#SONA2015 Garbage is Aquino’s legacy

photo from rappler.com

photo from rappler.com

“How fitting that on Aquino’s last SONA his administration is marred with the latest controversy involving, of all things, garbage.” This was the statement of Migrante International as thousands of its members held big rallies here and abroad in time for Aquino’s fifth and last SONA.

It was referring to the controversial 1,375 tons of Canadian garbage seized at Manila’s port that was recently hauled to a northern Philippines landfill. The controversy has opened a can of worms, with some news sources saying that the Philippines has been receiving tons and tons of waste and garbage from other countries.

According to Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general, “This latest controversy aptly symbolizes the Aquino administration’s overall economic policy. Contrary to his pronouncements, the country’s economic situation has not improved. It continues to rely heavily on foreign investment, export-import dependence and foreign debt. If you ask us, Aquino’s real legacy is nothing but garbage.”

Pillas said that this is especially true for millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the Aquino regime. Five years after, the Aquino administration has recorded the biggest number of OFW deployment despite mouthing local job generation as its core program to supposedly curb forced migration. Despite Aquino’s posturing and promises, the Philippines continues to suffer from worsening unemployment and landlessness that have aggravated forced migration and cast Filipino migrants and their families to direst straits.

Read: 5 years of Aquino: Myths of Migration and Development

11754245_10153440872559788_752605136701791695_n“The Aquino administration has implemented a more intensified and aggressive labor export policy to further produce and commodify cheap Filipino labor for the global market. We export our OFWs so that foreign and local businesses can exploit our cheap labor and foreign remittances, in return, all we get from this government is garbage,” she said.

Joining the Migrante contingent in today’s SONA protest are returned OFWs and families of OFWs in distress who bewail the Aquino government’s criminal neglect and lack of protection, among them, the family of Mary Jane Veloso and other mothers of OFWs in jail and on death row; Lani Dizon, sister of Marilyn Restor, kidnapped and missing domestic worker in Saudi who was found in a morgue a year later; returned stranded OFWs from Saudi; victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment from US and Taiwan; and abused and maltreated OFWs from Saudi and Dubai.

OFWs and their families in Hong Kong, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Canada, US, Italy, UK, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands and other parts of Europe also held SONA protests today. ###

20th Nat’l Migrants’ Day marked with protest

June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs

June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs

Two days before National Migrants’ Day on June 7, Migrante International held a picket protest at the Department of Foreign Affairs to mark the sector’s protest against the worst state of Filipino migrants under the Aquino administration.

June 7 also marks the 20th year of the implementation of the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers, or Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022, which was enacted in 1995 shortly after the death of Flor Contemplacion.

“Twenty years have passed since Flor was executed in Singapore but despite the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos our OFWs are more beleaguered than they ever were before,” said Sol Pillas, secretary general of Migrante International.

She said that 20 years before, Migrante had said that the Magna Carta was a ‘ticking bomb’ for OFWs because it remained to be seen if the law would indeed serve to protect migrant workers or simply further institutionalize the policy of labor export. “20 years after and the bomb has exploded on our faces. What we feared has happened, and worsened under the present Aquino administration. Aquino’s labor export policy continues to wreak havoc in the lives and welfare of migrant workers and their families.”

“It is just on paper, but in reality, the government does not protect OFWs and services for them are most dismal. Labor export is more intensified under the present administration because OFWs continue to salvage the country’s deteriorating economy. The government has forsaken the lives of OFWs in exchange for remittances and big businesses,” she added.

Pillas scored Pres. Aquino’s recent speech in Japan saying that there are less OFWs now than in 2010 owing to a “developing economy”. She said the number of OFWs leaving daily to work abroad has tripled since Aquino took office– from 2,500 daily in 2010, 4,500 in 2012 to 6,000 by the end of 2014 (IBON data).

“Because of the Aquino  administration’s desperation to further seek job markets abroad due to the country’s worsening economic situation brought about by its unreformed policies, its only recourse has been to intensify its labor export program at the expense of the rights and welfare of OFWs. It has become more clear that the labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which the government profits, with OFWs as the milking cows,” Pillas said.

Aquino veto on LAF in 2015 budget slammed

Pillas also probed Pres. Aquino’s veto of the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for the 2015 budget. In his Veto Message last December 2014, Aquino included the LAF in items in the General Appropriations Act 2015 placed under “conditional implementation” and subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The president’s veto also called for a creation of a so-called “special fund” for the LAF, suggesting that funds for the LAF will be sourced elsewhere other than what is stated in the law.

The Magna Carta for Migrant Workers requires a P100-million LAF in the national budget sourced from the following: P50 million from the Presidential Social Fund, P30 million from the Contingency Fund of the President and P20-million from OWWA. He said that only an average of P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2010.

She also demanded an explanation from the government on why funds for the LAF has been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that at least P52 million in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011. “Kailangang magpaliwanag ni Aquino. Ibig bang sabihin nito pati ang LAF na-DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) na?” Pillas said.

Only P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2011.

She added that based on DFA disbursement reports, the DFA has at least P6-billion unused funds from 2010 to 2013. She revealed that a large chunk of the so-called “savings” were from the “underspent” allocations for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) and the Assistance to Nationals (ATN).

From 2010 to 2013, only 34% of the appropriations for the OAV was used up. As for the ATN budget, disbursement totalled only to P741-million while P19-billion was allocated for the budget item “protection of national interest of Filipino nationals abroad.”

This were the same period when the DAP funds were accumulated, Pillas said.

“We have enough reasons to suspect that the Aquino administration may have siphoned billions of unused funds of the DFA for DAP. May pera sa DAP pero wala para sa mga serbisyo at proteksyon sa OFWs. Bakit magkakaroon ng savings ang DFA samantalang libo-libo ang mga migrante ang nagrereklamo na hindi sila natulungan ng gobyerno,” she said. ###


Statement on the 20th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion: OFWs worse off than ever, call for Aquino’s removal from office

flor @ 20 iconIt was 1995 when Filipina domestic worker Flor Contemplacion was hanged in Singapore and her death uncovered the naked truth of the tragedy of forced migration and the policy of labor export. Contemplacion’s case aroused wide indignation over the Philippine government’s inaction and failure to save her life and brought to national and international awareness the life and death situation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Twenty years after her death, we continue to bear witness to the lives and struggles of thousands and thousands of Flor Contemplacions. These last years under the Aquino administration have been the most grueling times for OFWs and their families – series of executions of OFWs on death row, civil wars and threats of wars of aggression in the Middle East and North Africa region, countless cases of abuses, maltreatment and involuntary servitude, hundreds of thousands stranded, criminalized and victimized by crackdowns abroad, trafficking and illegal recruitment with impunity and a more worsened state of government neglect and incompetence.

Combined with the continuing onslaught of a global economic crisis that is translated into unending spates of price hikes and the Aquino administration’s corruption, betrayal of public trust, treachery and intensification of privatization, liberalization and deregulation policies in favor of foreign interests, these are arguably the worst of times for our 13 to 15 million OFWs and their families.

Through these all, it has become more apparent that the Aquino administration is no different from previous regimes with regard OFW affairs. Despite Malacanang’s pronouncements, the Aquino government’s consequent actions and overall economic and political programs belie his promise of treating OFWs as an urgent national priority.

The series of executions of OFWs on death row, the biggest number so far under one regime, are glaring examples of just how insincere, insensitive and inept the Aquino government is in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of our workers overseas, while ironically also showcasing a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that exploits our OFWs’ cheap labor and influx of remittances but sadly offers them nothing in return, especially in times of need.

Indeed, if there is one thing that summarizes all government efforts thus far in response to the plight of our OFWs in distress these past years, it is the betrayal and criminal neglect of our OFWs in times of crisis and emergency.

There is also the real and present problem of the repatriation/deportation of possibly tens of thousands more of OFWs after the initial return of thousands from the MENA region. They face graver threats here than abroad because the government offers them nothing substantive and sustainable to address their families’ economic needs. Instead, what the government offers are mere dole-outs and, unfortunately, the prospects of returning abroad.

Instead of addressing the root causes of forced migration through genuine land reform and national industrialization, Aquino had further opened up the national economy to abuse and exploitation of our workers’ cheap labor by foreign capital and interests fueled by the greed for OFW remittances.

Migrante International strongly believes that for as long as the labor export policy is in force, there can be no genuine protection for our OFWs. Government programs and policies, through the continuance of the labor export policy, will not serve to protect and uphold OFWs’ rights but only exist to further exploit and abuse.

What our OFWs and their families need during these hard times are actions and programs from a government that would enforce the creation of jobs at home, ease the onslaught of price hikes and provide sufficient social services in order to curb, if not stop, forced migration. This is why, on the event of Flor Contemplacion’s 20th anniversary, we not only remember her legacy but re-commit ourselves to the lessons that her death taught us.

Undeniably these are the worst of times for our OFWs and families but these are also the greatest when migrants organize themselves to help and support each other when nothing is to be expected from the Philippine government.

Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, our OFWs and their families are now collectively confronting the struggles and challenges of their plight, and together we shall hold accountable the Aquino administration for every single OFW’s life that has been placed under threat and danger. This, undoubtedly, is the best way to commemorate Contemplacion’s 20th death anniversary.

Twenty years after the death of Flor Contemplacion, Filipino migrants and their families are once again roused into collective action and determination to exercise their democratic right to bring about regime and system change. We join other sectors of society in calling for Aquino’s accountability for all crimes done to the Filipino people. Tama na, sobra na ang pagpapahirap, pagpapahamak at panloloko sa migrante at pamilya! Aquino, resign na!

Migrante International is part of NOW! (Noynoy Out Now!), a broad multisectoral formation calling for Aquino’s resignation and the formation of a People’s Council to replace him. ###

20 years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, more women OFWs abused, exploited and enslaved under Aquino’s term

flor @ 20 iconOn International Women’s Day, Migrante International gives tribute to all Filipina migrant workers who continue to fight against abuses and exploitation, and stand in solidarity with them in the struggle against forced migration and modern-day slavery being espoused by the Aquino administration’s more aggressive labor export policy.

Under the administration of Pres. Aquino, more women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been forced to migrate and leave their families. An estimated 6,092 Filipinos leave the country daily (IBON Foundation, 2015 data) – among them, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, grandparents who were forced to face dire straits and uncertain conditions abroad due to widespread joblessness, landlessness and dismal social services here in the country. This figure is an increase of 50% percent from 4,030 OFWs a day in 2010, when Aquino took office. To date, women OFWs make up more than half (55%) of the stock estimate of OFWs, outnumbering male OFWs especially in the service sector (Center for Filipinos Overseas, 2012).

Women OFWs face very specific vulnerabilities because they are women – sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the sorts of work they tend to predominate. This is especially the case when women OFWs migrate for work that is in line with their traditionally-defined reproductive roles in society (i.e. domestic workers, nurses, caregivers, etc.).

According to Migrante’s annual databank (2013-2014), more women OFWs faced all sorts of hardships and exploitation during the past year. Of the 174 cases of repatriation handled and facilitated by Migrante’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Program (RWAP), 138 are women. Majority of them were physically, verbally and emotionally abused, overworked, underpaid and suffered work-related violations.

Of the 104 cases referred by Migrante to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) from 2013 to 2014, 88 cases involved women OFWs who were illegally dismissed or terminated or were victimized by abusive recruiters and employers. 45 out of the 60 cases endorsed by Migrante in that same period to the National Labor Relations Commission, meanwhile, (NLRC) involved women OFWs.

For January to February 2015 alone, Migrante’s RWAP has already handled at least 50 cases of violence against women (VAW) OFWs, ranging from physical assault, sexual harassment, attempted rape, rape, sex trafficking to verbal abuse and emotional torture.

The current onslaught of the global economic crisis also further intensifies abuses and violations faced by women OFWs. The worsening crisis makes them more vulnerable to trafficking, criminalization of irregular or undocumented migrants, and drives them to tolerate more abuses in the workplace. The worsening crisis under the Aquino regime conceives for them more desperate conditions, locally and abroad.

Under the Aquino administration, the number of trafficked OFWs, mostly women, has reached a staggering 1.3 million, according to 2012 data by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Many of them migrated to work through legal means but were later coerced into exploitative conditions, drug trade or white slavery.

Unfortunately, the Aquino government lacks the political will and competence to fully address these cases. Twenty years after the execution of Flor Contemplacion, many others like her have come after. Many abused, exploited and maltreated women OFWs are yet to attain justice, with government support and assistance generally lacking. Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, many women migrant workers have organized themselves to continue to organize in efforts to confront the struggles and challenges of their plight.

Today, marching with us are modern-day Flor Contemplacions, courageous women OFWs from different parts of the world and their families who braved their plight and survived. They continue to call for justice. They realize that forced migration and modern-day slavery can only ever be stopped on a day when our citizens will no longer be forced to face dire and dangerous conditions overseas out of desperation, poverty and hopelessness. They unite with other women and sectors of society in calling for the removal of Aquino from office. Migrante marches with them in solidarity with the women’s struggle for freedom and national democracy. This International Women’s Day, we salute and honor them and other women OFWs around the world.

Twenty years after the death of Flor Contemplacion, Filipino migrants and their families are once again roused into collective action and determination to exercise their democratic right to bring about regime and system change. Migrante International is part of NOW! (Noynoy Out Now!), a broad multisectoral formation calling for Aquino’s resignation and the formation of a People’s Council to replace him. On March 17, the 20th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, Migrante and its chapters and affiliates worldwide will be holding a “Global Day of Action for Aquino’s Resignation”. ###


On Dec. 18 Int’l Migrants’ Day, OFWs from 16 countries march to Mendiola to call for Aquino’s ouster

oustFive days after the execution of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Carlito Lana in Saudi, Filipino migrants from all over the world marched to Mendiola calling for the ouster of Pres. Benigno Aquino III.

Migrante chapters in the Philippines and from 16 different countries gathered in Manila today to commemmorate International Migrants’ Day by demanding accountability from the Aquino government for the worsening conditions of Filipino migrants and their families.

The march was participated in by delegates from Migrante chapters in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Italy, Austria, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States, Canada and Australia. Delegates from Migrante chapters in Davao, General Santos, Socsargen, Calabarzon, Tacloban, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Pampanga, Pangasinan and the National Capital Region were also present.

“Today, we call for an end to forced migration and modern-day slavery. Today, we stand with OFWs all over the world in the continuing protest against a corrupt, anti-people and anti-migrant government that has treated OFWs as milking cows. Today, we stand with Filipinos all over the world in condemning Aquino’s corruption and subservience to foreign dictates,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez called on all Filipino migrants and their families to join the movement calling for an end to the Aquino regime. “After four years of corruption, mendacity, puppetry, oppression and human rights violations, Aquino has once again roused the Filipino people into collective action and determination to exercise their democratic power to bring about regime change as mounting calls for his ouster continue to gain strength around the country and all over the world.”

The marchers presented a chain- and whip-brandishing Aquino effigy depicting how Filipino migrants have become “modern-day slaves” because of the regime’s more aggressive and unapologetic labor export policy.

Martinez said that under the Aquino administration, OFWs have experienced unforgivable government neglect, the biggest budget cut for OFW services, more exorbitant state exactions and fee impositions, anti-migrant policies that have placed their welfare at stake and an ever-worsening domestic crisis that has aggravated forced migration.

Meanwhile, Aquino and his cohorts’ involvement in the pork barrel scam and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is yet another “unforgivable” for Filipino migrants and their families.

Martinez said that it is indefensible reprehensible and outrageous how Aquino and his cohorts have squandered billions of pesos in DAP and pork while scrimping on funds for Filipino migrants in distress and their families. “DAP is not savings. DAP is not good. DAP was not done in good faith. DAP did not produce good results. What Aquino did through DAP was to pull in billions of pesos into a huge sum of presidential pork. DAP was used for bribery, patronage politics and to consolidate Aquino’s clique in government in time for the 2016 elections. Filipinos around the world want Aquino out. We do not want him to stay until 2016,” he said. ###