Migrante International’s message of solidarity to Migrante Europe on its 2nd Congress (8 December 2019)

With warm militant greetings, Migrante International sends its best wishes to all chapters and member organizations of Migrante Europe as it holds its 2nd Congress this 8th of December 2019 with the theme, “Expand and strengthen our unity! Promote and defend the rights and welfare of Filipinos and their families in Europe and abroad! Contribute and participate in the struggle for national freedom and democracy!”

This day marks an important milestone in our history since it also coincides with the exact date when Migrante Philippines and Migrante Youth were founded two years ago as a result of persistent organizing among repatriates, OFW families and would-be migrants. Our work of reaching out to more Filipino migrant workers and their families is more significant than ever in light of the mounting waves of peoples’ resistance we now see in many parts of the world. 

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Before us lies an enormous mission of contributing to the national democratic struggle in the Philippines by bolstering the numbers of organized youth, women and unionized workers. There is also a pressing need to encourage more Filipino compatriots to dedicate an extensive period of time for mass work and integration in the homefront. 

With blatant corruption and neoliberal wreckage in the Philippines, Duterte’s bluster can never conceal the exacerbating blight that afflicts swelling numbers of Filipinos. According to the latest SWS survey, an estimated 10 million Filipinos found themselves jobless in the third quarter of 2019. Unemployment rate accelerated at 21.5 percent. This does not even take into account those workers who are paid starvation wages and continually stricken by contractualization. 

Meanwhile, farmers in the countryside bewail Duterte’s rice liberalization law that opened the floodgates of the country to unrestrained rice importations. It is quite clear that the Duterte regime has no intention of addressing the roots of forced migration through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform. As a result, more and more Filipinos are driven to the far ends of the Earth in their longing to survive and bring food to the table for their loved ones. 

In their moments of distress, they are only met with government negligence as in the case of Abu Dhabi based OFW Mary Jean Alberto whose bereaved family is still deprived of justice. The Philippine government has proven time and again that it only looks at OFWs as milking cows through various state exactions and their remittances to salvage a depressed domestic economy.  

As the crisis in the Philippines escalates, the US-Duterte regime is unleashing the most hideous features of its despotic rule. Recently, combined forces of AFP and PNP stormed the offices of progressive mass organizations in Bacolod, illegally arresting 57 activists and rights workers. Conjugated with a de-facto Martial Law through Executive Order 70 which warrants a Whole-of-Nation-Approach, the US-Duterte regime has no other aim but to quell dissent and persecute progressive voices that have been resolute in raising the legitimate demands and grievances of the long-oppressed Filipino people. 

In the face of the Duterte regime’s ruthless acts of terror, we will neither shrink nor cower. We confronted the regime’s attack dogs and asserted our rights thereby leading to the release of almost all of those who were illegally arrested in Bacolod. This tells us that only by being steadfast in our actions and principles can we truly fight for the rights and welfare of those victimized by a rotten and unjust system that ceaselessly drags our country to perdition.

Duterte’s latest termination or removal of Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs just two weeks after her appointment only goes to show that the regime has everything to hide just to protect big time drug criminals like Michael Yang, Allan Lim, Peter Lim, Peter Co and Kerwin Espinosa whom the regime has attempted to absolve numerous times. 

Verily, the fake war on drugs is nothing but a brutal war being waged against the poor and with the apparent intention of annihilating Duterte’s rivals in the drug trade. We will not mince words to reiterate that Duterte is the supreme drug lord and chief benefactor of big time drug criminals in the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, Duterte’s approbation of US imperialist hegemony in our national affairs and China’s incursion into our territorial waters paves the way for more plunder of our resources and violation of our sovereign rights. The regime is out here salivating after more loans to finance its tyrannical ambitions. 

The people’s mass actions in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and elsewhere bid us to register our strong support in their battle against Fascism and neoliberalism. Your presence as Filipino compatriots in countries far and wide is essential in bannering international solidarity for all the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world who valiantly wage the struggle against imperialism. It is also a head start in exposing the crimes of the US-Duterte regime through extensive international lobbying work in your respective host countries.    

In all our militant pursuits, it is therefore imperative that we commit ourselves to cultivating a deeper understanding of what these are all about and that is no other than to SERVE THE PEOPLE! Rouse then and gird your armour on! Let us press forward in one accord with all the toiling Filipino masses as we clear the path for a future where no family will ever be torn apart for the need to survive. Boldly advance the struggle of Filipino migrants for national democracy and social justice. 

 

End forced migration!

Stop labour export!

Oust the US-Duterte regime!

 

Long live Migrante Europe!

Long live Migrante International!

Long live the Filipino people!

 

Migrante International on Bonifacio Day: Filipino migrants and OFW families unite in the struggle against the Duterte regime’s Neoliberal and Fascist attacks

Seeking to liberate the Philippines from centuries of Spanish colonial bondage, Gat Andres Bonifacio along with other revolutionary minded Filipinos founded the Katipunan. 156 years after his birth, many Filipinos continue to derive inspiration from the father of the Philippine revolution. As we look back on his heroic life, we pay our highest tribute and homage to Andres Bonifacio for being a true patriot and a hero of the working class.

From the ranks of the oppressed masses, the Katipunan multiplied in great numbers and rallied the Filipino people to rise up and mount an armed revolution against an enormous global colonial power. Andres Bonifacio’s love for the downtrodden Filipinos and his abhorrence of the injustices inflicted against them ignited that burning desire within him to offer his life for the cause of national liberation. In martyrdom, he was murdered by the cohorts of Emilio Aguinaldo who is a traitor corrupted by personal ambitions. 

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PHOTO: Painting from Museo ng Katipunan

Centuries after the beginning of the colonial onslaught in the Philippines, our country today continues to be a subject of foreign domination and semicolonial woes. Unlike Bonifacio’s Katipunan, which was founded by Filipinos, the US-Duterte regime’s very own Armed Forces of the Philippines was founded by Americans in 1935 to protect US interests and is currently based in its main military headquarters Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo appropriately named after the eternally damned traitor who ordered the execution of Andres Bonifacio. 

Aguinaldo’s level of treachery is exhibited by the despotic rule of President Rodigo Duterte. This regime brazenly places our country as a trampling ground for the predatory neoliberal interests of both US and China. As bargaining chips, Filipino workers are likewise peddled to be exploited as cheap and docile workers under its rotten labour export program. To secure more loans and induce a higher credit rating, Duterte is hell-bent on imposing more burdensome state exactions on OFWs next year including the mandatory SSS and the higher Philhealth premium rate in compliance with his fraudulent Universal Health Care Law. 

The impending creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos a few weeks from now would further facilitate the upward siphoning of OFW monetary contributions to subsidize private profit. SSS has already expressed as early as two years ago its lechery in investing a part of its fund for Duterte’s floundering Build Build Build program. On top of that, big privately-owned healthcare facilities including dialysis centres have been amassing tons of money from Philhealth over the years through scandalous “ghost treatments.”

Amidst the extractivist plunder of our natural resources for big foreign corporate gain, the lives of Filipino workers linger in darkness as they are deprived of national minimum wage and employment security. With a staggering 21.5 percent unemployment rate as revealed in the latest SWS survey, the number of jobless Filipinos soared to 10 million, the highest in Southeast Asia. This does not even include those who are forever in the cyclical peril of losing their jobs due to contractualization. In addition, the livelihood of millions of farmers are jeopardized due to Duterte’s Rice Liberalization Law which is apparently favourable to big comprador developers and wealthy land grabbers. 

Like millions of OFWs, the agonizing socio-economic injustices in the country banished Mary Jane Veloso and Mary Jean Alberto into the farthest corners of the Earth in their desire to support their loved ones back home. As the former languishes in prison, the latter was sent back to the country inside a box. Their tragedies point to the government’s negligence and apathy towards Filipinos in distress. The deliberate impoverishment of the Filipino people by the local ruling class and the country’s neo-colonial subjugation by foreign imperialist powers tell us that the strife against the dark forces is far from over. 

The same maladies that Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros sought to vanquish not only persist to this very day, but have been transmuted into the more fatal schemes of neoliberalism and Fascism. Millions upon millions of our people groan in the mire of scarcity and absence of social services while the wealthy few delight in their ill-gotten spoils. 

More than just ritualizing our commemoration of Andres Bonifacio, may we truly honour his heroism by forging ahead with his unfinished revolution and advance the cause of national liberation and democracy. In loyal service to the Filipino masses, let us follow in his footsteps and unite in this great struggle. From the pueblos of Chile and Bolivia, to the streets of Palestine and the Philippines, let us join hands with all freedom-loving people of the world in the global revolt against neoliberalism, Fascism and imperialism. 

Long live Gat Andres Bonifacio! 

Long live the national democratic struggle! 

Long live the Filipino people! 

“Justice for Mary Jean Alberto and her family!” – Migrante International on the day of Mary Jean’s burial

For a 44-year old single parent like Mary Jean Alberto, seeing her children complete their education and attain a bright future was her greatest desire. However, realizing a comfortable life for her family was just so impossible in a country where workers are afflicted with unstable jobs and depressed wages. 

Parting from the warm embrace of her loved ones, Mary Jean Alberto decided to leave for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on 7 July 2019. Her sons Rojan and Ronel were hopeful that when life gets better, they will all be reunited again. Little did they know that it would be the last time they get to see her alive. Just a few hours from the time that she sent her messages of distress, pleading to be rescued from the hands of her employer, she was declared dead on 2 October 2019. It was none other than Mary Jean’s employer who revealed it to her family by phone. 

Justice for Jean by Migrante

According to the employer, Mary Jean killed herself by jumping from the 13th floor unit of the high rise building where she was working. The world crumbled for the Alberto family upon finding out the gruesome death of their mother. For somebody who has always been known as a stouthearted and a resolute woman, her bereaved family refused to believe that Mary Jean committed suicide. Her daughter Rohjean who is also an OFW in UAE recounted the joyous time she spent with her mother just a few days before her death. 

It took eleven days before the Philippine embassy offered help to the family. By that time, pieces of evidence that could have provided answers surrounding her death were already cleared by the employer. Rojan, Ronel and Mary Jean’s ailing mother Nanay Flordeliza received her back inside a casket. In their great sorrow and anguish, they demand justice for their slain. How was it that the path which they thought would lead to the fulfillment of their dreams brought so much pain, agony and even death? How many deaths will have to occur before the government wakes up from its slumber and correct its unrelenting negligence?

Migrante International is one with the Alberto family in seeking justice for Mary Jean. They want the perpetrator to be brought to justice. Her tragic case points to government apathy and the absence of a clearly laid out program to assist OFW victims and their troubled families. The Alberto family should get assistance and negligent government officials should be held accountable.

Mary Jean’s supporters and concerned residents in her community understand the correlation of her death along with the issues faced by OFWs wretched by the government’s corrupt labour export programme to the overall problem of the Filipino people battered by the unaddressed roots of forced migration and underdevelopment. 

The strong resolve of  Mary Jean’s loved ones, friends and fellow residents in the community to unite in this time of grief is not merely an observance of a sacred custom but their conscious wielding of solidarity to struggle for justice. 

As long as genuine services to OFWs are absent and the Philippine government continually denies Filipino workers with regular employment and living wages, justice will remain elusive for Mary Jean Alberto and to all Filipino migrants in distress.  

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“Free Bacolod 57! No to Duterte’s de-facto Martial Law!” — Migrante International

In the strongest terms, Migrante International condemns the sweeping arrests of 57 activists and rights workers in Bacolod City based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence. The raids were conducted by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police storming the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). 

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Photo: Kodao

Among those arrested is Anne Kreuger, an organizer for the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN)  and a field staff of Paghimutad, an alternative media outfit based in Negros. She was arrested during her stay at Gabriela’s Bacolod office. Anne Kreuger was a close friend of Henry Acorda, the OFW slain in Slovakia. In 2018, Anne worked closely with Migrante and the Acorda family to seek justice for her friend Henry. Friends and loved ones of Henry are grateful to Anne for her selfless efforts on behalf of the victim and his family. Deplorably, the Duterte regime repays justice advocates like Anne with cruelty and imprisonment. 

 

Just a day before the round-up, NCRPO Acting Regional Director Debold Sinas conducted a ‘dialogue’ at the Quezon City Hall of Justice with Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert who then issued the ludicrous search warrants brandished by state forces on the night of the raid. Previous warrants issued by Villavert also led to the arrests of other rights defenders and peace advocates like Vic Ladlad and Esterlita Suaybaguio. In this most recent case, we can’t help but ask why a Quezon City court would issue a warrant intended for distant locations in the Visayas. This menacing pattern of warrants-with-wings clearly points to abuse of power and authority.

As for Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s stubborn insistence that the arrested activists are members of the New People’s Army, we can attribute this to his main function of overseeing Malacañang’s factory of lies. Andanar as well as the rest of Duterte’s minions wallow in their delusion that they can keep fooling the people forever by adhering to Goebbels’ propaganda technique of repeating colossal falsehoods. The people know better and no amount of concealment will bury the glaring ills of a country sinking deeper into crisis.

Migrante International likewise denounces the arrest of Cora Agovida (Gabriela-Metro Manila), and Michael Tan Bartolome (Kadamay-Metro Manila). The couple was arrested and detained on Thursday along with their children aged 2 and 10. Along with Bacolod 57, we are calling for their immediate release and an end to the spate of arrests and killings in the province. 

Since Duterte came into power, the death toll from the extrajudicial killings of activists in Negros has already climbed to 85 as butchers from AFP and PNP enforce his Executive Order No. 70 which later spawned Memorandum Order No. 32. Under these impositions, the islands of Samar, Negros and the entire Bicol region are now under de-facto Martial Law. Furthermore, EO70 institutionalized the regime’s whole-of-nation-approach through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) wherein the Duterte regime has been using government resources to denigrate Migrante International and other progressive organizations among members of various Filipino communities abroad by maliciously tagging them as fronts of the CPP-NPA. 

Without a doubt, the unjust operation in Bacolod against activists and rights workers demonstrates the savage desire of the Duterte regime to quell dissent and persecute progressive organizations that raise the upright demands of the impoverished sectors of Philippine society. If the Duterte regime believes that unhampered tyranny will obliterate our collective struggle for national democracy, he is clearly mistaken. Looking at the course of events in different parts of the world, Duterte is already trembling at the boiling contempt of the masses in his own backyard. 

We will not stand idly as the Duterte regime tramples on our rights to freely organize and express grievances against an unjust system of tyranny and oppression. None of these mass arrests, raids, and killings will silence the outcry of the Filipino people against the Duterte regime’s despotic rule. ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We shall overcome! 

 

Drop trumped-up charges!

Free Negros 57!

Stop planting of evidence!

Resist crackdown!
Free all political prisoners!

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The continuing injustice on Mary Jean Alberto and her family

Mary Jean Balag-ey Alberto (Jean), an Igorot, is a forty-four year old OFW and a single mother of three who fell to her death from the 13th floor of a residential building in Abu Dhabi, UAE where she was working. The Alberto family is not convinced that she committed suicide as what the employer claims. According to her children, based on the messages of their mother hours before her death, she was desperate to be rescued because the Moroccan employer attempted to strangle her. Mary Jean Alberto is a victim of exploitation, abuse and maltreatment.

Blind and ailing mother of Mary Jean

Flordeliza Balag-ey, the blind and ailing mother of Maty Jean Alberto laments the tragedy that befell her daughter. The family, supporters and Migrante held a protest action at the Department of Foreign Affairs before proceeding to the airport to claim the remains of Mary Jean.

As her remains arrive today, her family demands that the perpetrator for her tragic death should be brought to justice. Her children are indignant that it took 11 days before the Philippine Embassy was able to help them. By that time, the Moroccan employer has already cleared all traces of possible evidence that might have provided more details about the tragedy surrounding her death. They are also dismayed at the insensitivity of government personnel and the limited assistance that the government is providing them in this time of grief. Until now, the Alberto family is desperate on how to cope with the financial needs on laying their loved one to eternal rest.

Highlights:

  • The family rejects the employer’s account of their mother’s death. For them, their mother did not commit suicide since she wanted to be rescued alive from her employer’s house. Just days before her death, Rohjean, eldest child who is also based in UAE, was with her mother and they were happy.
  • Jean is a victim of abuse and maltreatment by her employer. She rarely got the chance to have rest days and she was being overworked very often from 5:00 am to 3:00 am.
  • Cries for help were sent by Jean as messages to Rohjean and Marie (Jean’s sister who is also working in Abu Dhabi) just hours before her death.
  • Her bereaved family continues to struggle in looking for the financial means to provide a decent burial for Jean once she arrives.
  • The Alberto family regards the many hurdles imposed by government agencies as part of the injustice they are facing. At a time of their grief, their pain could have been somewhat alleviated if they and other OFWs and families in distress are receiving comprehensive support from the government and its agencies.
  • Like 90% of OFWs who came to UAE with tourist visas, Jean took the risk in working abroad just to support her family.

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Timeline of significant events:

October 1 – Jean talked to her youngest son Rojan asking him if he likes her mother to just book a ticket and fly back home to the Philippines. It was also the last time her sister Marie would receive messages from her. Jean was desperately crying for help after the employee attempted to strangle her.

October 2 – Rojan, Marie and Rohjean lost contact from Jean. Rohjean then contacted the Moroccan employer thru Whatsapp to inquire about her mother. At 3:52 PM, Rohjean received a message from the employer who replied, “Your mom she died today morning.” News of Jean’s death came less than 24 hours after she sent distressed messages pleading to be rescued from her Moroccan employer.

When Rohjean called the employer, a relative of the employer talked to her and told her to meet them to explain what happened. Rohjean and Marie waited long for the employer but was only messaging them that their “on the way”. They just decided to rush to the Philippine Embassy.

At the Philippine Embassy they were able to talk to an ATN officer. They shared the information and they have and sought for their assistance. They were told that the Embassy has not yet received any report from local authorities. They were only adviced to confirm the sad news from the employer directly. They were only provided with a general email address of the embassy and instructed to send a copy of Jean’s passport.

When Rohjean was called by the employer, she just told her to meet them at the police station. At the Shabiya police station the employer explained that Jean jumped from the 13th floor Shams Meera Tower Al Reem, her employers’ residence, and committed suicide. Jean’s employer also claimed that they were sleeping the whole time in their bedroom at the 13th floor and they only heard the thud sound when she fell. The employer also bragged to the police that the employer is willing to help Rohjean financially and the other needs of Jean’s family.

When Rohjean talked to a police officer, he confirmed that Jean passed away and the report was suicide. Rohjean explained that they strongly believe that she didn’t commit suicide because of her last messages. She was adviced by the police to get the messages translated to Arabic and file it to them. She immediately complied and narrated to the police all the information that she knows that may help them in their investigation.

October 3 – Rohjean informed her brothers Rojan and Ronel about their mom’s death.

She went back to the police station and asked if she can see the remains of her mother.

She then went back to the Philippine Embassy to relay that the local police confirmed the death of her mother. She was told that the embassy would have to wait for the result of the forensic report that is favorable to Jean’s account before they can provide a lawyer. She was then referred to the repatriation department and was given a list of items to accomplish. According to the officer-in-charge, the repatriation is normally shouldered by the employer. If not included in the contract, the Embassy will try to help upon request. Rohjean instantly told them that they need help.

Jean’s relatives in Baguio also heard the bad news through a post in an online group of people from Mountain Province, the home province of Jean. Windel Bolinget, first cousin of Jean and also the Chairperson the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) contacted Migrante and sought for the groups assistance. At this time, Bolinget has no direct communication line yet with Rohjean and Marie, and Jean’s family in Antipolo.

October 4 – Rohjean went back to the police to seek assistance to see her mother’s remains. She was instructed to go to the hospital and check if she will be allowed to see Jean’s body. The mortuary told her that it is not allowed as it is still under investigation.

October 6 – Rohjean went back to the mortuary. The staff told her that the forensic procedure will take 1-2 weeks. She went back to the Philippine Embassy and was given forms to fill out for the incident report.

October 7 – Rohjean asked the mortuary for an update, she was told that the forensic doctor already examined the body but the results are not yet out.

October 8 – CPA and Migrante allies in UAE finally was able to establish direct links with Rohjean and Marie and offered assistance. Rohjean informed them that the Philippine Embassy would only investigate Jean’s case and look for proof of foul play upon the release of the autopsy report.

October 9 – Sheik Khalifa Hospital in Abu Dhabi gave three documents to the family and instructed them to transmit the documents to the police station. The documents were written in Arabic and the family was not given any explanation regarding the contents of the document.

Jean’s relatives in Baguio went to OWWA-Baguio to ask for assistance on the repatriation of Jean’s remains. They were notified that Jean was an undocumented OFW and therefore not valid for any OWWA assistance. They were referred to DFA Baguio.

Rohjean went back to the Philippine Embassy and was told they still haven’t received any report about her mother’s case.

October 10 – The home office of Migrante was able to reach out to the other children in Antipolo City. It was arranged that Migrante would assist Ronel (second child of Jean) in dealing with government agencies.

Rohjean, meanwhile, demanded for her mother’s possession from the Moroccan employer. The police informed them that they are yet to retrieve Jean’s belongings.

Jean’s relatives in Baguio went to DFA-Baguio to further ask for government assistance. They were informed that Rohjean already filed a report in DFA Abu Dhabi and that Ronel should file the same report to DFA Manila for immediate processing.

It was also this time that media interviews for Rohjean, Marie and CPA were conducted.

October 11 – News of Jean’s death was picked up by both UAE and Philippine media.

Ronel, with Migrante, went to DFA and was only informed of specific documents they needed to submit. Jimarie of DFA is the assigned officer to this case. Ronel went straight to the Office of the President and was dismayed by their lack of assistance and overall inefficiency.

Rohjean related that the Philippine Embassy is passively waiting on the result of the autopsy and did not even coordinate directly with the police and the morgue. The embassy expects Rohjean to single handedly process overwhelming documents needed for her mother’s repatriation and for the attainment of justice for her horrible death.

Justice for Jean Alberto Facebook page was published.

Relatives in Baguio, CPA and Innabuyog-Gabriela, holds a press conference in Baguio.

October 13 – As the news about Jean’s death was already making the rounds in the press and outcry from netizens erupted on social media, it was only this time that the Philippine Embassy reached out to Rohjean and Marie and offered to assist them in seeking updates from the police station and the morgue. This was the embassy’s first time to proactively help in Jean’s case after more than a week of being informed about her death.

Together with embassy officials, Rohjean was escorted by the local police to Jean’s residence. The Moroccan employer was notably angry and defensive upon seeing Jean’s daughter. Jean’s belongings were already packed, Rohjean finally got hold of her mother’s belongings from the employer’s house which are crucial in the investigation – mobile phone and diary (many pages were taken out).

The Embassy also brought Rohjean to the government-hired lawyer for consultation.

Migrante Philippines visited Jean’s family in Antipolo to express condolences and unite on the legal steps needed in seeking justice for Jean. It was arranged that the family would prepare documents for a Special Power of Attorney, and Affidavits of Rojan and Rose (confidante and workmate). Migrante and Jean’s family agreed to conduct a press conference and a small gathering composed of residents of Brgy. Dela Paz’s community, Jean’s family and friends.

October 15 – Together with Migrante and SANDIGAN (Samahan ng mga DH sa Gitnang Silangan), the children of Jean held a press conference to call for justice and air their grievances on the slow and inefficient assistance from government agencies.

October 15 to 16 – Rohjean processed the Special Power of Attorney or SPA with the lawyer

October 17 to 18 – Members of the media and Cordillerans based in the UAE reached out and met with Rohjean and gave her support.

October 19 to 20 – Rohjean went to the Shabiya Police Station and to the court for case updates and procedures.

October 20 – Rohjean and Marie went to the Philippine Embassy to talk with Ambassador Quintana and other high ranking officials. They laid down all their concerns including all the assistance that they need for repatriation and burial. They promised to endorse her to various government units.

October 23 – Rohjean visited OWWA Abu Dhabi and was told that financial support needs to get approval from OWWA’s main office in the Philippines. She went back to the Philippine Embassy for the promised endorsement letter but was instructed to write a letter herself to OWWA and they will just endorse it to them. The Ambassador also informed her to coordinate with LBC for the repatriation of remains.

October 25 – Supporters and family held a picket-dialogue at the OWWA office in Pasay, Philippines to demand welfare justice for Jean and for her bereaved children. Jean’s sons Ronel and Rojan faced OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac in the afternoon. OWWA reiterated that their assistance will be limited because “OFWs might get angry” if they will extend full assistance to an “undocumented” OFW like Jean. They can only assist her because Marie is an OWWA member.

Migrante International asserts that distressed OFWs and their families must receive assistance from OWWA regardless of their status. The group hit the government agency for functioning like a profit-oriented business entity.

Families and supporters demand justice for slain Abu Dhabi OFW Mary Jean Alberto. Holds picket-dialogue at OWWA.

More than three weeks have passed but the bereaved family of Mary Jean Alberto is yet to hear about the results of the forensic investigation on her remains. Mary Jean Alberto is a single mother of three who was hired as a family driver for a Moroccan Family. Waiting for her license, she found herself being ordered by her employer to do household work. Mary Jean really felt dejected realizing that she was really hired as such upon receiving her visa indicating that she was registered as a housemaid.

The family learned about her gruesome death after they were informed by her Moroccan employer that she committed suicide by jumping off from the 13th floor of a high-rise residential building. For her sons Ronel and Rojan, they believe that there was foul play behind the death of their mother. How can the Moroccan employer claim that the thudding sound when Mary Jean fell was heard all the way from their bedroom on the 13th floor where they were sleeping as they claim? These are the questions Mary Jean’s grieving loved ones are asking.

 

Prior to her death, Mary Jean has already sent distressing messages and photos of her bruises to her sister, her daughter Rohjean and her former co-worker Rose pleading to be rescued from her dire situation. Without regular rest days, Mary Jean was overworked to starvation from 5:00 am to 3:00 am. On the 1st of October, just a day before she died, Mary Jean sent her last message stating that her employer attempted to strangle her. 

Hinging on these accounts, Migrante International sides with the family in their refusal to believe that their mother really committed suicide. Mary Jean wanted to return alive to her family that is why she made known her cries for help. 

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Mary Jean’s grieving family has been going to and fro, from one government agency to another asking for assistance. Her sons are now due to hold a dialogue with OWWA which is another agency inappropriately named to purport that it works for the welfare of OFWs. In reality, it has only become an extortionate coffer that myopically sees itself as a fund manager of monetary contributions from OFW members. 

Now on their own and without their breadwinner, how will the Alberto family face a future in our country wrecked with uncertainties and economic difficulties? As they meet with OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, we hope that they will get the services they deserve to help them with funeral and burial expenses, get scholarships and livelihood assistance. 

Desirably, OWWA should work for the welfare of OFWs primarily because they are overseas Filipino workers and not because of their OWWA payments. It should work true to its name for the welfare of OFWs, both documented and undocumented alike. Instead, it has been functioning as if it is a business entity. 

In the same deplorable manner, it took 11 days before the Philippine Embassy was able to provide a lawyer to process her death certificate and reclaim her belongings. By that time, the employer’s house has already been cleared of all possible pieces of evidence vital for the investigation. For a government accustomed to procrastination, we see this as a denial of justice for Mary Jean Alberto. OFW victims do not deserve this kind of treatment. 

The family and loved ones left behind by Mary Jean are already struggling with the pain of this tragedy while bearing the brunt of government procrastination and neglect. We demand that the government do its part and ensure close coordination with the family as investigation continues. Migrante International is one with the Alberto family in their quest for justice and in their desire for a speedy resolution to Mary Jean’s case. Most of all, we want an end to the government’s virulent labour export program that has sent vast numbers of OFWs back to the country inside caskets. 

 

Serbisyo, hindi negosyo!

End labour export!

Justice for Mary Jean Alberto!

Justice for Jean by Migrante

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“Uphold SC decision on Mary Jane’s deposition! Make it a reality!” — MJ Veloso’s supporters to PH government

Just less than a week away from the scheduled final RTC hearing on the presentation of prosecution witnesses, supporters of Mary Jane Veloso gathered anew to reiterate their call to uphold the Supreme Court decision allowing the deposition of her testimony through written interrogatories. 

In a press forum held at the UCCP National Office chapel in EDSA on Wednesday morning Atty. Edre Olalia from the National Union of People’s Lawyers elaborated on the significance of the recent SC decision and its implications on the local cases against accused traffickers Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao. “I cannot preempt the RTC judge’s ruling but there is already a Supreme Court decision. I’m sure the defense will have their chance to explain why there’s a need for deferment but it is about time that they ask themselves, why anyone should be afraid of the truth? If they really believe that their clients are innocent, would it not be beneficial that we hear it directly from Mary Jane speaking to us whether the accused traffickers are really involved or not?” Olalia asked.

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“We want to see and hear both sides but how can we equally hear both sides when they (PAO: Public Attorneys Office) keep on gagging her down to the gallows? God forbid but perchance she gets executed because of these numerous motions set by the legal counsel of the accused, will they be willing to hold themselves accountable for the life of Mary Jane? There can no longer be any motion for consideration in heaven. Nobody can bar the testimony of a material witness. Do not keep on invoking legal niceties and technicalities because this is not just about Mary Jane. We have so many OFWs victimised by human traffickers and illegal recruiters. The legal counsel of the accused will have their chance to cross examine Mary Jane’s written testimony.” Olalia added.

Olalia then directed attention to the relation of MJ’s case on Duterte’s war on drugs. “The Duterte government is claiming that it is waging war against drugs and they should be aware that Mary Jane as a victim, knows vital information about this international drug trafficking syndicate involving drug trafficking criminals from West Africa and other countries. This should help trace the flow of their criminal operations that have victimized unsuspecting OFWs.”

Asked about how the government can relate to these legal developments, Olalia said, “They really don’t have to wait for a decision from the RTC case here. The defense are due to present 30 of their witnesses. Are we going to wait for them to complete their presentation with only one hearing every month for one or two of their witnesses? We are afraid that these witnesses will only be there to claim that the accused couple Sergio and Lacanilao are kind people but that it is not the main issue. The main issue is their direct involvement in human trafficking against Mary Jane.” 

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The lawyers’ group NUPL represented by Olalia has long been active on the Mary Jane campaign. He added, “The key not only lies with legal strategies. There are other things that can be done to keep Mary Jane alive and be able to speak. We can continue to plead and implore. After all, the Supreme Court has already made a lot of statements on where the decision should lead. The government can work on Mary Jane’s behalf, either for commutation or for other ways that will pave the way for her eventual freedom.”

Expressing elation over the SC decision, Rev. Frank Hernando, the current Executive Secretary for Administration of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, worked for 14 years ministering to Filipino migrants in South Korea. He said, “The Church is very active and passionate in defending the rights and saving lives of OFWs. This is the consequence of Forced migration on Filipinos who are seeking better lives abroad. UCCP sent letters to SC urging the judicial authorities to allow MJ to testify. This will help other Filipino trafficking victims who are in jail. Di lang si MJ ang nagkaroon ng ganitong kaso (It’s not only MJ who have this case).”

Representing CWWM (Churches Witnessing with Migrants), Church Task Force for Mary Jane and PIMAHT or Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking, Rev. Marie Sol Villalon said, “We hope that before the 28th of October, we’ll hear the Duterte government committing to save Filipino victims of trafficking and all the rest of OFWs who are now suffering because of forced migration and the government’s labour export program.”

Grateful to all their supporters, Cesar Veloso, father of Mary Jane said, “We are very thankful to the Supreme Court for giving the chance to my daughter to testify. I hope that she will finally get her freedom and be reunited with us. I am very grateful to the lawyers and to all the supporters, if it were not for them, we would have been clueless on what to do. When Mary Jane’s sons heard about the SC decision, they really leaped for joy. They are looking forward to having their mother come home. We recently visited Mary Jane in prison, she was full of hope and she kept on encouraging us. I urge everyone to keep us in your prayers. We are calling on PAO to allow Mary Jane to speak.”

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lamented that it took almost ten years before Mary Jane was given the chance to finally speak against her traffickers. Concepcion stated, “This case is very important not only for Mary Jane Veloso but also for all victims of human trafficking. Up to this moment, we are still asserting that Mary Jane is indeed a trafficking victim and must be given the chance to present her testimony. She should never be silenced. Thousands of OFWs are unjustly locked in jails, many of whom are victims of government neglect without any access to lawyers. Once we succeed in getting MJ’s testimony, it will be considered an unprecedented legal victory and a precedent that will be beneficial for many OFWs faced by similar situations.”

A caravan organized by Mary Jane’s supporters is expected to head to the Branch 88 of the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court on the 28th of October to attend the scheduled hearing on the trafficking cases against Sergio and Lacanilao. 

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