Tribute to Seafarers: Church missions and advocacy groups call for swift passage of Seafarers’ Magna Carta

As a prelude to the upcoming International Day of the Seafarer on 25 June, an online tribute to maritime workers brought together advocates and mission workers from different organizations and Church groups on Saturday, 21 June. The webinar entitled “Tribute to Seafarers: Where do we go from here?” was jointly organized by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Mission To Seafarers (MTS), German Seamen’s Mission, the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC), and Migrante International.

The online event began with a few moments of silence to remember the departed seafarers which was then followed by a prayer offered by Fr. Chris Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Right from the start of the program, Migrante Australia Chairperson Carmelita Baltazar expressed support for Makabayan Bloc’s House Bill 6588.”Let us give our support for the passage of House Bill 6588 on the Magna Carta of Seafarers, to uphold the welfare and protection of seafarers and their families,” Baltasar exclaimed. 

Tribute organizers recognized Filipino seafarers for their outstanding qualities and their contributions to the national economy and the global maritime industry. Nevertheless, the groups lamented that seafarers experience low wages, long working hours, less benefits, less social protection, racial discrimination and hazardous working conditions. The COVID19 pandemic revealed the longstanding vulnerability and exploitation of SF worldwide, leaving thousands stranded for months, receiving delayed or no medical attention and assistance, and limited financial aid and benefits.

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A seafarer for ten years, Charito Bongahoy said, “during the quarantine, it was really a struggle to obtain relief for our boarding house. What’s appalling is that we submitted our applications to DOLE-OWWA-AKAP. They asked for numerous requirements and it really takes a very long time before applications get granted…we’d rather endure hunger than allow our families to starve.”

Lloyd Chris Bacasmot, another displaced seafarer remarked, “I haven’t been back to the ship for three months now, and I have not heard anything from our company. How can I sustain myself for another day without money? I only have 50 pesos in my pocket right now. What will I give to my family?”

Providing an overview of the general situation of migrants amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International deplored that the global health crisis is being used by employers, agencies or brokers to violate the labour rights of our migrant workers. The capacity of migrant workers who are mainly breadwinners of their families to send money to support the basic needs of their loved ones back home in the Philippines have been reduced or cut off. “Thousands of qualified overseas Filipinos who applied for the Philippine government’s one time financial assistance for OFWs displaced by the covid pandemic have not received financial support..given the impact of the pandemic on the global economy, our land based and seabased migrant workers are fearful of how they and their families will survive,” Concepcion stated. 

Citing latest figures, Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) said that there are about 400,000 stranded seafarers languishing in ships, ports, airports and in host countries. Prior to the pandemic, there were already up to 1.5 Million seafarers worldwide, and among them are 700,000 Filipino seafarers but only 420,000 are hired at any given time. Dela Cruz discussed the various issues faced by seafarers including the high cost of commercialized education, contractualization and the absence of security of tenure. He pointed out that although the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention already contains laudable provisions, it needs enactment of a pertinent legislation in order for it to be enforced locally. “The very good provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention should be implemented through the Magna Carta of Seafarers,” Dela Cruz stated’ 

Among the Magna Carta stipulations being pushed by ISAC are the following: compensation for illness and injury due to fatigue, stress, emotional trauma, due to sea voyage; rights of cadets to decent wages and banning OJT charges exacted by shipping companies; regularization after working cumulatively for 1-year; right to organize; right to raise complaints from third party representatives; and access to shore leave.

The Magna Carta for Seafarers or House Bill 6588 was filed by the Makabayan Bloc on 11 March. “We have high expectations that the Magna Carta for Seafarers will be approved. Nevertheless, without political will from the Philippine government to enforce it, it will be spineless so it is really important that seafarers organize themselves.”

Loved ones and family members of Filipino seafarers who spoke in the program likewise gave their all-out support for the bill and expressed their gratefulness to all groups upholding the rights and welfare of seafarers. Most of these groups also work with the families of seafarers like the Mission To Seafarers (MTS). Lailani Tolentino of MTS saluted the ‘Front liners of the Sea’ for their hard work in maintaining the world’s supply chain. MTS has been mobilizing its volunteers and staff to provide food relief, free transportation and counselling services to seafarers and their families. 

Meanwhile, Fr. Jun Mark Yañez of the German Seamen’s Mission said, “We have always been helping our seafarers but we would like to see more of these initiatives from the government.” This was backed by Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno. “Due to the pandemic, distressed and displaced Filipino workers, both seabased and land based, are returning in huge droves back to the Philippines. During our visit to stranded OFWs neglected in NAIA’s airport terminals, I personally saw the ugly truth behind the Duterte government’s loudly vaunted ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs. As for DOLE’s (Department of Labour and Employment) AKAP cash assistance program, it is more appropriate to call it DOLE APAK (trample) because it is not true that the vast majority of OFWs are able to avail of such aid. Our support for Makabayan Bloc’s Magna Carta for Seafarers anchors on our strong demand to the Duterte government to respect the basic interest of workers in terms of wages, benefits and rights,” Labog concluded.  

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OFWs to KSA envoy: Your statement on OFWs is the real trash, your concern is mere theatrics

PRESS RELEASE BY MIGRANTE KSA

20 June 2020

An organization of Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East condemned the Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia for saying on Friday that migrant workers’ efforts to find food in garbage heaps in the country is “mere theatrics” that only aim to get the public’s attention.

Migrante-Middle East said Ambassador Adnan Alonto is wrong and out of touch with the situation of OFWs in saying that “If reports reaching me are true, I’m disappointed with some of our people who have resorted to theatrics to catch attention. Fact is food assistance was given. Mamulot ng basura? (Picking up trash?) C’mon!”

“We are not engaging in theatrics to try to get attention. Truth is, we do not have anything to eat. That is why we would wait for the garbage being thrown by supermarkets and would get the vegetables that are still edible,” said Louie Perez, one of the OFWs who tried to find food in garbage heaps in Riyadh.

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PHOTO: ABS-CBN News


Perez said that because of the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, OFWs have suffered from job and income loss and delayed salaries, and many are now incapable of paying for their basic needs in the Middle Eastern country.

He also bemoaned the meager food assistance extended by the Overseas Workers Welfare Office (OWWA) and the delay in repatriation promised by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

“For three months, we have been asking and waiting for repatriation because the food assistance given to us is so meager. When we follow up our requests with POLO, the only response we get is ‘still under process.’ If we stay here any longer, we might die of hunger or disease. One of our fellow OFW has already died because of stress,” Perez added.

Perez added that many OFWs have applied for financial assistance under the Department of Labor and Employment-Abot-Kamay ang Pagtulong (DOLE-AKAP) program, but have not received any support.

Meanwhile, according to Migrante-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Alonto should try to do his job, interact with OFWs and find out their real situation, instead of dismissing and insulting OFWs’ efforts to survive.

“Ambassador Alonto should stop covering up the government’s uselessness amidst the pandemic by shaming distressed OFWs. His government treats us OFWs like garbage. He should focus his time and energy in trying to fix that,,” said Marlon Gatdula, Migrante-KSA chairperson.

The OFW leader added that even before the pandemic and especially now, the Philippine government agency in the KSA is infamous for its callous treatment of OFWs, and its unreliable, almost nonexistent, services for distressed OFWs.

“OFWs in Saudi are all familiar with the Philippine Embassy’s snail-paced services. When you need help, you have to call many times but no one will answer your call. It is no coincidence that many OFWs have not received any assistance from the government yet,” Gatdula added.

The OFW leader said some groups, including the Filipino Artists and Performers Society (FAPS) International, have called on Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin to recall Alonto for making the statement. FAPS-International said it is witness to the fact that OFWS are now scavenging for food in Saudi Arabia.

“Ambassador Alonto should check his privilege. He can say what he said because he still has his job and continues to receive his huge salary. If Alonto had tried to live for three months with the one-time assistance given to OFWs, he would know that OFWs scavenging for food are not merely engaging in theatrics or are just trying to call the public’s attention,” Gatdula said.

Gatdula cited OFWs’ many social media posts complaining about not having anything to eat because of the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. He said OFWs are suffering because of the Philippine government’s neglect as shown by meager financial assistance and delayed repatriation.

“Let us tell you, Ambassador Alonto, which is the real theatrics: your government’s claim that we OFWs are modern-day heroes. We do not feel cherished, we feel abandoned and left for dead by the government. C’mon!” Gatdula said.

 

MIDDLE EAST COVID-19 CRISIS: 16 OFW deaths in two days as survivors scavenge for food! OFWs hit Duterte gov’t for criminal negligence!

According to government data, up to 3,926 OFWs were infected with COVID-19 in the Middle East as of 19 June. The numbers in the Middle East have far exceeded figures in Europe and North America making the Middle East a COVID-19 hotspot for OFWs. Based on DFA figures, from 207 Middle East OFW casualties on 17 June, the number surged to 223 two days later on friday, 19 June. Migrante International banged the alarm on the Duterte government’s criminal negligence that has been aggravating the peril brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to overseas Filipinos in the Middle East. 

In a press conference held on friday, distressed OFWs decried the inefficient and/or absence of support from the Philippine government. Bernadette Erlano who works as a cleaner along with 300 other Filipino women under Jawa Human Resources in Al Khobar said that from March 1 up to now, they have not received their salaries and were only provided with company allowances. 

With many of them caught by the lockdown with expired or expiring contracts, they sought help from the embassy’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)  but no support came in. Refusing to go to work with their expired contracts, they were threatened by the company that their food allowances will be cut off. They pleaded with POLO officials in the hope that they will be able to claim their benefits and be repatriated urgently to the Philippines. Some of them were even brought to the police stations for questioning after posting their plight on social media. 

Louie Perez works as an aluminum installer in Riyadh and was among the group of OFWs who went viral on social media after uploading their video when they were scavenging for food from garbage bins. “We followed the process for the government’s AKAP cash assistance program but we were told that we are not qualified. Having a co-worker who died in distress and finding ourselves scavenging for food from garbage bins should be enough reason for the government to consider us qualified and have all of us repatriated,” Perez implored. 

Pablito de Ocampo, one of the OFWs who resorted to scavenging said, “We have always relayed our pleas to POLO. We feel like we are being used like playful objects where after being lent here in Saudi, our own government refuses to give us help. POLO is inutile!”

Rogelio Rivalde blamed POLO for the death of their fellow co-worker Jeffrey Yape. Rivalde said that Yape died in distress without receiving any substantial hellp from POLO. “They even pressured us to resign but we refused because we will be forced to pay thousands of Saudi Riyals.” Yape died of cardiac arrest on 21 May. 

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion blasted the Duterte government’s ineptitude. “The government is hell-bent in imposing state exactions like Philhealth to extract more money from OFWs. However when it comes to providing relief services and financial assistance, OFWs are being deprived by their own government. OFWs are rummaging through trash bins just to find food so where are the promised food and financial assistance? Why is it that they are just allowing OFWs to die from hunger and neglect?”

Marife Torres and Yolanda Lorica have been begging their companies to allow them to return back to the Philippines but their pleas were denied. Torres is fearful that she has already contracted COVID-19 from her employer who recently tested positive. Lorica said that she and her co-workers are being coerced to pay 15,000 Saudi Riyals if they want to be granted exit visas. 

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June 19 PRESS CON: Yolanda Lorica and her fellow Arco workers in Al Khobar

Concepcion of Migrante lamented that the Duterte regime still does not have any contingency plan up to this very moment. She said, “we demand for immediate actions to repatriate our kababayans and deliver assistance for the families of OFWs who died from COVID-19. Stranded OFWs should not be made to pay for flights just to be repatriated. They should be provided with free repatriation and medical assistance.”

Slavelike conditions describe the plight of John Michael Solis along with his fellow OFWs in Khatif. They have been forced to work overtime for a scaffolding company without pay and without allowance. Their passports are being withheld from them by their employers. 

Meanwhile, James Cabugsa has been on a No-Work-No-Pay arrangement for three months in Dubai, UAE. “I applied for DOLE’s AKAP cash assistance way back on the 24th of April but I have never heard anything from them. I just don’t understand why community groups, organizations and even individuals are able to provide relief to us while in contrast, we are not getting any response at all from our very own government. All we are asking is for the government to urgently come to our aid and respond to our pleas,” Cabugsa entreated.

Tormented over the terrible condition of her daughter Mary Jane Veloso who is still on death row in Indonesia after being victimized by traffickers, Nanay Celia is calling anew on the government to help her eldest daughter Lea who tested positive for COVID-19 in Dammam. “I am asking our president to help my daughters. Mary Jane Veloso is ill. Her blood pressure went down to 80/60 and she also has an ulcer. At the same time, my eldest daughter in Damman is already COVID-19 positive. I feel so much misery over their afflictions and if it were not for Migrante, and other generous supporters like church people, I wouldn’t know what to do. I hope Mary Jane will return soon and my eldest daughter [in Dammam] recover swiftly so that we all can be reunited here. I hope the president is watching, and come to the aid of my daughters.”

Hearing the testimonies of Filipino migrants, Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International said, “This only shows that OFWs are not getting the ‘VIP-treatment’ loudly trumpeted by Malacañang. They are not being prioritized by the Duterte government. In fact, while Philippine embassies and consular services were halted by suspensions, POGO operations in the Philippines are being opened. The cessation of consular services overseas at this time of crisis is proof of the government’s abandonment of OFWs. The welfare of OFWs is the responsibility of the government and its agencies. Migrante International has been documenting the situation of distressed OFWs and we will not hesitate to resort to legal actions if the government continues to neglect them. ”

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Presscon link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=263404624994654&ref=watch_permalink

 

 

 

STRANDED IN AMSTERDAM: 14 OFWs denied entry back to the Philippines citing government-imposed quota. Migrante International seeks immediate assistance and repatriation for stranded OFWs

Migrante International is calling on President Duterte and his government agencies to give attention to the plight of 14 Overseas Filipino Workers currently stranded in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. According to the OFWs, Philippine authorities refused to allow them to fly back to Manila on the pretext that “it already reached its quota.” Among the fourteen is a domestic helper while all the rest are seafarers from Curacao. Duterte’s task force officials have recently restricted the entry quota of returning OFWs to 1,000 to 1,500 per day depending on the availability of quarantine facilities. 

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These imposed quotas are only meant to allow the Duterte regime to buy time as the country’s healthcare and quarantine facilities remain inadequate to absorb the surge of Filipino repatriates displaced by the COVID-19 crisis. The Duterte regime has been hit by a strong public backlash following widespread reports of OFWs sleeping on airport pavements and under bridges along roads leading to NAIA terminals. Most of whom will be going back to their respective places without receiving a single pence from any of the government’s promised financial amelioration for OFWs and workers. Where is Malacañang’s so-called ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs? 

Inflicting the world’s harshest and longest lockdown has not really brought desired improvements despite the fact that these heavy-handed measures are backed by President Duterte’s rapacious emergency powers. The government’s debt is projected to swell to Php 9.59 Trillion as it scampers to borrow money left and right and yet the humanitarian crisis experienced by OFWs and their kababayans back home is getting exacerbated by the day. 

Migrante International demands for immediate assistance and repatriation for all stranded OFWs. For all the troubles that they experienced from the Duterte regime’s ineptitude, no OFW should be going back to their families empty handed. It is atrocious that while the Philippines is being buried further underneath a mountainous pile of debt, the overwhelming majority of distressed OFWs are not really getting any substantial amelioration from the Duterte regime. What they got instead are rubbish laws like the mandatory Philhealth premium hike increase and the despicable Terror Bill. There is no truth to Malacañang’s loudly trumpeted ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs.  It’s clearly a big lie! Enough of the garbage-like treatment of OFWs! Ayuda hindi diktadura!

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“Junk Terror Bill! Ayuda Hindi Diktadura!” — Filipino migrant groups on the 2020 Independence Day Global Mañanita Protest

To commemorate the past anti-colonial struggles for national liberation and its continuing significance in our present day struggle against Fascism and Imperialism, Filipino migrant organizations and formations worldwide joined the Filipino nation on the 12th of June 2020 to mark Independence Day by protesting against the Duterte regime’s Terror Bill. Members of Migrante International and Migrante Philippines braved the rain to come together with other groups and sectors for the People’s Grand Mañanita’ Protest action at UP Diliman on friday. 

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In a statement, Migrante International blasted the Duterte regime for its puppetry to imperialist interests and its continuing garbage-like treatment of OFWs. Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion said, “Fast forward to 2020, our national sovereignty continues to be trampled severely by US imperialist domination and China’s emergent imperialist expansionism. The US-Duterte regime’s neoliberal fornication with foreign imperialist interests has brought horrific wretchedness to our nation at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Treated like garbage, thousands upon thousands of OFWs have now found themselves either stuck in quarantine facilities or are wandering aimlessly around Metro Manila’s airports imploring to be brought back to their provinces and be reunited with their families. The overwhelming majority of whom received none of the promised financial aid from the government.” 

Concurrently, Migrante Australia, BAYAN Australia and Ugat Pinas held an online cultural program entitled “Haranang Bayan para sa Kalayaan”, featuring patriotic and progressive songs, poems and solidarity messages. In like manner, ACTION-Thailand went live with its online concert “Mga Awit ng Paglaban at Paglaya.” Down under in New Zealand, Filipinos and Kiwis held a candle-lighting protest against Duterte’s terror bill.

The ‘Pagsambang Bayan’ of the Promotion of Church People’s Response Hong Kong (PCPR HK) in the morning was followed by an 11am picket action at the Philippine Consulate conducted by Migrante Hong Kong, solidarity friends and other members of BAYAN organizations. 

“Kahit pa kami ay patuloy pang nagsusumikap na maka-alpas sa krisis ng pandaigdigang pandemya at ng ambang pagpapataw ng mataas at sapilitang paniningil ng Philhealth, hindi namin kinakaligtaang lumahok, makisangkot, patuloy na magsuri, mag-aral, kumilos at organisahin ang aming hanay para sa kolektibong pagtutol sa mga mapanupil at maling polisiya gayundin ang paglalatag ng alternatibong programa para sa tunay na kalayaan at demokrasya, (Even though we are striving to overcome the global crisis brought about by the pandemic and the impending imposition of the mandatory Philhealth exaction, we never forget to participate, engage, scrutinize, study, take action and organize our ranks to collectively oppose the repressive and the erroneous policies [of the Duterte regime], as well as taking part in laying out alternative programmes for genuine freedom and democracy)” KASAMMA-KO or Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea said in a statement.

Filipino migrant groups in the US also held picket actions and other activities in their respective cities. A webinar entitled Organizing Solidarity From the Border to Our Homelands was launched with the aim to connect the manifestations of the crisis of imperialism with the inhumane conditions experienced by migrants in the US and the continued political, economic and military intervention in the Philippines and Central America. The online activity was initiated by IMA USA in partnership with other migrant rights’ organizations. 

In Europe, a fundraising event for Typhoon Ambo victims entitled  ‘Take Back Our Roots’ was organized by Migrante organizations and Anakbayan Europa, in collaboration with Silakbo Media. Migrante Europe decried the Duterte regime’s tyrannical approach in the COVID-19 crisis. “The Philippine government’s approach against the spread of COVID19 has become the world’s longest lockdown that was strictly and unequally implemented against the poor majority-many of whom were arrested and jailed while helping others..compared to those violators of quarantine guidelines and health protocols who are in the powers-that-be, where the law is replaced by compassion and padrino-system,” Marlon Lacsamana of Migrante Europe stated. 

Denouncing the Duterte regime’s terror bill, Lacsamana exclaimed, “When enacted into law, this jurisprudence shall become a weapon of the Duterte government to instill fear and terror to the people demanding public accountability. With this law in effect, the people struggling for land, food, jobs and housing; basic social services and democratic rights; national sovereignty and territorial integrity shall become easy targets of persecution.”

With distressing conditions afflicting OFWs touted by the government as ‘modern-day heroes,’ Migrante International vowed to continue exposing the criminal negligence of the Duterte regime. A Filipino cruise ship worker lost her life by suicide on Thursday after repeated flight suspensions further delayed her repatriation back to the Philippines. In Riyadh, an OFW wept in an online video while pleading for help from the Duterte government to rescue them from starving conditions in their shelter. Migrante International has been calling on the Duterte government to fast track the repatriation of stranded Filipino migrants and ensure that medical and psychosocial services are provided to OFWs before and after repatriation. 

Members of Migrante International and Migrante Philippines through its COVID-19 response  have been visiting stranded OFWs sleeping on pavements and under bridges leading to NAIA airports. Malacañang in recent weeks have been drawing flak for its vaunted ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs. 

“A great number of stranded OFWs sleeping on pavements and under bridges are at risk of facing the same tragic fate that struck Michelle Silvertino, an indigent woman who died waiting for the Bicol-bound bus that never came. Instead of mass testing and amelioration, OFWs and the rest of the Filipino people are encumbered with more troubles through additional state exactions like the mandatory OFW Philhealth membership and premium hike, new taxes for online merchants, and the continuing deprivation of public transportation against the commuting masses,” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lamented. 

Migrante International likewise pointed out that since government programs purported to address the COVID-19 public health threat are handled by ex-military and police personalities who treat the crisis as a ‘counter-insurgency’ operation or a ‘law and order’ situation rather than a humanitarian crisis, the pressing needs of the Filipino people are being ignored. The OFW advocacy group deplores the Duterte regime for creating a national task force without a single epidemiologist as member. “All the troubles besetting OFWs and their families back home are proof of the Duterte regime’s failure,” Concepcion concluded. 

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FILIPINO MIGRANTS JOIN INDEPENDENCE DAY GRAND MAÑANITA PROTEST 12 June 2020

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PHILIPPINES

 

Grand Mañanita Protest

10 AM assembly along University Ave., UP Diliman 

 

 

EUROPE

 

Take Back Our Roots: A Fundraising Event for Typhoon Ambo Victims

Links: 

Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=122767886124437&id=110942717306954 

Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/SilakboMedia/posts/148451916799956 

Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/AnakbayanEurope/posts/3480451651984910/ 

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

 

9:30 am Panalanging Bayan, Philippine Consulate, Hong Kong SAR

 

10:30 am Kalampagan vs. Terror Bill, South Korea

 

11:00 am Protest Action to Junk Terror Bill, Philippine Consulate, Hong Kong SAR

 

12:00 nn Konsyerto ng Paglaban, Thailand

 

1:30 pm Candle-light Vigil and Protest, New Zealand

 

2:00 pm Mga Awit ng Paglaban at Paglaya, Online Concert, Hong Kong SAR

 

2:30 pm Mañanita sa Macau laban sa Terror Bill, Macau SAR

 

3:00 pm Kalampagan sa Japan laban sa Terror Bill, Japan

 

4:00 pm Vigil Protest, Australia

 

For more information on People’s Mañanita events in the Asia Pacific, please visit this link: https://www.facebook.com/migrante.aspac/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARADBbBstDajADcRv9twCDARgIUGKXY7D3WPzELdjxJnhw1z4SWda_K4ID6-vuM1e3noHY1MIaQ85EFO

 

 

USA

 

Webinar: Organizing Solidarity from the Border to Our Homelands

 

Thursday, June 11 at 8:30 PM EDT

 

Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/684438399019228/

INDEPENDENCE DAY: Filipino migrants rights’ group blasts Duterte regime for Terror Bill and garbage-like treatment of OFWs

Treading the difficult path of struggle, our forebears rose up to seize power from a major colonial force to attain freedom from foreign subjugation. Though the independence proclaimed on 12 June 1898 was short-lived, we continue to remember those who offered their lives for the cause of national liberation. Migrante International joins the Filipino people in honouring the heroic masses of the past for their bravery and sacrifices. 

Fast forward to 2020, our national sovereignty continues to be trampled severely by US imperialist domination and China’s emergent imperialist expansionism. The US-Duterte regime’s neoliberal fornication with foreign imperialist interests has brought horrific wretchedness to our nation at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Treated like garbage, thousands upon thousands of OFWs have now found themselves either stuck in quarantine facilities or are wandering aimlessly around Metro Manila’s airports imploring to be brought back to their provinces and be reunited with their families. The overwhelming majority of whom received none of the promised financial aid from the government. 

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PHOTO: 2019 Independence Day, Rappler

A great number of stranded OFWs sleeping on pavements and under bridges are at risk of facing the same tragic fate that struck Michelle Silvertino, an indigent woman who died waiting for the Bicol-bound bus that never came. Instead of mass testing and amelioration, OFWs and the rest of the Filipino people are encumbered with more troubles through additional state exactions like the mandatory OFW Philhealth membership and premium hike, new taxes for online merchants, and the continuing deprivation of public transportation against the commuting masses.  

The most despicable of all is the looming imposition of the Duterte regime’s Terror Bill. While the likes of Sinas, Mocha, Koko and Bong Go are having their heyday of impunity, the Terror Bill will surely be used to further criminalize legitimate dissent and persecute critics and activists. As long as the Duterte regime condones the military presence of the US and China within our territories, and their intervention into our country’s national affairs, the much-vaunted “Independence” remains a hoax. 

Migrante International calls on Filipino migrants and their families to forge stronger unity in resisting the Duterte regime’s Fascist tyranny and dictatorial reign of terror. Walking in the footsteps of our heroic forebears, let us fight for our people’s freedom and sovereignty. Long live our struggle for national democracy!

Ayuda hindi diktadura!

End state terrorism! 

Uphold human rights!

Tunay na Kalayaan, Ipaglaban! 

Tunay na Kalayaan, Hindi Diktadura! 

Junk Terror Bill! 

Junk VFA!  

Atin ang Pinas, US at China, Layas!

 

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Filipino migrants’ rights group assails Terror Bill as it awaits Duterte’s signature

Despite widespread condemnation from different sectors and withdrawals of support from legislators, the Terror Bill that the tyrannical Duterte regime has been rabidly hankering for is finally in Malacañang. At the stroke of a pen, this Terror Bill would further systematize and legalize the organized crime and terror of the state against the Filipino people. Migrante International vehemently denounces the perversity of the Duterte regime to stifle dissent and criminalize resistance against its murderous policies.

Filipino migrants have been among the sectors that were hit the hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. OFWs continue to be treated like garbage and are being dumped at NAIA with the majority of them not even receiving any of the financial aid promised by the Duterte regime. Yet instead of prioritizing the fulfillment of their just demands for amelioration, they were instead whacked with deleterious laws such as the Philhealth premium rate hike and the draconian Terror Bill. 

We have seen how the government has threatened to deport a Taiwan-based OFW for merely expressing her opposition to President Duterte’s outrageous actions. Intimidation and red tagging befalls OFWs who dare to speak up against the regime’s criminal negligence. Worst of all, leading defenders of people’s rights are constant targets of state-sponsored killings like what happened to migrants rights’ activist Jory Porquia who was shot dead in his place of residence by suspected state elements from the police and the military. 

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PHOTO: New York Times

The Duterte regime has squandered billions to bolster its black propaganda against progressive groups like Migrante International that uphold the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families. However, the more they vilify us for our social justice mission, the more the Duterte regime exposes its atrocious inutility and destructiveness before the Filipino people and the world. Anger and enmity against Duterte’s bloody reign of terror is mounting to the highest level every single moment.

Migrante International calls on all its member organizations and all Filipino communities overseas to continue opposing the Duterte regime’s Terror Bill. On the 12th of June, let us register our steadfast unity and booming resistance to assert our devotion for justice, freedom and liberty in our beloved country.

Junk Terror Bill!
Ayuda hindi diktadura!
End state terrorism!
Uphold human rights!

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Hundreds of OFWs stranded at NAIA; Filipino teacher in Thailand commits suicide; Where’s the ‘VIP treatment’ ??? — Migrante International asks Malacañang

“COVID, no work, no pay, no job, wala lahat. Di ko na kaya…Hindi ko na po alam ang gagawin ko dito sa Thailand. Hindi na ako makakain, di man lang ako makauwi sa Pinas.” These were the last words penned by Melvin Cacho, a 27 year old Filipino teacher in Thailand who was reported to have committed suicide due to depression. Cacho is just one of the hundreds of thousands of distressed OFWs who are severely hit by state negligence amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Migrante International is saddened by his tragic passing and we share the pain of loss with Melvin’s loved ones in the Philippines. 

As early as April, we have already called out the Duterte government for excluding OFWs from more than a hundred countries (including Thailand) from its Php10K DOLE AKAP cash aid program. There were only 29 countries listed under Department Order No. 212 where OFWs can apply for cash assistance. It is no wonder that OFWs from countries outside of the Duterte government’s priority list feel forsaken and isolated. 

Meanwhile, more than a hundred OFWs were left stranded and had to lie down on the walkways outside the entrance of NAIA terminal 2 on Thursday midnight, June 4, while waiting for their flights back to the provinces. This is in stark contrast with how seamlessly Duterte and his IATF officials have flown to Davao City a few days ago. This means that the only VIP treatment we are seeing applies to President Duterte and his lackeys, so Malacañang better stop fooling the public that OFWs are experiencing the same level of comfort and efficiency. OFWs have been incarcerated in quarantine facilities for more than a month and they’ll be returning back to their provinces with the overwhelming majority of them not receiving a single penny from the government’s promised financial aid. 

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PHOTO: ABS-CBN News (4 June 2020)

With the railroading of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the Duterte regime’s priority is really to suppress dissent. Public service is not in President Duterte’s vocabulary. His criminal ineptitude is unparalleled even by his crooked predecessors. Despite the hundreds of billions spent in the Philippines and abroad by the Duterte regime for propaganda, it is miserably failing to aromatize its stinking image now that its rottenness and inutility is being laid bare and experienced by returning OFWs. 

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Scrap mandatory PhilHealth membership for OFWs and Filipino migrants in Australia Calls for Dialogue with Philippine Envoy

Migrante Australia echoes the call of Filipino migrant organisations around
the world calls to scrap mandatory membership to and collection by
PhilHealth, the government agency mandated by law to insure accessible
health care for Filipino citizens.  President Rodrigo Duterte signed into
law the Universal Health Care Act of 2019 (Republic Act No 11223) on 20
February 2019.  In the middle of the pandemic, Circular No. 2020-0014 dated
22 April 2020 was issued listing all Filipinos as mandatory members which
includes land based OFWs, seafarers, dual citizens, Filipinos migrants,
overseas Filipinos in distress,  and those not previously classified
elsewhere.

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PHOTO: Migrante Hong Kong

Ms Carmelita Baltazar, chairperson of Migrante Australia said that members
of the Filipino Australian community are so disappointed that the Philippine
government did not consult any migrant organisations in formulating its
healthcare programs and medical insurance and then passed a law mandating
them become members of PhilHealth insurance. “It is dodgy as we will
automatically become members of PhilHealth even without signing a membership
form. The automatic membership will legitimise taking 3% of our basic pay
starting June 2020 and increasing yearly by half percent to 5% through a
system generated billing statement”, Ms Baltazar added.

Mr. Danny Ladera said that our Australian employers will also be made to pay
their counterpart contribution for each Filipino citizen they employ on
their business. “I wonder if the Australian government was consulted on
PhilHealth insurance scheme Certainly, the Australian healthcare system is
one of the best in the modern world. Placing Filipinos in Australia under
mandatory PhilHealth private insurance is an insult to Australian health
care system itself. Why enforce the PhilHealth private insurance to
Filipinos here? There is already an existing and reliable medical system in
Australia and temporary migrants such as workers and international students
have private health insurance as part of their visa requirements. It doesn’t
make sense, ” he concluded.

Ms. Baltazar said that they will organise a nationwide dialogue with the
Philippine Ambassador, Ma. Hellen De La Vega to ventilate their concerns
over PhilHealth insurance scheme.