Lift martial law, US troops out of PH soil, resume GRP-NDF peace talks! – Migrante

Migrante International joined today’s BAYAN-led Independence Day protests to condemn the ongoing martial law in Marawi and the direct intervention of US special forces against the Maute/ISIS threat in Mindanao.

“We call on President Duterte, as the Commander-in-Chief, to immediately halt the airstrikes and double-time evacuation efforts to save Marawi from carnage. We call on all peace-loving and freedom-fighting Filipinos to unite against the terrorist groups connected with US-CIA-created ISIS, and resist military take-over of Mindanao,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando also called on Filipinos around the world to resist and reject US involvment in the Marawi conflict. “Our nation should not fall prey to the ploy of foreign powers to wreak terror and division to advance their economic and political interests, similar to what they are staging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence and democratic rights,” he said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people should not allow 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, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, is now further exposed. We call for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of all US troops.”

“Instead, we should all strive to achieve a just and lasting peace. A militarist and Marcosian policy will never be the solution to the deeply-rooted problems of our society. Duterte should stand by his declaration of an independent foreign policy and rejection of US control in the country. An independent foreign policy can and should be addressed compehensively by the Duterte government while pursuing the GRP-NDF peace talks,” Hernando said. ###


Reveal concrete contingency measures for OFWs in Qatar now, DOLE, DFA urged

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Migrante opens Crisis Hotline for OFWs in Qatar

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today called on the Duterte administration to reveal in concrete terms its contingency measures for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in light of the escalating crisis in Qatar.

“We initially welcomed the DOLE’s announcement of a deployment ban as a prompt precautionary measure, we are not too keen with the partial lifting of the said ban, however, within less than 24 hours. Why keep sending our Filipinos to Qatar when the situation there is obviously still unstable? Yet, as before, our OFWs are forced to choose between a potentially risky situation over definite joblessness here in the country, and the government can offer them nothing in return but the hasty partial lifting of the ban,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that the DOLE and the DFA should have first disclosed to concerned OFWs and their families the government’s concrete steps in ensuring the well-being and protection of at least 270,000 Filipinos in Qatar.

“We have been receiving reports from our Qatar chapter. Filipinos are at a loss. Saan sila tatakbo kung sakaling lumala ang sitwasyon? The embassy has set up hotlines but many of Filipinos are located in far-flung camps or are working as household service workers, without access or means to reach PH posts. Hundreds are stranded in camps, their wages withheld since January of this year, awaiting resolution of their labor disputes. What of the kafala system?” Hernando said.

The kafala or sponsorship system is an immigration and labor system that binds an OFW to their sponsor or employer, whose written consent is required should they opt to leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions.

“With the escalating situation in Qatar, a simple declaration from the DOLE that they are ‘prepared’ for emergency repatriation will not suffice. We call on the government to not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations and instead prepare for active intervention to locate, secure and ensure the safe exit of Filipinos from potential conflict areas. Apart from sweeping announcements, there remains no clear blueprint from the government on how it plans to effect emergency repatriation if or when it ever takes place,” Hernando said.

He cited previous experiences in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other conflict-ridden places in the MENA (Middle East-North Africa) region. “Because of lack of information, our OFWs have resorted in braving dangerous streers and locations to get to terminals to exit posts. Forces in the Gulf region are now re-aligning and we have witnessed enough to safely say that potential violence and stife might erupt. The government should cease its ‘wait-and-see’ attitude now and not a moment to waste. Huwag na sanang maulit ang nangyari dati sa Egypt, Libya at Syria na ang ibang mga gobyerno ay na-evacuate na ang kanilang mga kababayan at ang mga OFW na lang natin ang naiwan,” Hernando said.

For its part, Migrante International opened its Crisis Hotlines to OFWs in Qatar. OFWs and their families can contact Migrante through mobile number 0921-2709079, or via email at, or by leaving a message at

Migrante International will also be requesting for a dialogue with the Qatar embassy in Manila to seek information on the current situation in there.

Hernando said that the current situation in Qatar and the MENA region should be a “wake-up call” for the Duterte government to stop implementing a labor export policy.

“There are roughly four (4) million OFWs in the MENA region alone, not by choice but because of forced migration brought on by joblessness, low wages and lack of basic social services. Iyong mga kakauwi pa lang mula sa Saudi Arabia, kalakhan sa kanila ay bumalik na o lumabas na naman ng bansa. Instead of subjecting our workers to the same vicious cycle, the government should seriously instigate an overhaul of the system and focus on national industrialization and genuine land reform to create more domestic jobs at home. The government’s labor export policy is ultimately accountable for placing our OFWs in the situation they are in now.” ###

Migrante lauds Gabriela Partylist for seeking review of Migrants’ Act of 1995

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families today commended Garbiela Women’s Partylist for filing a resolution calling for an evaluation of the Migrants’ Act of 1995, or Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022.

The Migrants’ Act of 1995 was signed into law 22 years ago, on June 7, National Migrants’ Day, as a response to strong public condemnation after the execution of Flor Contemplacion.

“Twenty-two years after the enactment of R.A. 8042 or the Migrants’ Act of 1995, to say that the plight of Filipino migrant workers has worsened is a gross understatement. If Pres. Duterte wants to protect our OFWs and curb labor migration, he must begin at questioning the labor export policy institutionalized in this law,” said Arman Hernando, Spokesperson of Migrante International.

Before session ended, Gabriela Women’s Partylist lawmakers Rep. Emmi De Jesus and Rep. Arlene Brosas filed House Resolution 1056 or the “Resolution directing the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs to conduct a comprehensive review, in aid of legislation, of Republic Act 8042 or otherwise known as the Migrante Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act 10022 to evaluate its effectivity in the promotion and protection of Filipino migrant’s rights and their families and resolve the root cause of forced migration in fulfillment of Article II Sec. 18 and Article XIII Sec. 3 of the 1987 Constitution.”

In a position paper circulated in Congress, Migrante argued that “the Migrants’ Act of 1995 intensified the commodification of people as it continues to promote the Labor Export Policy and the extraction of unfair taxes and unjust fees from migrant workers.”

Migrante also asserted that the law “took away the responsibility of the Philippine government towards OFWs and their families and passed this on to private recruitment agencies and employers abroad.”

To concretize the government’s adherence to labor export since the enactment of the Migrants’ Act, Migrante cited data from POEA showing yearly increase of OFW deployment from 1995 to 2015. From 1995, the OFW deployment of land-based new-hires increased by 140% in 2015.

“The more revolting fact is that even after the death of Flor Contemplacion, the government unabatedly continued deploying the most vulnerable section of OFWs, the domestic helpers. By 2015, 533 domestic helpers are being deployed every day, an increase of 207% from 2015. And they are all treated like slaves,” lamented Hernando.

Hernando stressed that despite of the guarantees under the law, OFWs are still exposed to various abuses by their employers and incapable of seeking justice. Repatriation, recruitment violation and criminal cases involving Filipino migrant workers continue to flood the offices of POLO, POEA, OWWA and such other government posts daily.

“We reject the Migrants’ Act of 1995 as we reject the commodification of migrant workers in the unjust Labor Export Policy of the government,” concluded Hernando.

On June 7, National Migrants’ Day, Migrante International will hold a forum dubbed “SUMA 2017: The State of the Filipino Migrants and their Families under the Duterte Administration” to be held in University of the Philippines – Diliman. ###


OFWs press Duterte to stop airstrikes in Marawi, call for unity against US-backed terrorism and military rule

“We call on President Duterte, as the Commander-in-Chief, to immediately halt the airstrikes and double-time its evacuation efforts to save the Marawi people from carnage. We urge all peace-loving and freedom-fighting Filipinos to unite against the terrorist groups connected with US-CIA-created ISIS, and resist military take-over of Mindanao.”

This was the message of Migrante International as Pinoys abroad hold a “Global Day of Action for Peace in Mindanao” in response to the escalating conflict in Marawi and heightened military operations in the rest of Mindanao after the declaration of Martial Law on May 23. Local authorities stated that sixteen civilians have been killed, but Marawi city citizens reported that hundreds are possibly dead and thousands are still trapped in gunfights.

“Our nation should not fall prey to the ploy of foreign powers to wreak terror and division to advance their economic and political interests, similar to what they are staging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where its people are asserting their independence and democratic rights,” said Arman Hernando, spokesperson of Migrante.

Migrant groups and Filipino communities in Europe, Middle East, Asia, Australia and North America held various forms of actions to air their solidarity and concern for their fellow Filipinos in their homeland.

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“Malayo man sa bansang Pilipinas, hindi maalis ang aming pangamba para sa seguridad ng ating mga kababayan na naaapektuhan ng nagaganap na palitan ng putukan sa paggitan ng Maute group at militar. Mahigpit kaming nakikiisa hindi lamang sa mga taga-Mindanao bagkus ay sa lahat ng Pilipino saan mang sulok ng Pilipinas at sa buong mundo dahil ngayon mas kinakailangan ang pagbubuklod-buklod at hindi ang pagkakahati-hati,” plead the group Nagkakaisang Pilipino sa Pransya in a statement.

Overseas Filipino organizations also called on the Philippine government to immediately lift Proclamation No. 216 declaring a state of martial law in Mindanao, and resume the peace negotiations with groups addressing the roots of economic strife and armed conflict in the Philippines like the CPP-NPA-NDF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In the USA, Filipino church leaders, students and social justice activists rallied in front of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco to condemn the declaration. “We appeal to President Duterte to lift the martial law in Mindanao and urge him to refrain from extending martial law to the entire Philippines. We believe that this militarist approach will not resolve the problem, but instead will put more lives in danger and further aggravate the insecurity in the area,” said Terry Valen, President of the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).

NAFCON also launched a campaign calling for donations for conflict-afflicted communities in Marawi and Mindanao.

In Australia, the Filipino community in New South Wales marched during the Blacktown City Festival and performed “Singkil for Peace in Mindanao” in solidarity with the people of Marawi.

In Europe, OFW groups lead by Fr. Herbert Fadriquela Jr., Anglican Chaplain of the Filipino Community of the Diocese of Liecester in the United Kingdom, expressed alarm on the declaration of martial law and suspension of the ongoing peace negotiations.

“Under military rule, the just and lasting peace we aspire for shall recede farther away, more human rights abuses and violence would reign in our land,” decried Fr. Fadriquela of Migrante Europe.

Migrante asserted that “an iron fist policy is not the solution to the deeply-rooted problems in Philippine society such as poverty, violence and lawlessness. These problems should be addressed comprehensively by the government while pursuing peace talks towards achieving just and lasting peace.” ###

Migrante welcomes passport validity extension but protests 100% fee increase

Migrante International called on newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to stop the proposal for a 100% increase in passport fees with 10-year validity.

According to an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), passports will soon cost P1,900 to P2,000, twice the current price of P950 for passports with 5-year validity.

“Better government services should never be placed on the public’s shoulders, in particular our OFWs’. The extension of passport validity is a welcome relief for OFWs because it will unburden them of the tedious and tiresome passport renewal process, but it should not be used to justify new state exactions. We urge Sec. Cayetano to immediately halt the proposed increase in passport fees and instead focus on improving the services of the DFA with no added costs to the public,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante spokesperson.

News on the proposed increase came out when the upper house approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 1356, which amends the Passport Act of 1996 and extends the validity of Philippine passports from 5 to 10 years.

DFA Sec. Cayetano was one of the authors of said bill. SB 1356 was deliberated under his wing when he was Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“During the senate deliberations, we conveyed to Sec. Cayetano that OFWs must be assured that the extension of the validity of passports will not result in an increase in passport fees. It is illogical to impose fee hikes since  it will not, in any way, bring additional expense to the government. In fact, through this measure, the government can save funds which it can divert to other direct services for OFWs,” said Hernando.

The House of Representatives has already ratified the bicameral report on the proposal to extend the validity of passports. The ratified bill will now be forwarded to Malacañang for President Duterte’s signature.

Hernando also urged Sec. Cayetano to conduct a probe on anomalous exorbitant and varying passport fee rates imposed by Philippine embassies and consulates. He asserted that passport fees in PH posts abroad should not be different from the rates in the Philippines.

“Otherwise, we have reason to believe that passport fees are being utilized for profit and income-generation of embassies and consulates, at the expense of OFWs,” Hernando said.

Based on reports from Migrante chapters abroad, current rates are higher by 200%-300% (for passport renewal) and 350%-650% (for replacement of lost passports) than the costs in the Philippines.passport rates.png

Hernando said that their group is seeking a dialogue with Sec. Cayetano to discuss urgent and pressing concerns and issues of overseas Filipinos in time for the National Migrants Day next month. ###

#LaborDayPH P750 minimum wage can prevent 200K OFWs from working abroad every year

Migrante International today marched with Filipino workers and other sectors in support of the call for a legislated, across-the-board, national minimum wage set at P750 per day.

“A P750 national minimum wage can significantly reverse the migration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). If implemented, for every year, around 200,000 workers can opt to stay and contribute their labor and skills for nation-building while living decently with their families,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that based on Migrante’s study, OFWs who receive a basic salary of US$400-500 per month would prefer to work in the Philippines instead because their income will be at par with the meager pay they receive abroad.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that since 2011 the country has been annually deploying at least 200,000 OFWs to job positions with salaries ranging from US$400-500/month. Majority are Household Service Workers and General Laborers in the Middle East who receive monthly salaries of 400 US Dollars and 1,500 Saudi Riyals, respectively.

Further, according to 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, these OFWs account for 33 percent of the total OFW deployment.

“Meanwhile, OFWs are coming back home not because they opt to but because of the effects of an ongoing global economic crisis in host countries. Hundreds of thousands of OFWs are being displaced and retrenched in crisis-stricken Saudi Arabia. What awaits them in the event of their emergency return? Definitely there are not enough decent-paying domestic jobs available. What the government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services,” Hernando said.

The situation of OFWs has undeniably worsened since the labor export policy came into full force. Policy-wise, the Duterte government has so far done nothing substantial to curb forced migration and deviate from a policy of labor export. The Philippine economy’s dependence on remittances of OFWs remains unparelleled to this day.

“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 our OFWs to come back home, we need more regular jobs, higher wages and pro-labor policies, not a labor export policy that has long gone bankrupt,” Hernando said.

To genuinely address the problem of forced migration, economic policies should focus on developing the national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services.

Migrante International fully supports the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to the problem of forced migration. ###

Families of OFWs on deathrow troop to Malacanang to appeal for #ClemencyPH

Days before the two-year anniversary of the stay of execution of Mary Jane Veloso, her parents and other families of OFWs on deathrow trooped to Malacanang and appealed to the president to seek executive clemency for all OFWs on deathrow.

“Umaasa kami na gagawin ng ating pangulo ang lahat ng kanyang makakaya para mailigtas ang aming mga mahal sa buhay pangunahin sa pamamagitan ng clemency sa mga pinuno ng ibang bansa. Hiling ko na maisalba niya ang buhay ng mga OFW na biktima ng mga iligal na recruiter at sindikato ng iligal na droga. Tulad ng aking anak, ilang taon na silang nabubulok sa kulungan sa kasalanang hindi naman nila ginawa. Pangulong Duterte, mahabag po kayo, umaasa kami sa inyong panata na ililigtas ang pamilyang Pilipino mula sa pangil ng malalaking negosyante ng droga,” appealed Celia Veloso, mother of Mary Jane Veloso who remains incarcerated in Indonesia.  April 29 marks the second year anniversary of her temporary reprieve from execution.

Celia Veloso also expressed alarm over Philippine Court of Appeals recently issued temporary restraining order (TRO) on the supposed scheduled deposition of Mary Jane Veloso tomorrow, April 27. “Nangangamba ako na baka ituloy na ng gobyerno ng Indonesia ang pagbitay sa aking anak dahil sa bagal ng hustisya sa ating bansa at ang mismong pagpigil pa ng mga ahensiya ng ating pamahalaan sa pagkuha ng testimonya ng aking anak,” decried Veloso.

Alicia Dalquez, mother of Jennifer Dalquez, also plead to the president, “ikinagalak namin ang kanyang pangako na mapapauwi ang ilang OFW na nasa deathrow noong siya ay magpunta sa Middle East. Umaasa kami na gagawin niya ito para sa lahat ng aming mga mahal sa buhay. Umaasa kami sa kanyang pangako sa mga OFW na gagawin ang lahat para mabuo na muli ang aming mga pamilya.”

Jennifer Dalquez is an OFW who was sentenced to death in UAE after she accidentally killed an Emirati police who attempted to rape her. After a few postponements, the Al Ain appellate court is scheduled to release its decision today on the appeal to commute the death sentence on Jennifer Dalquez. She appealed on the basis of honoring her right of self-defense.

Veloso and Dalquiz were joined by families of other OFWs on deathrow (Rose Dacanay – Saudi Arabia and Gregoria Fajardo – Malaysia), Migrante International and church groups under the Churches Witnessing with Migrants (CWWM).

“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. Now is the time to correct the misdeeds of the past regimes. Jennifer and Mary Jane’s cases attest to the need for active government intervention in saving the lives of innocent OFWs on death row,” said Laorence Castillo, Program Coordinator of Migrante International.

According to Migrante 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 Aquino administration.

Migrante has launched the campaign #ClemencyPH together with CWWM to push Pres, Duterte to actively seek for executive clemency for all OFWs on deathrow. On April 30, the families will be joined by supporters in a gathering of legislators (members of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs) churches and migrants rights advocates in the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

“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. ###