This year’s International Workers’ Day is the second under the Covid-19 pandemic and second to the last under the regime of Rodrigo Duterte.
While the pandemic has negatively affected all working peoples of the world, the Duterte regime has enabled it to become a disaster and a nightmare for us Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), our families, and all working Filipinos.
Due to the pandemic, many OFWs faced mass layoffs, work reduction and wage cuts. While more than 500,000 OFWs have returned home and joined the ranks of the unemployed in the Philippines, a significant number of OFWs, especially in the Middle East, are still stranded and await repatriation by the government. They are battling not only death by Covid-19, but death by hunger.
Many OFWs failed to receive the meager financial assistance publicized by the Duterte regime, while many OFW families, considered by the government as well-off, were denied such assistance. During a time of great need, many Philippine embassies abroad were closed and OFWs were left hanging with their cries for help. The regime still had the gall to impose a mandatory increase in our contributions to the corrupt PhilHealth — which it was forced to take back only after widespread condemnation from OFWs and Filipinos.
While it rightly uses OFW funds to pay for the quarantine of returning or on-leave OFWs, it has unnecessarily quarantined OFWs for several days and has squandered public funds because of its inefficiency in Covid-19 testing: its delays in swab testing and in releasing the results of such tests.More than one year into the pandemic, the Duterte regime still has no response to the pressing problems that OFWs and Filipino workers face. Indeed, #DutertePalpak!
(1) Despite record-high and still-increasing unemployment and various social needs, it has no plan to create jobs in the country. It is in fact intensifying the implementation of the government’s Labor Export Policy or LEP, even offering medical professionals to developed countries one time in exchange for vaccines.
(2) Despite huge borrowings from abroad, it does not provide reasonable assistance to laid-off OFWs, their families, and poor Filipinos — and therefore inadvertently exposes itself as most corrupt.
(3) Despite lessons from various countries and scientific studies, it still refuses to heed the public clamor for mass testing and contact-tracing.It is therefore unsurprising that for many OFWs and working Filipinos, 2021 feels like 2020, only worse. Covid-19 cases and deaths are again surging, hospitals are overwhelmed, and lockdowns and restrictions are again being re-imposed. Unemployment is highest in history, financial assistance remains so meager, and hunger and poverty are widespread. The hope provided by the rollout of vaccines is being dimmed by the regime’s delayed procurement, politicized priorities, and refusal to educate the public.
One year into the pandemic, the Duterte regime’s approach is now very clear. It does not want to address the needs of OFWs and Filipino workers, it wants to silence those who are giving voice and responding to these needs. Critical and independent voices — from those who are speaking out for OFWs and workers’ demands to those who are directly helping them, recently in the form of community pantries — are targeted for vilification and attacks, for red-tagging and human-rights violations, including illegal arrest and detention and extra-judicialkilling.
While the Duterte regime brutalizes OFWs and their advocates and families in the Philippines, together with workers and the poor, it defends the incompetent (like Health Secretary Francisco Duque), the violators of health protocols among the wealthy and powerful (like police chief Debold Sinas), the corrupt (like former PhilHealth chiefRicardo Morales), the callous (like presidential spokesperson Harry Roque), and the wicked, irresponsible and well-funded (like the NTF-ELCAC) in government.
It continues to kowtow to global powers in the most abominable manner. It recently asked money from the US in exchange for continuing the Visiting Forces Agreement, which violates the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Worse, it allows and justifies China’s occupation and militarization of parts of the West Philippine Sea that are being claimed by the Philippines — yet another violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In this context, OFWs and their families are calling for the following: decent jobs in the Philippines, immediate cash relief of P10,000 for poor families, wage relief of P100, free healthcare services to all Filipinos, an end to human-rights violations, and government actions to assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea dispute.
At the same time, the main demand of OFWs and their families this Labor Day 2021 is: Duterte resign!
The Philippines is at rock bottom and the only way for the country to recover is to remove #DutertePalpak from the presidency. Duterte’s supposed popularity, among OFWs and other sectors of society, has been shattered long ago and now relies on the threadbare illusion being created by his internet and real-life trolls. If he will not resign, he will face being ousted by the broadening and intensifying opposition of workers, OFWs and the Filipino people.Enough of joblessness, poverty, hunger, sickness, and death!
Enough of this incompetent, murderous, corrupt and neocolonial regime! End this regime of death and destruction, deviltry and darkness! ###