We, Filipino workers in the Middle East, express our solidarity with the workers of the Philippines and the world in marking this year’s International Labor Day.
This is the second Labor Day under the Covid-19 pandemic, and the latter’s deleterious effects on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the Filipino workers and people have more fully unfolded. The pandemic exposed and heightened the adverse effects of the crisis of the world capitalist system, which is unable to recover from the 2007-2009 global financial and economic crisis.
While the pandemic devastated the world like a typhoon, it affected the Philippines like a super typhoon because of the good-for-nothing, treacherous, corrupt and fascist regime of Rodrigo Duterte. On International Labor Day 2021, we say: #DuterteResign!
Overseas Filipino Workers
The pandemic has exposed how migrant workers are some of the most vulnerable populations in society. Migrants have already been hard hit by the persisting economic crisis when the pandemic struck.
Under the pandemic, OFWs faced widespread retrenchment, the imposition of “no work, no pay” schemes, and delays and reductions in salaries. Because of these, they have lacked the money to send to their families at home, even to survive in receiving countries. OFWs went so far as to scavenge leftovers from the garbage heaps of grocery stores in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Their cramped accommodations have been further exposed as unhealthy. Employers who are abusive have become even more so during the pandemic. Meanwhile, many among those who have become jobless have become “stranded,” unable to return home.
The Duterte regime abandoned OFWs in a time of great need. Only a few OFWs received the much-ballyhooed financial assistance provided by the government. Many OFW families were also denied the same, as they were seen as better-off in life. Many embassies and consulates were closed when OFWs had many pressing concerns.
Worse than abandoning them, the Philippine government under Duterte continued to treat OFWs as milking cows. They are forced to pay PhilHealth contributions and other state exactions. They are also asked to pay for their PCR tests in returning to their jobs in receiving countries.
Filipino Workers and People
In the Philippines, Filipinos are dying of Covid-19, hunger, and violence — accountability for all of which can be traced to the Duterte regime. The Duterte regime’s pandemic response is most deplorable. It relied on NECQ, or Never Ending Community Quarantine and repression of the populace. It refused to heed demands for mass testing and contact-tracing. It was late to procure vaccines and carried out a turtle-paced vaccination program. As a result, the Philippines is now one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic.
The country is facing its worst jobs crisis in history, but the Duterte regime has no plans of creating jobs at home. Instead of this, it is heightening its implementation of its Labor Export Policy. It even had the gall to publicly propose that the country’s medical professionals be exchanged for vaccines from developed countries.
Instead of seeking to address the needs of OFWs and the Filipino workers and people, the Duterte regime is busy attacking critical and independent voices in the Philippines. Members and leaders of progressive organizations are subjected to red-tagging, harassment, illegal arrest and detention, and even extra-judicial killing. The media, lawyers, the elite opposition, and the Catholic Church have all been attacked.
At the same time, it is mobilizing the entire government as a propaganda machinery to save face and project a successful response to the pandemic. It is so desperate that it needed to compare the Philippines with India, the current face of a failed pandemic response. It was, however, proven wrong by experts: in terms of population size, the Philippines does not compare favorably with India.
The Duterte regime is also busy kowtowing to global powers to the detriment of the country’s sovereignty and territory. It asked money from the US in exchange for continuing the Visiting Forces Agreement. At the same time, it is allowing China to occupy and militarize territories being claimed by the Philippines.Pagkakaisa, Pagtutulungan, PaglabanIn the face of the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the inept response of the Duterte regime, the heroism of OFWs and the Filipino workers and people shone through in the various forms of unity, solidarity, mutual help, and struggle that they have launched and participated in. They engaged in “Pagkakaisa, Pagtutulungan at Paglaban.
”OFWs launched relief drives to help their compatriots who are most in need — those who were left jobless and had no food on their tables. They expanded their support for fellow OFWs who are in distress, who faced abuse at work, and who are “stranded” in receiving countries. OFWs are glad to see the same spirit in the community pantries that are sprouting all over the Philippines.
OFWs also continued to expose the government’s criminal culpability for the increase in the number of people who have become sick and have died because of Covid-19. Because of the collective action of OFWs and Filipinos, the Duterte regime was forced to rescind the mandatory increase in PhilHealth contributions. They fought for financial assistance for distressed and stranded OFWs, as well as for scientific, efficient and pro-people responses to the pandemic.
The pandemic has further showed OFWs and the Filipino workers and people that they cannot rely on the Duterte regime to address their problems and uphold their rights and interests. It has further showed us the need for collective action for our plight to be exposed, for our problems to be addressed, and for us to achieve our immediate and long-term demands.
In this light, we are calling on fellow OFWs, the Filipino workers and people to form and join unions and organizations that fight for their rights and interests. We encourage them to engage in various forms of collective action for these. OFWs and the Filipino workers and people are calling for various forms of immediate assistance, for vaccination and other health measures against the pandemic, for the creation of decent jobs at home, for a stop to the Duterte regime’s human-rights violations and attacks, for concrete measures to uphold Philippine sovereignty against dictates of the US and China.
We vow to intensify our pagkakaisa, pagtutulungan at paglaban for our rights and interests, and against the good-for-nothing and fascist Duterte regime, which has caused so much suffering, death and destruction among OFWs and the Filipino workers and people.
Tama na! Sobra na! #DutertePalpakTraydor, Layas!###