Press Statement
01 February 2024

The recent exchange of accusations between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and former President Rodrigo Duterte is no doubt entertaining. It also makes us ask: what will they do next? Will the Filipino migrants and people really benefit from this word war between representatives of two factions of the ruling elite? 

As far as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Filipino migrants are concerned, Marcos Jr is still Duterte’s minion. The incumbent president has not done anything of significance to distance himself from his predecessor. 

While Duterte did not directly endorse Marcos Jr in the 2022 elections, we Filipino migrants know that his entire machinery — political, grassroots, publicity, among others — supported the son of the former dictator. To a large extent, Marcos Jr owes the presidency to Duterte.

After being elected, Marcos Jr simply followed Duterte’s policies on Filipino migrants. He operationalized the Department of Migrant Workers, the creation of which Duterte signed into law. He stepped up the implementation of the government’s labor export program to make up for the reduction in OFW deployment caused by the pandemic. He continued the harassment of migrant activists. 

Marcos Jr also continued treating migrant Filipinos as milking cows, retaining state exactions from migrants while reducing budget allocations for migrants’ rights and welfare. After 13 years, drug trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso remains in prison in Indonesia. Even positive initiatives like the proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers is corrupted by anti-seafarer provisions such as those delaying seafarers’ receipt of money claims which they already won in courts.

Duterte, at least, is memorable for Filipino migrants for his feel-good rhetoric about making the next generation of Filipinos work in the Philippines and for extending the validity of Philippine passports from five to 10 years.  Duterte, however, is perhaps the worst president after Edsa 1986. Most Filipinos now realize, and the world knows, that the Filipino migrants and people suffered a lot under his rule. Marcos Jr has an advantage over Duterte — he is still in power and can still do many things, especially in winning over the Filipino migrants and people against Duterte. 

We therefore dare Marcos Jr: prove that you are not a Duterte minion anymore, and prove it in action, not mere words. Provide migrant Filipinos with some immediate relief with regard to the issues raised above. Junk state exactions and increase budget allocations for migrant services, for example. Work to abolish labor-only contracting, create decent jobs at home by developing the country’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

In the Philippines and the world, Duterte is known for human rights violations. This is an area where Marcos Jr can show his difference from Duterte. The victims of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations deserve justice. Ferdinand Marcos is also a big-time human rights violator, and nothing he can do to help rewrite history and rebrand the Marcos family name. 

Marcos Jr needs to carry out actions and policies favorable to the Filipino migrants and people and to demonstrate his difference from Duterte. If he fails to do these, the current word war is just noisy politicking among the ugliest factions of the ruling elite who are gunning for electoral positions this early. If he fails to do these, he continues to be Duterte’s minion. ###