With lockdown restrictions enforced, this year’s observance of the International Migrants Day will be totally different. For countries grappling with the pandemic, mass gatherings are prohibited as movement restrictions further strain migrants who are either stranded or displaced. As many migrants are experiencing their rights violated and further eroded, member organizations of Migrante International take upon themselves the tasks of amplifying migrant voices, advancing solidarity and remaining steadfast in our militant actions to champion our rights, welfare and our enduring quest for justice.
As of the 17th of december, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad has already reached 12,577. Out of the 862 deaths recorded, 553 are in the Middle East.
O – Overburdened
The economic crisis which displaced almost half a million Filipino migrants did not even stop the Duterte regime from overburdening them with additional state exactions. Filipino groups from various communities banded together to oppose the mandatory Philhealth exaction and premium raise increase. Duterte’s neoliberal plot is meant to rob OFWs who are treated as milking cows to enrich the pockets of corrupt government officials and private recruitment agencies. During a House probe in September, it was revealed by a Philhealth auditor that 2.7 Million OFWs lost their premiums amounting to Php 1.3 Billion to a fraudulent scheme which went on under former Philhealth chief Ret. Brig. General Ricardo Morales, one of Duterte’s military cronies. Aside from the agency losing Php 154 Billion to ghost patients and deliveries in the previous years, it also had 5,000 plus ‘ghost’ members over the age of 130. No wonder the Duterte regime has been itching to impose the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike even when most Filipino migrants are afflicted by the effects of the pandemic and the global economic crisis.
V – Vulnerability
More than ever before, Filipino migrants have become more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and discrimination. Government officials primarily tasked to help and protect Filipino migrants are the first ones to maltreat and torment distressed OFWs. It has been a month since Philippine ambassador Marichu Mauro was caught on cam assaulting her Filipino aide and yet, Mauro remains scot-free. In Syria, 38 distressed OFWs were reported to be locked up under the Philippine Embassy’s basement. According to the OFWs, embassy officials have been demanding huge sums of money before they get allowed to be released. Their cries for help remain unheard. The Duterte regime’s inutility only magnifies the troubles faced by our dear kababayans.
I – Insecurity
Government figures likewise reveal that some 370,000 OFWs have already been repatriated and another 80,000 are expected to fly back to the Philippines due to the global crisis. Displaced Filipino migrants will be coming back to a country now flagged as the worst performing economy in Asia. The projected 13 % contraction from 2020 up to 2022 and even beyond is the gravest economic collapse ever since World War II. Duterte’s disastrous mismanagement of the economy has even surpassed downturn figures during the Marcos regime. Whacked by an 8.7 percent unemployment rate which is the highest in Southeast Asia, many Filipino repatriates are anxious to leave hastily and get back overseas.
D – Duterte’s Fascism
Despite the Duterte regime’s full knowledge of the economic hardships that are expected to persist in the coming years, Filipino migrants and their families are not going to get additional budget allocations for amelioration, legal assistance and welfare programmes next year. Instead, the Duterte regime is prioritizing to quench its maniacal thirst for death and destruction by aiming to hand out Php 19.1 Billion to its military cronies. This enormous amount of money is meant to persecute critics, Makabayan legislators and progressive groups. At present, members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives who have been active in pushing for the demands and needs of Filipino migrants are vilified and red tagged by Fascist stooges. Migrante leaders and members have become targets of state-sponsored persecution. The assassination of Migrante Iloilo founding organizer Jory Porquia attests to the Duterte regime’s blood freak madness. Freedom-loving Filipino migrants will never allow tyranny and impunity to prevail. We bid ourselves to action and resistance.
Against the dark order of oppression which has dispersed millions of migrants worldwide, Migrante International charges forward hand in hand with all our allies under the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) as we commemorate International Migrants Day today. Our enduring struggle in solidarity with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and members of the world diaspora remain unshakeable. We shall continue to resist Neoliberal and Fascist assaults that are detrimental to the rights and dignity of all migrants. Long live international solidarity!