“The day of reckoning is at hand!” – Migrante International on the UN resolution against the Duterte regime

After much striving in the international arena, Migrante International joins other Human Rights groups in welcoming the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of the resolution calling for a comprehensive report on the bloody human rights record of the Duterte regime. This would impute accountability to the government as it gets compelled to allow independent investigations to be carried out so that perpetrators will finally be brought to justice. 

For this feat, we laud all groups including Karapatan, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) for their triumphant lobbying work and determination. Most notably, we are very grateful to Iceland for sponsoring the resolution.

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The Iceland-drafted resolution was affirmed by 18 member countries and backed by 28 non-member states. We view this development as a light that dispels the wretchedness confronting many Filipino families and communities struck by state terror. Duterte himself has admitted to his primary role in the brutal drug war killings that have claimed thousands of lives, the overwhelming majority of whom are from poor localities. 

In addition to the council’s concern on the Tokhang-related extrajudicial killings, the violent persecution of rights advocates and critics will be taken into account in upcoming probes. Tensions have been running high after the Duterte regime intensified its vicious assaults on the people’s defenders. A tremendous upswing in the cases of carnage and illegal arrests of activists and human rights workers occurred in the last few weeks.

Migrante International was never left untouched by harassment and intimidation. Right after we issued the Global Petition of Filipino Migrants which was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Migrante International has been enduring a more intensified vilification and intimidation campaign from state-sponsored hooligans. 

On 7 July, members of UNIFIL-MIGRANTE in Hongkong were pestered by a bunch of OFWs who introduced themselves as members of Makabayang Pilipino sa Hong Kong. They were posting banners and distributing leaflets of NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict). The propaganda materials contained hate-filled messages vilifying Migrante International and other progressive organizations that are opposed to the tyrannical rule of the Duterte regime. 

When confronted by UNIFIL-Migrante members, they were quick to brag about having the stamp of approval from the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Hong Kong. Members of UNIFIL- MIGRANTE in Hongkong are now verifying this claim from PCG officials. 

Just a few days later, on 10 July, staff members of our home office in Quezon City were rattled by a barrage of phone calls from somebody who identified himself as a media personnel. The enraged caller played back the Hongkong incident and kept yelling and hurling expletives at our staff, telling her that Migrante is a terrorist organization.

Furthermore, Migrante members in Saudi Arabia and Europe fielded reports about the so called “Aming Pinoy Community Leaders” seminar being conducted within the premises of Philippine embassies and consulates where Migrante International and other progressive groups are constantly red-tagged and disparaged during seminar sessions. 

Using publicly-funded government resources, the Duterte regime is keen on stamping out dissent at all cost by capitalizing on pro-Duterte groups. Under the direction of NTF-ELCAC and other agencies used as instruments of suppression, it wages a black propaganda war against progressive organizations like Migrante International which for a long time have upheld the rights and welfare of OFWs and their families. This tactic of tagging Duterte’s critics as terrorists is the regime’s way of justifying the killings, enforced disapperances, torture, illegal arrests and repression perpetrated against human rights defenders. 

Given the immensity of the bloodshed inflicted on the Filipino people, Migrante International holds the Duterte regime accountable for the extrajudicial killings and human rights violations it committed all for the sake of gratifying the interests of his fellow criminals in the ruling class. Before the international community, the victims of injustices bear witness to these atrocities. We shall not back down for the day of reckoning is at hand. Neither defamation nor bullets shall ever stop the waxing resistance of the Filipino masses against the Duterte terrorist regime. 

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Migrante International submits Filipino migrants’ rights petition to UN human rights body

Citing government neglect of Overseas Filipino Workers and the rampant extrajudicial killings in the country, Migrante International submitted its Global Petition of Filipino Migrants to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday, 9 July 2019. The petition aims to call the attention of the international body to the “gross human rights violations committed against Filipino migrants by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.”

The petition expressed support to the call of the 11 UN Special Rapporteurs for an independent investigation into the increasing rights violations in the country. Support for the call has been mounting. In 4 July, Iceland issued a draft resolution signed by 28 UN-member states asking the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to impose concrete actions on the killings linked to Duterte’s so called “war on drugs.”

Filipino migrants and families are not spared from extrajudicial killings perpetrated by state forces. In 16 August 2017, Kian delos Santos, a 17-year old son of a Saudi-based domestic helper was dragged across a dark alley beside the creek where he was brutally shot by police operatives. 

In the same month last year, OFW and cancer-patient Allan Rafael was mugged by Manila police during a checkpoint. He was then taken into custody for alleged possession of illegal drugs. According to Rafael’s family, the police’s allegations were based on planted fake evidence and his frail physical appearance. After being subjected to severe torture inside detention, he was declared dead after four days. Prior to his death, Rafael has been pale and weak after undergoing months of chemotherapy for his cancer ailment. 

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Photo: Bulatlat

Several weeks after Rafael’s murder, President Duterte admitted before national television that his only “sin” are the extrajudicial killings. “Ang kasalanan ko lang, yung mga extrajudicial killings (My only sin are the extrajudicial killings),” Duterte confessed at a gathering in the Presidential palace in September 2018. Human rights groups say that the admission added weight to the preliminary investigations conducted by the International Criminal Court last year. 

Based on a document dubbed #RealNumbers released by the Philippine National Police (PNP), the death toll from the Duterte regime’s “war on drugs” has already exceeded 20,000 as of September 2017. Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion expressed her group’s outrage to the soaring number of killings that likewise hit the migrant sector. “Aside from the brutal state-sponsored killings and violence that struck OFW families back home, Filipino migrants are also battered by government-imposed attacks on our economic and social rights. It is high time that the United Nations respond to the outcry from the families victimized by the Duterte regime.”

The petition likewise cited the Duterte regime’s labour export program. “Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, President Duterte has intensified its economic policy of exporting its own people as cheap labor,” the petition stated.

“Through the Duterte regime’s labour export program, the government has been imposing unjust state exactions as its way of subjecting OFWs to legalized robbery. A Filipino migrant worker already wallows in debt even before she is deployed overseas and whenever they get mistreated abroad, they are often left neglected or coerced by government agencies to keep silent and relinquish their demands for justice, ” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lamented.

Furthermore, Migrante International brought up in the petition the 81 Filipino migrants currently on death row as well as the numerous cases of unsolved deaths and detention. The case of trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso was also raised as Philippine authorities continually refuse to allow her to give testimony. 

Violent attacks on human rights workers and progressive organizations were likewise presented in the petition. It says, “People’s organizations that have for decades defended and supported the rights and welfare of Filipino people and migrants are being systematically attacked through unscrupulous government regulations, red-tagging, financial witch-hunt and other forms of harassment.” 

“We demand an end to the violation of our collective human rights and hold the Duterte government accountable. We urgently plead with the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights violations committed by the Philippine Duterte government,” the petition concluded.

Signatures of Migrante International’s Executive Committee were indicated in the submitted petition. This is only the first submission as the group is continually gathering signatures worldwide to be submitted later to the UNHRC.. A copy was made available online after the petition’s official launching held in Hongkong on 30 June 2019 when hundreds of Filipino migrants and allies from other countries staged a protest action in Chater road and an indignation march before the Philippine Consulate.  

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Esperon should eye Duterte as number one threat to national security! — Migrante International on perjury case filed by Nat’l Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against Karapatan, et al

Migrante International condemns in the strongest terms the recent filing of a perjury case by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against Karapatan, Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) on 2 July 2019. This is clearly a bid by the regime to prevent its military officials from facing the court and to extricate their blood-stained hands from judicial liability for all the threats, killings and other Fascist attacks being instigated against rights defenders. 

With the recent efforts by the international community to push for a UN action against the extreme violence perpetrated by state forces, the Duterte regime is now in panic as it goes to unleash all its criminal orchestrations against progressive movements that are actively defending the people’s rights and interests. 

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Photo: Bulatlat

Reeling from the latest round of killings that claimed the lives of many Human Rights workers in the Philippines, Karapatan, et al lodged petitions for writ of amparo and habeas data at the Supreme Court. 

Duterte and Esperon would rather bolster state terror against the Filipino people and their defenders instead of spending their time and efforts to actively pursue national security in the face of China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea. In fact, millions of fisherfolks in our coastal regions are bearing the brunt of the ineptitude of Duterte’s security cluster to which Esperon belongs. As a result, many more Filipinos from these poor fishing communities would now be driven to sign up for overseas jobs in place of their besieged livelihood while Chinese-owned fishing vessels and naval ships are plundering our marine resources and defiling our national integrity. 

After daring the US to fire the first shot at China, Duterte is plainly offering the Philippines as a battleground between two rival military world powers. Esperon should have already realized at this point that the US-Duterte regime itself is the number one threat to Philippine national security. 

Pulling off their inutility, the Duterte regime’s security cluster have fielded military attaches in Philippine embassies overseas adding up to the vast number of unproductive parasites who drain government resources at the expense of Filpino communities abroad. Upon the auspices of Esperon, these military attaches are conducting government-funded seminars where progressive groups like Migrante and Gabriela are red-tagged and demonized to discredit our rights-based advocacies. 

At a time when thousands of OFWs in Saudi Arabia are in need of immediate assistance and evacuation due to the flaring war between Saudi forces and Yemeni fighters, these military attaches are not even lifting a finger to help lay out concrete measures to save OFWs from the growing threat of a full-blown crisis that will stem from the armed conflict. 

As defenders of people’s rights, Migrante International stands with Gabriela, Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines as they seek judicial protection from harassment and state-sponsored terror. We will not watch idly as the rights of the people are violated by the blood-thirsty Duterte regime. The day of reckoning is surely at hand. Duterte and his fawning accomplice like Esperon will never escape the tremendous rage of the Filipino people. 

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Sigh of relief after mothers and toddlers detained in Malaysia arrived back in PH — Migrante International

Mixed emotions filled the group of deportees from Malaysia during the night of their arrival on 3 July 2019 at NAIA Terminal 1 around 9:40 PM. After spending weeks trembling in fear and torment, they are relieved to finally get back home and be reunited with their loved ones. The four children were clearly gripped by exhaustion as their mothers found themselves brooding spasmodically over the uncertainties that await them. With almost all of their belongings looted by wardens and immigration officers at Bukit Jalil, they only managed to carry with them small shoulder bags. 

Their bafflement were slightly cut short after volunteers and staff members from Migrante International and Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM) ushered in to greet them. They were glad to know that these groups worked closely with Tenaganita, a migrant-centre based in Malaysia that dealt directly with the case of the detained mothers and toddlers. Like Migrante International, Tenaganita is also an active member of the International Migrants Alliance or IMA. 

Holding back their tears, the mothers recounted their 2-week ordeal at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre. Ralyn (not her real name) can never forget how “muster” or routine inspections every 5 minutes from 7AM to 12AM midnight were led by barking detention wardens and spiteful immigration officers. Detainees were fed with “stale and burnt food good for swines,” Ralyn revealed.  

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Enny and Anita (real names withheld) described their cells as cramped and filthy. They were made to lie down on the cold floor surface and nobody was allowed to use any sleeping mats. Even scraps of cardboard which they used to fan themselves and cover the floor get confiscated. 

Immigration detainees had only one set of clothes which they had to wash and wear every other day. “We wore the same clothes that we had been wearing on the night we were arrested,” Enny exclaimed. Those who got some cash to spare were able to purchase low quality clothes sold inside the facility. Even then, they still have to choose conserving the little money that they have so they can buy bottled waters or risk getting dehydrated by extreme heat and thirst. 

“Our rights as humans were violated! The female wardens acted as if they are not mothers themselves. They were vile and mean, treated us like animals. All the children always get terrified when they’re around,” Ralyn said.  

Non-married or single detainees are constantly in handcuffs and any detainee inside the facility that is seen by immigration wardens as misbehaving is dealt with severely. The mothers recalled how a female detainee from Kenya who has been showing signs of Psychosis was tied to the wall with both hands and was made to stand the whole day. 

Children are not spared from verbal abuse by growling wardens and immigration officers. Many of the young detainees were in need of medical attention. Migrante International in an earlier statement cited scientific studies that showed how “children subjected to these kinds of excruciating ordeal are certainly susceptible to psychological stress and emotional trauma which can lead to life-long behavioral consequences.”

“Almost all of the detainees are from poor countries,” Anita said. According to Ralyn, most of their fellow detainees are from countries like Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria. 

When asked for their future plans, the mothers said that going back overseas is still in the offing since they are not expecting to get decent paying jobs in the Philippines. 

Time and again, Migrante International has underscored the need for regular and stable employment for Filipinos in their own country. “Aside from the poor level of social services, Filipino workers are stricken by anti-labour policies like contractualization and the regionalization of the minimum wage. Labour conditions have worsened under the Duterte regime,” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion stated. 

“Coming back to the Philippines presents the same problems of instability and peril to returning OFWs and migrant children. We have a Fascist president who violates the rights of Filipino children either through his fake war on drugs or through Martial Law in Mindanao,” Concepcion added referring to the recent case of the 3-year old girl in Rizal Province who became the latest victim of the Duterte regime’s drug war. More than 100 children have already been killed since Duterte’s “bloody campaign” started in 2016.

On the same night after their arrival, the mothers boarded provincial buses headed to their respective hometowns in Bataan and Laguna. Ralyn chose to stay overnight in Manila at a place offered to her by CWWM inside the NCCP (National Council of Churches in the Philippines) compound before travelling to Bulacan the following morning. The mothers expressed their overwhelming gratitude to Tenaganita for the fervent assistance accorded to them. Migrante International vowed to continue working with allies like Tenaganita to uphold the rights and welfare of migrants and their families as well as carrying forward its efforts to expose and exact justice from the rights violations committed by the authorities of the host countries and the Duterte regime.

 

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Migrante, families of OFWs in distress barred from conducting a dialogue with DFA-OUMWA

Families of deceased OFWs Constancia Dayag, Nina Tianes and other OFWs in distress were supposed to have a dialogue along with Migrante at 10:00 am today with officials of the OUMWA-DFA but they were denied entry in the government premises following a ‘strict protocol’ of only allowing closest kins to talk with the officials of the agency.

They are supposed to follow-up on the development of their cases and demand concrete steps on how to effectively and urgently resolve their issues.

“Wala kaming ibang intensiyon kundi marinig mula sa ahensiya na ito kung paano at kailan matatamasa ng mga pamilyang kasama namin ang hustisya,” Arman Hernando, chairperson of Migrante Philippines protested.

Along with other OFW kins, Migrante initiated the dialogue together with the family of Constancia Dayag, the domestic worker who died in Kuwait last May and Nina Tianes, an OFW who died in Saudi Arabia last June, whose remains are yet to be repatriated by the government. Tianes also has two undocumented sons in Saudi awaiting their repatriation.

“Ngunit pare-pareho kaming nadismaya. Sa patuloy nilang gawaing i-korap ang isipan ng mga OFWs at pamilya, umabot na ang desperasyon ng DFA sa kawalan ng diplomasya at pambabastos sa mga pamilya ng OFWs at tagapagtaguyod ng kanilang karapatan.”

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Instead of honoring the scheduled dialogue, the DFA used the full might of their security guards and even requested backing from PNP to expel the group.

“Trahedya na ang dinanas ng kaanak namin sa ibang bansa, trahedya pa rin pala ang ipaparanas sa amin ng gobyerno kapag nagpasya kami na ilaban ang hustisya para sa kanila. Hindi kami papayag na ganito na lang itrato ng gobyernong kaming mga pamilya ng OFW. Sa mga susunod na araw, sisingilin namin ang DFA. Pagbabayarin namin ang gobyernong ito sila sa kanilang pagkainutil at pangwawalang-hiya sa aming mga migrante at pamilya,” Hernando ended.

Release Filipino babies and toddlers from Malaysian detention centres! — Migrante International

Migrante International is appalled at the tormenting conditions of babies and toddlers who are continually incarcerated at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. These are innocent Filipino children below the age of 2 who badly need immediate response from the Duterte government and the Department of Foreign Affairs so that they can be released immediately by Malaysian immigration authorities. 

We were informed that these little ones have been languishing in  detention since 14 June 2019 after a raid was conducted at Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang by immigration officers. It so happened that the mothers who possessed valid visas were not at home when the undocumented toddlers were seized from their relatives. 

 

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Details of the Filipino children’s plight were sourced from Tenaganita, a migrant centre based in Malaysia that is directly dealing with their case. Tenaganita has long been a partner of Migrante International in working for migrants’ rights and welfare. Like Migrante International, Tenaganita is also an active member of the International Migrants Alliance or IMA. No attention could have been drawn to the anguish of Filipino babies and toddlers who are in detention if it were not for groups or institutions like Tenaganita that work for migrants’ rights. 

Both the Philippines and Malaysia are state parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that mandates countries to protect children against all forms of punishment even on the basis of status. It is disheartening to know that the lack of communication and coordination among immigration units in Malaysia contributes further to the unbearable misery of these detained children and their distressed parents. We view this as a harsh course of criminalizing human life just because they happen to be undocumented children from migrant families. 

Scientific studies have shown that children subjected to these kinds of excruciating ordeal are certainly susceptible to psychological stress and emotional trauma which can lead to life-long behavioral consequences. In this view, we reject state policies that countenance the detention and separation of children from their parents for immigration reasons. Not only is this a manifestation of heartlessness and severe cruelty but we feel petrified that such laws even exist. 

Most of these migrant children come from families who have fled from socio-economic hardships in the Philippines and are therefore vulnerable to experience rights violations from traffickers, immigration officers and even from the state which is supposed to guard and preserve the well being of all children regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity and even immigration status or the absence thereof. 

We call on the Duterte government and the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure the prompt release of these little children from detention so that they can be reunited with their family. In the same manner, we urge the Malaysian immigration authorities to hand the children back to their parents’ custody from whom they will be assured of receiving care and fond supervision as they work on their immigration documents. 

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Migrante International launches ‘Global Petition of Filipino Migrants’ to call for UN investigation on Duterte regime’s human rights violations

To call the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Migrante International launched its Global Petition of Filipino Migrants on Sunday, 30 June 2019 in Hongkong to raise the “gross human rights violations committed against Filipino migrants” by the Duterte government, 

“Its aim is to present the collective demand of Filipino migrants for a UN investigation on the exacerbating human rights situation in the Philippines under the Duterte regime,” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion stated. 

 

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The launching commenced through a solidarity program held at Chater Road in Central, Hongkong attended by about 300 supporters from various OFW groups and migrants rights advocates from different countries. It was then followed by an indignation march before the Philippine Consulate. The mobilization was jointly organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and by the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP). 

Concepcion added that the Philippines does not deserve to retain its seat in the UN Human Rights Council because of the “Duterte regime’s abhorrent human rights record.” The Philippines was part of the 18 member states elected by the UN General Assembly in January for a 3-year term to the Human Rights Council. Calls for independent investigations on the brutal killings in the context of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs and counterinsurgency program have been repeatedly rejected by the regime.

Expressing support to the call of 11 UN Special Rapporteurs to push through with an independent investigation, the global petition highlighted the impact of the killings on OFW families and advocates. “Our children and family members have been directly affected by the thousands of unlawful deaths and police killings as a result of the so-called war on drugs. Our organizations and leaders are maligned, harassed and threatened by state forces. We all suffer from the repressive imposition of Martial Law in the island of Mindanao,” the petition stated.

In addition, the petition also sought justice for the socioeconomic rights of Filipino migrants and their families who are yoked with unjust state exactions while suffering from government neglect. Despite contributing $33 Billion in foreign remittances annually and another $20 Billion worth of funds in the coffers of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), “the Duterte government has spent very little resources to protect us and has neglected its duty in assisting migrant workers in distress. There has been no adequate legal support provided to migrants who are facing legal cases abroad.”

Aside from the inadequate protection accorded to OFWs who are facing severe exploitation and various forms of abuse, the petition highlighted the plight of 81 OFWs who are in death row. It likewise pointed out to the hundreds of unresolved cases of OFW deaths and the absence of assistance to thousands of OFWs who are languishing in detention facilities abroad. 

More than just the inadequacy of a genuine reintegration program, the petition slammed the dire situation where Filipino “migrants will be returning to a country where our basic human rights are being trampled on daily by the tyranny of our own government and state forces.” 

“People’s organizations that have for decades defended and supported the rights and welfare of Filipino people and migrants are being systematically attacked through unscrupulous government regulations, red-tagging, financial witch-hunt and other forms of harassment,“ it added.

The petition concluded with the demand for an end to the regime’s human rights violations and to make the Duterte government accountable for its crimes. Copies of the petition will be circulated online and among Filipino migrant communities and families overseas as well as in the Philippines. 

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