Migrante mulls OFW permits suspension as band-aid solution, calls for immediate abolition of OEC

photo by UNIFIL-Migrante

Migrante International criticized the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) latest issuance suspending the processing of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) saying that it is another “band-aid solution” to a longstanding problem and called for the immediate abolition of the “useless and money-making government exaction.”

Last November 9, DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III issued Department Order No. 185 Series of 2017 (DO 185) suspending “the acceptance and processing of all new applicants for OECs for all OFWs, including direct hire workers.” It will take effect tomorrow, November 13 and will last until December 1. According to Bello, the suspension is due to “persistent reports” of workers becoming victims of illegal recruitment. Around 75,000 aspiring OFWs are expected to be affected by the suspension.

“Bold and momentous as it may seem, DO 185 is but a band-aid solution to the rampant illegal recruitment practices that DOLE is fully aware of. It does not address the root causes of illegal recruitment and human trafficking. Unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers will only find a way around this Order and tie OFWs to more exploitative arrangements,” said Arman Hernando, Spokesperson of Migrante International.

Hernando asserted that DOLE should not just penalize the corrupt government officials and reorganize the POEA. Their identities should be disclosed to the public including the names of the individuals and business entities that they are coddling, and be ordered to pay all their victims.

Migrante also challenged DOLE to “immediately and completely” abolish the OEC before the year ends.

“Now it has become clearer that OEC is but a useless and ‘legalized kotong’ scheme of the government. It has become a tool of officials to amass ill-gotten wealth and let labor exportation businesses to exploit and profit from OFWs. It must be abolished now,” asserted Hernando.

Migrante argued that if the government is truly sincere in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking, it should genuinely address issues that would stop forced migration and put an end to the policy of labor export. ###

Advertisements

OFWs sue Taiwan multi-national and Apple partner for labor rights violations

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More than a hundred women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) trooped to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to file charges against their former employer Siliconware Precision Industries Co. Ltd. (SPIL) for labor rights violations.

SPIL is “World No. 3” in the industry of providing comprehensive semiconductor assembly and test services. It is a major supplier for leading mobile phone brands such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei. For over a decade, SPIL contracts 3,000 Filipino workers for its seven factories in Taiwan.

The OFWs, who named their group as SPILiansUnite and was organized by Migrante International, are former factory workers from Taiwan who served under SPIL for 3 to 12 years. In their their complaint, the group declared:

“Nangibang-bayan kami at nanungkulan sa SPIL bitbit ang pag-asa na sa pamamagitan ng pagtrabaho sa Taiwan ay mabibigyan namin ng magandang kinabukasan ang aming mga pamilya. Subalit makalipas ang maraming taon, bigo ang aming mga pangarap dahil sa hindi makatarungang palakad ng SPIL katuwang ang mga lokal at foreign agencies na kaugnayan nito. Hindi kami pinasahod ng tama, siningil ng iligal at labis na mga bayarin, hindi tinupad ang aming kontrata, isinawalang bahala ang aming kalusugan at iba pang paglabag sa aming mga karapatan.”

(We went abroad and worked for SPIL with the hope that through our employment in Taiwan our dream of a brighter future for our families will be fulfilled. Sadly, after several years, our dreams were shattered because of the unjust systems of SPIL and its partner local and foreign agencies. We were not rightly paid, exacted illegal and exorbitant fees, breached the terms of our contracts, disregarded our health and well-being, and violated many of our rights.)

Aside from SPIL, the OFWs also sued their foreign agencies or brokers in Taiwan (Mengo Manpower Group, Champion Manpower Services, Pan Asia Human Resources) and recruitment agencies in the Philippines (JS Contractor Incorporated, MIP International Manpower Services, Grand Placement & General Services Corp, Global Gate Manpower Services Inc).

The OFWs explained that the local and foreign agencies charged them with P65,000 to P85,000 for placement fees while they are only allowed to collect an amount equivalent to one-month salary of the worker (around P30,000). They were also made to for their own air tickets while their contracts stipulate that it will be provided free. They also alleged that they were underpaid by 30-40%.

In their dialogues with the government officials, they urged the POEA and DOLE to immediately investigate on the case and impose sanctions against SPIL, local and foreign agencies and block them from “further victimizing other OFWs.”

Migrante International condemned Philippine government agencies for being complicit to the labor violations of SPIL. The group cited that the Manila Economic Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan is well aware of the OFWs’ complaints but acts as a “mouthpiece” of SPIL.

“The complicity of MECO is deplorable. But the exploitation of the workers and the wanton violation of their rights entirely stem from the lop sided labor-export deal that the Philippine government has entered into with SPIL and Taiwan authorities. This is testament to the state’s peddling of migrant workers as cheap labor for big businesses,” said Migrante in a statement.

Migrante and SPILiansUnite held the protest action at POEA and DOLE while the Philippines prepares as host to the 50th ASEAN Summit and 12th East Summit to highlight the bankruptcy of the government’s four-decade adherence to the “neoliberal” policy of labor exportation. ###

Why OFWs support the 2-day transport strike

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition’s 2-day transport strike not just for sentimental reasons. After all, the iconic “Katas ng Saudi” is symbolized by the very jeepneys that the Duterte government is now pushing to phase-out.

No, OFWs realize that their present conditions can now hardly sustain their families’ daily needs. And their savings, if at all, can hardly afford the P1.6 million cost of one e-Jeep. So, goodbye, “Katas ng Saudi”. There goes another opportunity for our OFWs to invest in something that would contribute to nation-building, in this case, mass transport that benefits millions.

More importantly, OFWs support the transport strike not because they are anti-modernization. OFWs are the last people to shun the benefits of a modern, efficient and systematized mass transport. In progressive host countries where they are, OFWs already experience how mass trains, buses and other means of public transport service and prioritize millions who do not have means. Of course, they want the same for millions Filipinos in the homeland, for their families, children and relatives who are motorists and commuters alike.

OFWs support the transport strike because they reject any and all so-called “modernization” schemes in which they and their families and the general public bear the brunt. They reject the Duterte government’s PUVModernization program because it is anti-poor and anti-masses. It plans to replace the humble jeepney with something “modern” that both drivers/operators and commuters cannot afford. Instead, mass transport will be privatized, monopolized by big corporations that can afford to pay millions and millions for a fleet of 20 units, the minimum number required per operator in the program.

Only the Ayalas, Aboitizes or the multimillionaires who funded Duterte’s presidency can afford the PUVModernization scheme. These multimillionaires are engaged in utilities, manufacturing, mining and infrastracture. According to an investigative report by the PCIJ, Duterte has already appointed at least half a dozen and their relatives to his Cabinet six months after elections. Others are still waiting for payback, it seems, in terms of business and other government “modernization” programs. This is not the type of “modernization” that OFWs support.

Like the general public, OFWs are also exasperated with the incorrigible traffic problem. More so because they experience first-hand abroad how a systematized and efficient mass transport system and urban planning can make the Philippines a country that they would wish to come home to. However, Duterte’s PUVModernization program is not geared towards improving the lives of motorists and commuters alike but towards ensuring more profit for big businesses and foreign investors.

What do OFWs want? OFWs wish for a nationalized public mass transport system that genuinely and sincerely considers the present situation of motorists and commuters alike. Instead, the Duterte government is deliberately dividing the public transport sector and commuters on diversionary arguments, as if both do not share the same interests and vision for a better Philippines.

Is a nationalized public mass transport feasible? OFWs believe it is. If Duterte is really sincere in upgrading old jeepneys and resolving the traffic problem, it should channel government resources to subsidize mass transport, at no cost to both drivers/operators and commuters. It should re-orient Dutertenomics to a pro-masses agenda and depart from neoliberal dictates that burden the public, especially the lowly drivers/operators and the poor masses. Any efforts to “modernize” will not be fruitful if not founded on genuine rural development and national industrialization that would prioritize people over profit. ###

 

“OFW Bank” further institutionalizes bankrupt labor export program

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International objects to the creation of an “overseas Filipino worker bank” (OFB), saying that it is geared towards “managing OFW remittances for the perpetuation of a long-bankrupt labor export program”.

President Duterte recently authorized the transfer of shares of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PPSB) to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) for its subsequent conversion into the OFB through Executive Order 44.

The creation of the OFB is in tune with the Duterte government’s economic thrust of “managing migration” as a “tool for development”, a neoliberal prescription that does not in any way address the root causes of forced migration nor even attempt to curb it in the policy-level. Its main objective is to “manage OFW remittances” to enable a more fast-tracked, sufficient and concentrated system of profiting from overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) hard-earned incomes.

This in itself further institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances in accordance to neoliberal policies and dictates.

Previous administrations have been aggressive in crafting programs and services aimed at facilitating and encouraging forced migration. While acknowledging the many social costs and human rights violations, these are effectively downplayed by the hailing of OFW remittances. Instead, past administrations have unfailingly and resolutely promoted the labor export program as unequivocally beneficial to OFWs and their families. This is particularly done by overstating supposed development benefits for the economy and the income benefits of households.

Precisely, this is what the Duterte regime hopes to achieve anew through the creation of the OFB, to the detriment of our OFWs.

Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that decisively deviates from a policy of labor export and focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, Duterte’s economic compulsion is to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to increase, concentrate and manage remittances.

Further, the EO’s supposed vision to “provide OFWs with priority support for their growing financial needs” is plain braggadocio. Encouraging OFWs to embark on “microfinancing” will only bury them in greater debt to big banks and financial institutions, this time facilitated by the state itself. Meanwhile, enticing investments for so-called “microinsurance” may only be deemed as yet another state exaction scheme in which OFWs are encouraged to allot their earnings to premiums and contributions that will ultimately be useless to them. This has long been the case with the controversy-laden and corrupt-ridden OWWA funds.

Migrante International firmly stands on the position that, should there be “OFW banks”, these should ensure that OFWs’ hard-earned money are invested towards genuine rural development and national industrialization that will create jobs at home and end the vicious cycle of forced migration. Unfortunately, this thrust is hardly the case under the Duterte regime’s present economic agenda.

To address the problem of forced migration, the government’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. It should depart from neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances. Only then can OFWs look forward to a future in which they will not have to leave their families behind just to survive. ###

Never again to a fascist dictatorship! – Migrante

Today, wherever we may be in the world, Filipinos come together to mark the 45th year of the declaration of martial law. But this year’s September 21 protests go beyond commemoration and recollection of the crimes of the US-Marcos dictatorship. Today, we unite to hold accountable the fascist US-Duterte regime for crimes perpetrated in its Marcosian all-out war against the people.

We are gathered today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny. We condemn in strongest terms the government’s mass murder under the banner of the regime’s three wars – the war against the Moro people, the bloody “war on drugs” and the anti-people Oplan Kapayapaan. We vow to fight Duterte’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to resist and reject any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties.

We vow to frustrate any and all moves by Duterte to install himself as a fascist dictator like his idol Marcos.

We are not cowed by President Duterte’s attempts to sabotage, belittle or mock today’s protests. We shall hold no less than Duterte responsible for manoeuvres to disrupt or cause trouble in today’s peaceful mass actions. We are aware that Duterte is more than capable of creating scenarios to serve as pretext for the declaration of nationwide martial law.

We will not be intimidated. Should Duterte make good his threat to declare martial law nationwide, we vow to be ever vigilant and continue with efforts to mobilize the broadest number of Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to call for an end to his fascist rule.

 

September 21 protests go global

Migrante chapters held different forms of protests around the world today.

In Hong Kong, OFWs trooped to the PH Consulate to condemn the spate of killings. Meawhile, OFWs in Japan distributed leaflets in train stations to call for solidarity with the Filipino people against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny.

OFWs in Qatar, Italy and South Korea held indoor and outdoor protests. Filipinos in Canada, Australia and the United States also held simultaneous protests. In the United Kingdom, Filipinos are set to hold a protest action on September 24.

 In the Philippines, Migrante chapters in Davao, Cebu, Negros, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Baguio participated in the nationwide protest centers. Manila-based chapters of Migrante joined the big multisectoral rally in Luneta. ###

#JusticeforKian Kian is every OFW’s son

photo from abs-cbn.com

Migrante International extends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos, the latest victim of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs.

We grieve with the delos Santos family, especially Kian’s mother Lorenza, an overseas Filipino worker from Saudi Arabia. Lorenza has captured the hearts of OFWs and their families all over the world. We feel her sorrow because it is also ours. We mourn as she mourns. We rage as she rages. Lorenza’s family has become every OFW’s family, and Kian every OFW’s son.

We feel Lorenza’s hunger for justice. It has fortified our resolve to fight for justice for Kian and every single life lost. We join Lorenza in her battle, as Kian’s death has united every and all OFW and family to win the war against Duterte’s psychopathic rampage.

We condemn and hold accountable the Philippine National Police, Kian’s cold-blooded murderers, who have long been given license by no less than Duterte himself to conduct an unbridled killing spree. Duterte has launched a full scale use of state violence against the people that has resulted in countless human rights violations, the terrorizing of communities and extrajudicial killings under the guise of his government’s notorious war on drugs.

How many more Kians will suffer the same fate? The Duterte government remains unremorseful, it continues to condone the senseless killings. Innocents like Kian are being victimized yet big operators of the illegal drug trade remain scot-free. What thrives now instead is a climate of impunity of unprecedented proportions, ever worse than before.

The killings must stop. Heads must roll. Kian’s life is blood on Duterte’s hands. All those who committed, operated and tolerated the spate of killings are complicit and should be held accountable by the Filipino people.

We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise up against Duterte’s tyranny and fascist rule. We do not want more Kians to die because of Duterte’s psychopathic war on drugs. He has already proven himself unworthy of the people’s trust. He has betrayed the people by failing to hold accountable all human rights violators in the military, police and government.

Migrante International stands firm that only through the upholding of the social and economic rights of the people can the root causes of poverty and social problems be thoroughly and genuinely addressed. We must demand a change to the very system that victimized Kian and took his innocent life. Only through this can Kian, Lorenza and every Filipino family get the justice that they truly deserve. ###

 

#SONA2017: OFWs protest Duterte’s fascism and ‘broken vows’ in People’s SONA

On Pres. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International led protests worldwide condemning the regime’s martial law and empty promises.

“Today’s protests are happening at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the US-Duterte regime’s militarist authoritarian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people. We lend our voices against the government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

“The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move has paved the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide,” he said.

“History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.”

Hernando said that today’s SONA protests around the world is also testament to overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) continuing clamor for genuine change.

Joining the Migrante contingent in the People’s SONA in Manila are returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia; the family of Mary Jane Veloso; and, the family of Teresa Quedding, an OFW victim of mysterious death whose remains arrived from Kuwait without internal organs and with apparent signs of torture and maltreatment.

Migrante also raised OFWs’ strong opposition to fees and tax impositions brought on by the new OFW ID, or the iDOLE, and the Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order 04-2017 on balikbayan boxes which will be effective on August 1.

“After a year of Duterte’s presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits OFWs and their families. Duterte vowed to end forced migration and the policy of labor export but continues to cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the root causes of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are compelled to leave their families just to survive. These are also the root causes of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

Like in the Marcos era, he said, Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people will only further force Filipinos to seek security and refuge abroad.

“History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Martial law extension in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, is a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace,” Hernando said.

Migrante also condemned the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide.

“Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject the US’ involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence,” Hernando said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante International calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.”

“We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Only through collective action and struggle can the Filipino people ultimately topple the rotten, corrupt system that has produced one tyrant leader after another,” Hernando said. ###