24 JULY 2023
President Bongbong Marcos, contrary to his promise in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, failed to fulfill his grand rhetoric of protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of Overseas Filipinos.
This was declared by Filipino migrant leaders from the United States, Canada, Middle East and the Asia Pacific in a global online rally that tackled the state of Filipino migrants held by Migrante International and its global chapters on Saturday in anticipation of Marcos Jr’s second SONA.
“Instead of addressing the pressing problems of Filipinos on his first year, Marcos Jr. capitalized on our suffering to expand and speed up the overseas deployment of Filipinos. He intensified the 40-year labor export program instituted by his dictator father,” said Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion.
According to Concepcion, the newly-created Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has become the government’s marketing arm, actively entering into memoranda of agreement with countries that want to employ skilled Filipinos. Sadly, OFWs continue to be forsaken by the DMW despite its pledge of protecting them from unjust labor practices, harassment, red-tagging, and illegal recruitment.
Citing a recent study showing that the Philippines’ inflation rate has reached 8.7%, the highest in Southeast Asia, Migrante-Philippines chairperson Arman Hernando said, “Families of OFWs have to contend with the soaring prices of basic commodities and oil products. Yet the government remains numb and insensitive to the people’s sufferings.”
Hernando said that the Marcos Jr government is concerned only about the exactions and profits from OFW remittances, which reached PhP 154 billion in May 2023 alone. Since January this year, remittances reached PhP 802 billion and yet only 2% of this amount is allotted by the DMW for migrant workers protection. “This is pure exploitation and commodification of overseas Filipinos,” Hernando stated.
Speaking for OFWs in the Middle East, meanwhile, Ka Wenz said that 90% of the more than 2 million OFWs in the region suffer from contract substitution. He said the chronic indifference of the Migrant Workers Office or MWO (which replaced the Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO) towards the plight of OFWs aggravates the situation.
According to Ka Wenz, more than 3,000 Filipino migrants are housed in shelters in the Middle East and are desperately seeking repatriation. “Alas, only 500 can be repatriated,” he said. Meanwhile, a visiting visa policy, supposedly to boost labor export, has been used by recruitment agencies to offer jobs in which contract provisions are often substituted, according to him.
Patricia, born and raised in the US, exposed the unfair and inhumane treatment experienced by young Jollibee workers who endure low wages while being dispatched to different areas. A dismissed Jollibee worker, she joined the campaign “Justice for Jollibee Workers.”
“My grandparents depend on me so I need to work and study at the same time. But I am joining this fight not only for the Jollibee workers in the US but also for those in the Philippines and in other companies that exploit workers,” she stressed.
Also in the US, Neriza Roque, a victim of Asian hate crime, disclosed how she was treated when she sought help from the Philippine Consulate. “Walang tulong na ibinigay sa akin. Sa halip ay nag-imbita pa ng tao mula sa PNP (I was not given assistance. Instead the consulate invited a PNP while I was there),” she said, referring to the Philippine National Police.
Migrante Asia Pacific spokesperson Roger Raymundo hit the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) that is being tied up by the government with mandatory fees for PhilHealth, Pag-Ibig, SSS, compulsory insurance, among others to further extort money from OFWs. On the scheme to change OEC to OFW Pass, Raymundo said, “Balon ito ng korupsyon, parehong perwisyo, parehong pangingikil (This is a source of corruption, same bane, same extortion).”
“President Marcos and his team went to Canada to invite foreign investors to come to the Philippines, sell our country’s mineral resources, and promote the Maharlika investment scheme,” said Migrante Canada chairperson Danilo de Leon.
“History has taught us that foreign investors are only interested in our country’s cheap labor and rich natural resources. It’s about time that we create our own development through industrialization and agrarian reform,” de Leon stressed. He also called for an investigation into the masterminds of the recruitment scam that lure Filipinos to come to Canada using student visas.
In conclusion, Migrante International deputy secretary general Ramon Bultron bewailed the Marcos Jr government’s failure to address the root causes of forced migration which include poverty, unemployment, inflation, among others.
“Clearly, the creation of the DMW was meant to intensify the government’s labor export industry. It means a double windfall of revenue for the government. At the same time, anybody who criticizes the government’s anti-people policies face harassment and red-tagging, even arrest and detention,” Bultron said.
“Hindi tayo magpapatalo. Sama-samang salubungin si Marcos Jr pagpunta sa ating kinaroroonang bansa at ilantad ang totoo nating karanasan. At kapag ipinagpatuloy ang pagsasamantala, mangyayari din sa kanya ang nangyari sa kanyang ama (We will not be defeated. Let us confront Marcos Jr when he goes to our destination countries and present our true conditions. If exploitation continues, he will experience the fate that befell his father),” Bultron concluded.###
Watch the Global Online Rally held last 22 July 2023 through this link:https://migranteinternational.org/global-online-rally-protesta-ng-migrante-sa-ika-2-state-of-the-nation-address-sona-ni-marcos-jr/