For overseas Filipino workers facing innumerable woes in the Middle East, Duterte’s state visit to Israel poses a grave concern. Cimatu’s advanced arrival ahead of the presidential delegation and Duterte’s announcement of bringing along retiring military and police officials to discuss defence and security issues with Israel is turning out to be the real deal for the regime rather than the rights and welfare issues hounding Filipino workers in Israel.
The volatile situation in the Middle East due to the strife between archenemies Israel and Iran will be aggravated by Duterte’s visit. His manifold acquisition of Israeli-made weapons will certainly send strong signals towards Israel’s enemies in the region. As what we have seen in previous outbreaks of war, Filipino workers are often caught in harm’s way when their workplaces become battlefields between conflicting Middle Eastern armies.
For quite some time now, AFP has been stacking a considerable amount of arms sourced from Israeli arms suppliers. We are seeing how these acquired Israeli weapons are being utilized for Duterte’s Fascist agenda of violent repression and brutal carnage in the Philippines.
In exchange for more deals on arms importation and labour exportation, the Duterte regime is even willing to offer our natural resources for the exploitation of Israeli capitalists. An Israeli firm has been itching to seal its investment entry into our oil reserves under the Department of Energy’s modified Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program. The agreement is being arranged so that it will be signed before the presence of Duterte during his visit.
Duterte’s isolation in the international community after his fierce exchanges with significant UN personalities over the human rights situation in the country has earned him the backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Duterte and Netanyahu will likely negotiate for each other’s UN votes to shield them from criminal liabilities. In July 2017, the Philippines was one of only 3 countries that voted against a UNESCO resolution denouncing Israel’s destructive excavations in the eastern part of Jerusalem.
UN personalities were not spared from Duterte’s diatribes. He even threatened to slap UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard for denouncing extrajudicial killings in the country. Early this year, the Duterte regime through DOJ sought a terrorist-tag against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights. These among many other reasons moved UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein to urge Duterte to submit himself to a psychiatric evaluation. Zeid is part of the Jordanian royalty whose high-profile members are scheduled to meet Duterte in Jordan after he completes his itinerary in Israel. Last month, Duterte arrogantly warned that he will resume his verbal attacks against Zeid if Jordan fails to deliver on its promised choppers.
Instead of being too preoccupied with the Cobra helicopters from Jordan, Duterte should primarily work on the issues and concerns of Jordan’s 28,000 OFWs. According to a Jordanian news agency, almost 40 % of foreign domestic helpers in Jordan do not receive their salary on a regular basis. In Israel, many Filipino caregivers are charged by recruitment agencies with exorbitant amounts of brokerage fees. Despite these, we anticipate that any discussion with Israel and Jordan about Filipino workers is still geared towards augmenting the regime’s labour export program.
For blatantly using migrant issues as a cover-up for Duterte’s militarist objectives in his upcoming state visit to Israel, Filipino workers there must keep an eye on the regime’s diplomatic moves and expose all his self-serving agenda intended to perpetuate his reign of terror in the Philippines.