No mention of OFWs in Aquino’s SONA speaks volumes

For Migrante International, Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s failure to address the sorry state of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) is telling.

“It could only mean two things: Aquino had no gall to brag about so-called achievements for our 12 to 15 million overseas Filipinos when there really were none, or it was an admission that the government had done nothing and has no plans to alleviate the dismal state of OFWs,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that unlike previous SONAs speeches, this year’ SONA did not even bother to belie the government’s implementation of a labor export policy, nor did it extol concerned agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

He said that while they are admittedly “dismayed” by the non-mention of OFWs, they were not expecting much from the SONA. “Hindi na kayang magpanggap ng gobyerno sa usapin ng mga OFWs. Lantad na lantad na kasi ang kasinungalingan at kawalang-aksyon nito para protektahan at bigyang-serbisyo ang mga kababayan natin sa ibang bansa.”

”Despite his promises and posturing, without doubt, Aquino is cut out of the same mold as a modern-day slave trader. Increasingly millions of migrants Filipinos are seeing through this.  For OFWs, wala namang nagbago. We now see Aquino’s promises and posturing for what they are. Lies, nothing but lies,” Martinez said.

He added that what they would have wanted to hear was “a categorical statement that the government would decisively deviate from a policy of labor export by creating domestic jobs, addressing massive landlessness and providing much-needed social services”.

There is no genuine service and welfare protection for OFWs, he said. “Because of the Aquino administration’s desperation to further seek job markets abroad due to the country’s worsening economic situation brought about by its unreformed policies, its only recourse has been to intensify its labor export program. It has become clearer that the labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which the government profits, at the expense of OFWs’ rights and welfare.”

 OFWs condemn violent dispersal

Migrante International also condemned in strongest terms the violent dispersal by police forces at yesterday’s SONA protests. At least four members of Migrante were rushed to the hospital while a dozen of its members were injured.

“What we were able to showcase yesterday was an overwhelming show of unity and assertion of our rights. It was brought on by primarily by the police’s illegal blockade of the rally. Hindi pwedeng tuwing na lang SONA ay sila ang magdidikta kung hanggang saan lang ang mamamayan,” Martinez said.

“Let yesterday be a message that OFWs, together with the people, are more than ready to defend and uphold their rights.”

Migrante International will be filing charges against the police for the violent dispersal. ###