On the creation of a “Department of OFWs”

digong-inaugural Indeed, there has been a growing clamor among (overseas Filipino workers) OFWs and their families for a “one-stop shop” that would cater to better services and  the protection and promotion of OFWs. This is mainly because the present “one-country-approach” being implemented by agencies tasked to provide direct services to OFWs, namely, the DFA, DOLE, OWWA and POEA, has been deemed dysfunctional, anti-migrant and inoperative.

Migrante International therefore sees and appreciates the rationale behind President Duterte’s proposal of establishing a “Department of OFWs (DOFW)” that seeks to systematize, consolidate and strengthen government efforts to protect our OFWs. This proposal in itself is already an initial critique of the performance of the above-mentioned government agencies over the years.

Migrante International, however, forwards serious apprehensions on the basis of its assessment of the performances of existing agencies concerned with dealing with OFW services and welfare. If a DOFW is to be established, it is imperative that the Duterte administration first thoroughly investigates how current concerned agencies, as well as existing laws and policies, benefited or failed our OFWs and their families.

In the last four decades, Philippine governments have been aggressive in crafting programs and services aimed to facilitate and encourage forced migration and labor export. While acknowledging the many social costs, these were effectively downplayed by the hailing of OFW remittances. Rather, the Philippine government has unfailingly and resolutely promoted the labor export policy as unequivocally beneficial for OFWs and their families. This is particularly done by overstating supposed development benefits for the economy and the income benefits for households.

The economic compulsion of past Philippine government to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to increase remittances unfortunately overrides and precludes any measures that, directly or indirectly, constrict the flow of migration, as enshrined in Republic Act of 8042 (amended by RA 10022), or the Migrants’ Act of 1995.

The Migrants’ Act of 1995 created the existing concerned agencies, laws and policies that are effective to this day. And twenty-two years after its enactment, the plight of OFWs has worsened.

This two-faced law is riddled with embellishments of migrants’ rights but treacherously traps OFWs into the worst possible scenario of commodification. It allowed past regimes to renege any responsibility in the protection of our rights and welfare while permitting the continuance of government financial exaction.

It is in this light that Migrante International poses this qualification: the creation of a DOFW should not work to merely further institutionalize labor export, but instead address the decades-long clamor of OFWs and their families to put an end to it.

Filipinos are being forced to migrate because of desperation as a result out of the economy’s lack of development resulting in job loss, low wages and lack of livelihood at home. OFWs have borne witness to how insincere, insensitive and inept past governments have been in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of OFWs. The past four decades of Philippine labor export has showcased a more blatant and unapologetic policy that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances in accordance to US imperialist interests and dictates.

Migrante International firmly believes that the Duterte government should strive towards ending forced migration and scrapping the bankrupt labor export policy. It is very open to work closely with the Duterte administration to ensure that this thrust is realized.

It will support the formation of a DOFW if, and only if, it would work towards the irrelevance of such a department and instead strive for a society in which families do not need to be torn apart just to survive. ###


Migrante to Duterte: Regular jobs, wages, pro-labor policies will entice OFWs to come home

Migrante International lauds the ongoing repatriation efforts of the PH government, as Pres. Duterte arrives home today with stranded OFWs who availed of the amnesty program of the Saudi Arabia government for undocumented migrant workers.
Repatriation efforts, however, will fall short if thousands upon thousands of returned OFWs will only fall victim anew to forced migration, the group said.
“We have stressed the need for a comprehensive reintegration program since the Saudi crisis came full force. We expect more OFWs to be repatriated or deported in light of the ongoing economic crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented OFWs in US and Malaysia. They are to return home only to leave again in search of decent-paying jobs abroad that they will not be able to find here,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante Spokesperson.
Hernando said that while efforts of relief operations and on-site assistance should be lauded, these are short-term and band-aid solutions that do nothing to address the major issues of emergency repatriation, labor issues and comprehensive reintegration for affected OFWs and their families.
“It will be a never-ending cycle, unless Pres. Duterte makes good his promise to address the root causes of forced migration. Unemployment, low wages, contractualization, landlessness, and poor social services have been driving our OFWs away. If the president sincerely wants them to come back, we need more regular jobs, higher wages and pro-labor policies, not a labor export policy that has long gone bankrupt,” Hernando said.
Returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East are expected to join Labor Day protests on May 1. ###


#ClemencyPH Duterte urged to seek clemency for all OFWs on death row

Migrante International today urged President Rodrigo Duterte to seek clemency for all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row, especially the innocent and those who were not given proper legal assistance by the previous administration.

Duterte is set to arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today to seek audience with King Salman. Before he left, he vowed to bring home OFWs on Saudi death row. Malacanang, however, through Sec. Abella, announced yesterday that the president will not be bringing up the plight of OFWs on death row with the King.

Migrante-Saudi Arabia and members of the Filipino community will take up the appeal for OFWs on Saudi death row when they meet with the President today.

Today, April 12, is also the the date of the UAE Court of Appeal’s hearing on the case of Jennifer Dalquez, a Filipina domestic worker who killed her employer in self-defense for attempting to rape and kill her.  The court has called on the two children of Jennifer’s deceased employer to attend today’s hearing, where they will be asked to swear 50 times in the name of Allah that Jennifer killed their father. If this happens, the UAE Court of Appeals will uphold the death sentence on Jennifer today.

Jennifer’s supporters will hold a candle-lighting vigil later at the Boy Scout Circle in Timog in anticipation of the outcome of the court hearing. Jennifer’s family and supporters will also be holding candle-lighting vigils in Davao City and General Santos in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Court of Appeals recently issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the scheduled deposition of Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia. Mary Jane’s lawyers filed a Motion for Reconsideration before the PH Court of Appeals last Monday, April 10, to lift the TRO. Mary Jane is supposed to deliver her deposition on April 27.

April 29 marks the second year anniversary of Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve from execution.

Migrante expressed alarm over the PH Court of Appeals’ decision as that this might deliver a negative message to the Indonesian government. “It has been two years, the Indonesian government has been lenient enough, patiently allowing for Philippine legal processes to take its course. This development may not bode well (with the Indonesian government). Justice delayed is justice denied in the case of the TRO on Mary Jane’s deposition. We call on the PH Court of Appeals to lift the TRO and allow Mary Jane to give her full testimony once and for all,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante spokesperson.

“In the spirit of the Holy Week, we urge President Duterte to actively appeal for mercy and compassion for our kababayans, especially the innocent and those who were not given proper legal assistance by the previous administration. The first OFW executed under the Duterte administration, Jakatia Pawa, had a strong case to prove her innocence but was deprived of legal assistance by the previous administration. Jennifer and Mary Jane’s cases attest to the need for active government intervention in saving the lives of innocent OFWs on death row,” Hernando said.

There are currently 81 OFWs on death row, according to latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Migrante called on families and supporters of OFWs on death row to come forward to collectively appeal to President Duterte to seek clemency for their loved ones.

“Clemency for all OFWs on death row” will be one of the main calls of Migrante International in the upcoming Labor Day rally on May 1. ###

Duterte’s “broken vows” slammed as OFWs commemorate Flor Contemplacion’s 22nd death anniversary

On the 22nd death anniversary of overseas Filipino worker Flor Contemplacion, OFWs and families took to the streets alongside workers and other sectors to condemn the Duterte regime’s “broken vows”, among them the failure to end all forms of contractualization, the failure to provide free and decent housing for the poor and the implementation of other neoliberal attacks on Filipino labor.

These, along with widespread unemployment, landlessness and lack of basic social services, are the root causes of forced migration – something that Pres. Duterte promised to make “optional and not a necessity” when he assumed office.

“Now, with the passage of DOLE Department Order 174-2017, packaged as the government’s solution to workers’ problems, contractualization is legalized, aggravating the already rampant problem of labor flexibilization, depressed wages, and, ultimately, more massive unemployment. This without doubt will result in the forced migration of millions more of our workers to seek employment abroad because of desperation and the need to survive,” said Mic Catuira, Migrante International secretary-general.

Duterte’s earlier promise to end contractualization by 2016 was widely welcomed even by OFWs because it brought hope of coming home to a country with decent-paying regular jobs. “Now, with the passage of the DO, in light of the continuing crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Malaysia, our OFWs are to return to the country only to be forcibly driven away again to seek jobs despite risky conditions abroad,” Catuira said.

Joining the rally were the parents of Jennifer Dalquez, OFW on death row in Dubai, returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia and their families and OFW victims of government neglect.

 Labor export intensified

Catuira also criticized Duterte for perpetuating a more aggressive and detrimental labor export policy in his labor agenda. “Duterte, for all his posturing and promises, has not proven himself different from his predecessors when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market.”

He said that the government’s response to the worsening crisis in Saudi Arabia is testament to the continuing bankrupty of the Philippines’ labor export policy. In July 2016, Duterte promised to repatriate some 11,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia by yearend. However, on November 22, 2016, DOLE Sec. Bello announced that they “have succeeded in bringing back 3,000 OFWs while the rest have managed to find good-paying jobs in other companies”, saying that the OFWs opted to transfer to other companies, yet their withheld wages and necessary money claims have not been resolved.

“These statements are not only contradictory but treacherous. It now appears that the government deems the Saudi crisis fait accompli, problem-solved, and therefore business-as-usual between the Philippine government and its biggest OFW labor importer.”

“Was the DOLE’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia not really for the main purpose of repatriating stranded OFWs but conducting damage-control for the beleaguered Saudi companies and local recruitment agencies through the facilitation of job transfers? If so, the promise to ‘end the Saudi stranded crisis’ by the end of 2016 was misleading and bound to fail from the start. Bello only succeeded in buying time and ‘rescuing’ the companies and local private recruitment agencies instead of the distressed OFWs. This is unsurprisingly in line with the ‘win-win’ solution and other deceiving, pro-capitalist neoliberal policies that the DOLE has been advocating thus far,” Catuira said.

OFWs support #OccupyBulacan

Catuira said that OFWs around the world also express solidarity with urban poor families under the flag of Kadamay who launched the #OccupyBulacan campaign on March 8.

“They are an inspiration to all sectors and testament to the correctness and strength of unity and collective action to secure the people’s rights and demands. That they remain steadfast despite harassment and threat of state fascism is proof of the Duterte regime’s neglect of the poor and yet another empty promise of change. The #OccupyBulacan families are also Filipino workers who suffer from depressed wages, contractualization and absence of adequate shelter and basic social services. We call on all OFWs and their families to support the #OccupyBulacan campaign,” Catuira said.

Migrante International also called for support for OFWs for food, water and other material support to help the barricades now being staged by Kadamay members in 5 different sites in Pandi, Bulacan. ###

Ipagbunyi ang makabuluhang buhay ni Kasamang Paul Aringo (1992-2017), huwarang lider-kabataan at rebolusyonaryo!

“Ang lahat ng tao ay tiyak na mamamatay, ngunit ang kamatayan ay maaaring mag-iba ng kabuluhan.  Ang mamatay alang-alang sa sambayanan ay higit na mabigat kaysa Bundok Sierra Madre, subalit ang maglingkod sa mga pasista at ang mamatay para sa mga mapagsamantala at mapang-api ay higit na magaan kaysa balahibo.” – Kasamang Mao Zedong
Taos-pusong pakikiramay ang ipinapaabot ng Migrante-Youth sa pamilya, mga kaibigan at kasama ni Paul Aringo.  Ramdam ng bawat isa sa atin ngayon ang pighating dulot ng kanyang pagpanaw.  Nagdadalamhati ang pamilyang migrante at sambayanang Pilipino sa pagkawala ng isang huwarang lider-kabataan at magiting na rebolusyonaryo.

Gayunpaman, sa gitna ng pagdadalamhati ay ang ating pagtanaw ng liwanag ng pag-asang inihatid ng buhay at pakikibaka ni Kasamang Paul.

Mula sa pagiging kabataang manggagawang-bukid sa Cagayan, nagtungo si Paul sa Kamaynilaan upang tumulong sa kanyang mga magulang. Sa Maynila, tumanggap siya ng samu’t-saring trabaho sa palengke ng Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City.

Sa murang edad na 18 taong gulang, pinatunayan ni Paul ang kaniyang kasigasigang matuto at makiisa sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan nang sumali siya sa Anakbayan-Bagong Barrio.  Mula noon ay kumilos siya para mulatin, organisahin at pakilusin ang kabataan at mamamayan. Nanguna siya sa pagtatagumpay ng ilang mga lokal na kampanya at pakikibakang-masa sa komunidad. Isa na rito ang pagresolba sa bangayan ng mga nag-aawayang mga gang ng kabataan sa pamamagitan ng matiyagang pagpapaunawa sa kanila ng halaga ng pagkakaisa ng kabataan sa maralitang-lunsod.

Naging susi rin ang naging papel ni Paul sa pag-oorganisa ng mga migrante at pamilya sa Bagong Barrio.  Ilan sa pinangunahan niyang laban ang pag-oorganisa at pagpapakilos para sa kampanyang “Justice for Rochelle Masubay, isang Saudi DH na misteryosong namatay sa kamay ng kaniyang amo”, at ang “Bring Them Home campaign” o kampanya para sa pagpapauwi sa mga OFW na biktima ng Saudization at mga crackdown sa Saudi Arabia.

Katuwang din siya sa pagtitiyak ng pakikipagkaisa ng kanilang komunidad sa kampanya ng mamamayan laban sa pork barrel at mga paglabag sa karapatang-tao ng Rehimeng US-Aquino.  Sa bawat laban na kanyang sinabakan, tumambad sa harapan ni Paul ang pagkaganid, bangis at abuso ng namamayaning sistema – at kaakibat nito ay ang hamon sa kabataang Pilipino na tahakin ang landas tungo sa tunay na pagbabago.

Gagap ni Paul ang mga pundamental na problema ng lipunan at ang tanging paraan para tuluyang mawakasan ito.  Mula sa paglahok at pangunguna sa mga kampanyang masa sa kalunsuran, nagpasya siyang buong-panahong lumahok sa armadong pakikibaka sa kanayunan at sumapi sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan noong 2015.  Sa probinsiya ng Quezon kung saan siya kumilos, ang dating “japorms” na si Paul ay nakilala nang si “Ka Arki” ng masang magsasaka.  Sa BHB niya ipinamalas walang-maliw na paglilingkod at buong-panahong pagsusulong ng demokratiko rebolusyong bayan bilang pulang mandirigma. Hindi siya bumitiw rito hanggang sa kanyang huling hininga.

Sa pakikiba kasama ng masa, natransporma si Paul mula sa isang kabataang pinanatiling mangmang ng rekasyunaryong estado tungo sa pagiging isang mulat na kabataang tinanganan ang kanyang rebolusyonaryo tungkulin.  Kahanga-hanga ang buhay ni Paul dahil naging makabuluhan ito hanggang sa huli.

Mananatiling buhay si Paul sa puso’t isipan ng kabataan, migrante at mamamayang api.  Magsisilbi siyang huwaran sa mga mamamayan at tinitiyak nating may magpapatuloy sa kanyang simulain at dakilang alay sa bayan.

Mabuhay ka, Kasamang Paul!  Ipagpapatuloy ng Migrante-Youth ang iyong pakikibaka at kadakilaan! Isulong at ipagtagumpay ang pambansang demokratikong rebolusyon!

Pahayag ng pagpupugay ng Migrante-Youth, Marso 12, 2017, Iglesia Filipina de Independiente Cathedral, Manila

31 years after EDSA, wield “people power” vs. Duterte’s fascism and broken vows – Migrante

hr-day-tarpOn the 31st anniversary commemoration of the EDSA People Power uprising, global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International led protests worldwide in condemning the Duterte government’s “state fascism” and “broken vows”.

“Today’s commemoration happens at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the Duterte government’s rising Marcosian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here in EDSA today because OFWs and their families stand against human rights violations. We lend our voices against this government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our civil liberties. What we have stood for in 1986 remains true to this day. Makibaka, huwag matakot,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante-Youth Spokesperson.

Hernando said that today’s EDSA People Power uprising commemoration is also testament to the Filipino people’s continuing clamor for genuine change. “Barely a year into the Duterte presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits the nation. His broken vows include that of ending forced migration and a policy of labor export that cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. While we celebrate and commemorate EDSA today, we also affirm our struggle to fight for genuine change. “

“Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the roots of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are being forced to leave their families just to survive. These are also the roots of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

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

“We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Let us push the Duterte government to address the root causes of the armed conflict through the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks. The lesson of EDSA is that collective action and struggle can and will defeat 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,” he said. ###