December 10, 2021
Today’s commemoration of International Human Rights Day highlights deception, repression, corruption, militarization, manipulation and other forms of violation of human rights. This is how Filipino migrants branded Duterte in his six years in office as President of the Philippines. OFWs and ordinary Filipinos were hoodwinked with his propaganda of genuine change which has been skillfully managed by his troll machinery on social media until now. Alas, the people’s aspirations for a better life with peace, justice, economic opportunities, free from repression and all basic human rights were all a sham. All the sweet promises can now be considered, “It’s a prank!”
This worsening human rights situation in the Philippines will not be allowed by Filipino migrants and we will continue to struggle for genuine national democracy in the country until such time where migration no longer forces us to leave our loved ones behind in order to survive.
The hasty passing of the Anti-Terror Law in 2020 has legitimized the extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders, massacres of peasants, red-tagging and vilification of indigenous peoples, church workers, journalists, lawyers, teachers including overseas Filipinos. The recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the petition of human rights groups against the constitutionality of many provisions of ATL has nailed HRV victims on the cross. For instance, provisions that allow authorities to detain people for up to 24 days without charges, allows the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate terrorists at will and freeze their assets, allows authorities to detain persons already out on bail incommunicado in the guise of house arrest, and other draconian provisions.
Duterte’s Labor Export Program clearly violates one of the declarations in the Universal Human Rights that states, “No slavery. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Migrante International has reported mounting cases of abuse of OFWs. Constancia Dayag, a 47-year-old domestic worker who started working in Kuwait in 2016, was tortured and killed by her employer. Her family in the Philippines complained of the government’s slow response and refusal to provide information. At the same time, various cases emerged that highlighted the toll that labor migration, as a form of modern-day slavery, takes on the mental health of migrants. This is compounded by the lack of free healthcare services, especially with regard to mental health.
Poor working and living conditions push OFWs to fight back, but when they do, they are subjected to various attacks — from being jailed to getting killed. According to a report of the Department of Foreign Affairs, there were 73 OFWs on death row in 2017, there were 48 Filipinos on death row in Malaysia alone, while up to 4,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails across the world. Abuse, exploitation and abandonment of migrants and OFWs’ protection of welfare rights and welfare continue while the Duterte government’s mouthpiece DOLE and OWWA carry on their fake promises such the long-overdue unpaid salaries and benefits of OFWs retrenched from work from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All they are concerned about is collecting excessive government fees on departing OFWs but when the latter reach their country of destination they are simply dumped and deserted.
Undoubtedly, Duterte’s tyranny was executed in the first ever campaign of repression of migrant rights defenders through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which was created after the passing of the Anti-Terror Law in 2020. It held seminars that red-tagged Migrante International and other progressive organizations fighting for the rights of migrants and the Filipino people and was critical of the Duterte government.
The following is a record of Migrante International 9 global chapters that witnessed the appointment of military personnel in various embassies or consulates of countries with a significant OFW population: 1) In Abu Dhabi in the UAE, the first defense attaché office in the Gulf Cooperation Council states was created in February 2021; 2) In Hong Kong, the NTF-ELCAC used a local group of Duterte supporters to red-tag leaders of progressive organizations who were opposing the mandatory PhilHealth premium increase. They also tried to disrupt activities expressing opposition to the increase; 3) In Taiwan, the Labor Attaché himself went to the house of a Filipina domestic worker to harass and intimidate her after posting a video critical of the Duterte regime’s handling of the pandemic; 4) The PNP created its outposts in the US, which ask the public to report “criminal activities” or any concerns; 5) In Australia, the NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. himself, together with Duterte supporters in the country, attempted to sabotage forums critical of the Duterte regime’s policies; 6) In New Zealand, leaders of unions and Migrante Aotearoa were red-tagged by individuals connected with the Philippine government; 7) In Canada, there is increased surveillance by the Philippine consulate on activities of progressive and opposition groups; 8) In Toronto and Vancouver, consulate officials are taking videos and photos of protests in front of their offices; 9) Progressive Filipino organizations and leaders in the US were red-tagged by government-sponsored Facebook Pages and webinars.
Nonetheless, overseas Filipinos have empowered themselves to protect their own rights and welfare. OFWs have developed a strong migrants’ movement to advance their 10-Point Electoral Agenda as a platform of governance for the 2022 presidential, vice presidential and senatorial aspirants. Let us not allow Duterte to remain in power as a means to protect himself from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The same campaign is held to stop Sara Duterte, Bong Go and Marcos Jr since they will be used for the same purpose.
We call on the ICC to continue the investigation on the crimes of Duterte as a result of his war on drugs that killed thousands of innocent lives. We seek for the restoration of peace talks in order to attain just peace and live in a humane and decent society.
Finally, we have the responsibility and commitment to defend our basic human rights. Enough of plunderers, killers, and traitors to our sovereignty and who sell out our country to foreign capitalists and imperialists! ##