OFWs remember martial law

On September 21, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families joined other sectors in commemorating the 39th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, the best way to remember martial law is to emulate the heroism and activism of the earlier generation who fought during a time when the country was in political and economic turmoil and human rights violations ran rampant.

“Now, 39 years later, nothing much has changed. The same conditions that have prompted those before us to fight against poverty, abuses and exploitation remain, and have gotten worse – unprecedented oil price hikes, tax impositions, demolitions of urban poor communities and lack of social services. Human rights violations by state perpetrators are also worsening,” Martinez said.

“There is clearly still a need to fight for social change. Pres. Aquino’s mantra of ‘pagbabago’ has long left the nation empty-handed and disillusioned. The country’s conditions are indeed changing, but for the worse.”

He cited the budget cuts on direct services for OFWs as one manifestation of the Aquino government’s abandonment of social services in favor of military spending and debt-servicing.

In the 2012 National Expenditure Program, direct services for OFWs will only get a 0.17% share of the P1.8 trillion budget. This translates to a measly P261.83 per capita spending for the 12 million OFWs around the world. Military-spending and debt-servicing, on the other hand, get increases for their already fat share.

Budget cuts were made in items directly used for legal assistance for OFWs, repatriation and other funds needed to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of OFWs and their families.

“Migrants’ rights are human rights. But like Marcos, Aquino is more concerned with exporting and exploiting cheap labor of our OFWs in exchange for remittances. When it comes to their rights and welfare our OFWs are in an era darker than during martial law,” he said.

The labor export policy was first institutionalized by former president Marcos in an effort to curb the economic crisis and to suppress dissent brought about by lack of jobs, low wages and landlessness.

“Post-Marcos regimes continued to implement labor export and Aquino is now keen on making it more sophisticated and systematic at the expense of OFWs’ rights.”

It is clear in Aquino’s priorities and stance on people’s rightful demands that he is no different from Marcos, Martinez said. “OFWs and their families here and abroad are now more than ever geared to fight for social change to end labor export and exploitation of our rights. We will continue the fight of our martial law heroes.” ###