10 December 2023
On International Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), we in Migrante-International say that the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) amidst Israel’s US-backed genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza highlights the deplorable state of the human rights of OFWs and Filipino migrants.
First, OFWs and Filipino migrants were forced to leave the country to find employment abroad because of the lack of decent jobs in the Philippines — a result of the government’s overdependence on the world market and refusal to develop industries and agriculture.
The Philippine government has continuously failed to uphold Filipinos’ right to “just and favorable conditions of work,” stated in the UDHR and elaborated by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights or ICESCR, which emanated from the UDHR.
Furthermore, the Philippine government does little to ensure that the right to just and favorable conditions of work of OFWs and Filipino migrants are protected while they are abroad. In fact, it negotiates with foreign governments to ensure the opposite — that OFWs and Filipino migrants will serve as cheap labor in other countries.
Second, when the lives of OFWs in Gaza were endangered by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing operations and brutal ground warfare, the Philippine government was nowhere to be found to help them. The Philippine government under Ferdinand Marcos Jr even rejected calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, which could have sped up the repatriation of distressed OFWs from Gaza. Similar to the recent UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian ceasefire backed by many nations including members of the Security Council but shot down by United States.
The very right to life of OFWs in Gaza was imperiled, but the Philippine government failed to provide them protection, in violation of Article 23 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which drew from the UDHR and states: “Migrant workers… shall have the right to have recourse to the protection and assistance of the consular or diplomatic authorities of their State of origin… whenever the rights recognized in the present Convention are impaired.”
Third, after they were repatriated to the Philippines, OFWs from Gaza receive no significant support from the Philippine government, even as they continue to grapple with widespread unemployment and poverty in the country.
Repatriated OFWs experience not only the Philippine government’s failure to uphold Filipinos’ right to just and favorable conditions of work again, but also the Philippine government’s failure to uphold their right to protection against unemployment, which means social protection and is also stated in the UDHR.
OFWs and migrant Filipinos, whether they have returned to the Philippines or not, are also witness to the continuing deplorable state of human rights in the country under the Marcos Jr regime. Bombings of communities, abduction and harassment of activists, and other form or blatant human rights violations continue.
This International Human Rights Day, we OFWs and migrant Filipinos vow to intensify our struggles for our human rights, especially our efforts to push the Philippine government, the duty bearer in human rights discourse, to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all Filipinos. ###