist tyranny! Makibaka, huwag matakot! – Migrante

Today, wherever we may be in the world, Filipinos come together to pay tribute to the heroism of Gat Andres Bonifacio on his 154th birth anniversary. But this year’s tribute goes beyond commemoration. Today, we unite to strongly condemn and hold accountable the fascist US-Duterte regime for crimes  perpetrated in its Marcosian all-out war against the Filipino people.

We are gathered today in protest with other sectors because overseas Filipinos and their families stand against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny. We condemn in most vehement terms the government’s mass murder under the banner of the regime’s three wars – the war against the Moro people, the bloody “war on drugs” and the anti-people Oplan Kapayapaan. We vow to fight Duterte’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to resist and reject any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties.

The recent surge of arrests, harassments and extrajudicial killings “tokhang-style” by military and police forces against legal activists across the country in light of the GRP’s termination and sabotage of the GRP-NDFP peace talks and Duterte’s threats of a “crackdown” indicate that the president has completely turned his back on just and lasting peace.

It is no secret that militarists and opportunists in the Duterte government want to extend matial law in Mindanao and expand it for their own interests. The looming extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move will further pave the way for the installation of Duterte’s one-man rule.

History has proven that a fascist dictatorship cannot and will not bring about peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. Clearly, Duterte’s pretext of a “revolutionary government” will set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and other state forces.

History has also proven that a fascist dictatorship failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Extending martial law in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide through a so-called “revolutionary government” or Duterte’s “federalism”, will be a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to genuine socio-economic reforms and a just and lasting peace.

Migrante also condemns in strongest terms the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide, especially after US President Trump’s expression of overwhelming support for Duterte during the last ASEAN Summit. Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject US involvement in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence.

We will not be intimidated. Makibaka, huwag matakot! Migrante International enjoins all Filipinos and their families worldwide 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 Duterte’s fascist rule. ###



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. ###



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. ###