Migrante International submits Filipino migrants’ rights petition to UN human rights body

Citing government neglect of Overseas Filipino Workers and the rampant extrajudicial killings in the country, Migrante International submitted its Global Petition of Filipino Migrants to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday, 9 July 2019. The petition aims to call the attention of the international body to the “gross human rights violations committed against Filipino migrants by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.”

The petition expressed support to the call of the 11 UN Special Rapporteurs for an independent investigation into the increasing rights violations in the country. Support for the call has been mounting. In 4 July, Iceland issued a draft resolution signed by 28 UN-member states asking the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to impose concrete actions on the killings linked to Duterte’s so called “war on drugs.”

Filipino migrants and families are not spared from extrajudicial killings perpetrated by state forces. In 16 August 2017, Kian delos Santos, a 17-year old son of a Saudi-based domestic helper was dragged across a dark alley beside the creek where he was brutally shot by police operatives. 

In the same month last year, OFW and cancer-patient Allan Rafael was mugged by Manila police during a checkpoint. He was then taken into custody for alleged possession of illegal drugs. According to Rafael’s family, the police’s allegations were based on planted fake evidence and his frail physical appearance. After being subjected to severe torture inside detention, he was declared dead after four days. Prior to his death, Rafael has been pale and weak after undergoing months of chemotherapy for his cancer ailment. 

Photo: Bulatlat

Several weeks after Rafael’s murder, President Duterte admitted before national television that his only “sin” are the extrajudicial killings. “Ang kasalanan ko lang, yung mga extrajudicial killings (My only sin are the extrajudicial killings),” Duterte confessed at a gathering in the Presidential palace in September 2018. Human rights groups say that the admission added weight to the preliminary investigations conducted by the International Criminal Court last year. 

Based on a document dubbed #RealNumbers released by the Philippine National Police (PNP), the death toll from the Duterte regime’s “war on drugs” has already exceeded 20,000 as of September 2017. Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion expressed her group’s outrage to the soaring number of killings that likewise hit the migrant sector. “Aside from the brutal state-sponsored killings and violence that struck OFW families back home, Filipino migrants are also battered by government-imposed attacks on our economic and social rights. It is high time that the United Nations respond to the outcry from the families victimized by the Duterte regime.”

The petition likewise cited the Duterte regime’s labour export program. “Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, President Duterte has intensified its economic policy of exporting its own people as cheap labor,” the petition stated.

“Through the Duterte regime’s labour export program, the government has been imposing unjust state exactions as its way of subjecting OFWs to legalized robbery. A Filipino migrant worker already wallows in debt even before she is deployed overseas and whenever they get mistreated abroad, they are often left neglected or coerced by government agencies to keep silent and relinquish their demands for justice, ” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lamented.

Furthermore, Migrante International brought up in the petition the 81 Filipino migrants currently on death row as well as the numerous cases of unsolved deaths and detention. The case of trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso was also raised as Philippine authorities continually refuse to allow her to give testimony. 

Violent attacks on human rights workers and progressive organizations were likewise presented in the petition. It says, “People’s organizations that have for decades defended and supported the rights and welfare of Filipino people and migrants are being systematically attacked through unscrupulous government regulations, red-tagging, financial witch-hunt and other forms of harassment.” 

“We demand an end to the violation of our collective human rights and hold the Duterte government accountable. We urgently plead with the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights violations committed by the Philippine Duterte government,” the petition concluded.

Signatures of Migrante International’s Executive Committee were indicated in the submitted petition. This is only the first submission as the group is continually gathering signatures worldwide to be submitted later to the UNHRC.. A copy was made available online after the petition’s official launching held in Hongkong on 30 June 2019 when hundreds of Filipino migrants and allies from other countries staged a protest action in Chater road and an indignation march before the Philippine Consulate.