OFWs march vs. modern-day slavery, legacies of Martial Law on Bonifacio Day



“If Bonifacio were alive today, he would be at the forefront of the continuing struggle of migrants and workers against modern-day slavery and imperialist exploitation, and the Duterte administration’s betrayal of the Filipino people by allowing the burial of the late dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mg Bayani.”

This was the statement of Migrante International as it led overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in the multi-sectoral rally today commemorating the 153rd birth anniversary of Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio.

According to Mic Catuira, Migrante International deputy secretary-general, OFWs and their families belong to the exploited and oppressed sectors. “We are workers and farmers, students and professionals, who were forced to leave the country and be separated from our families out of desperation and poverty, because of joblessness, landlessness and measly wages and lack of social services, because of the growing divide between the rich and the poor.”

Like Bonifacio, Catuira said, Filipino migrants and their families are fully aware of foreign and private exploitation of cheap labor and the effects of imperialist neoliberal attacks on workers of the world. “We feel the effects of the present global economic crisis locally through its effect on our families. Abroad, OFWs have become more vulnerable to all sorts of abuses and violations, such as racism, discrimination, xenophobia in our workplaces and in our host societies.”

Catuira said that the Duterte government’s persistence of implementing the four-decade long labor export policy, which started during Marcos’ time, belies his earlier pronouncements of treating OFWs’ plight as an urgent national priority.

“Instead of addressing the root causes of forced migration through genuine land reform and national industrialization, Duterte had further opened up the national economy to abuse and exploitation of our cheap labor by foreign capital and business interests fueled by the greed for OFW remittances. For as long as the labor export policy is in force, there can be no genuine protection for our OFWs and their families. Government policies and programs, through the continuance of the labor export policy, will not serve to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of OFWs but will further perpetrate modern-day slavery,” he said.

Catuira also called on all OFWs and families all over the world to continue calling for an end to the Duterte-Marcos alliance and all legacies of Martial Law.

“We are here today to affirm our commitment to carry on Bonifacio’s struggle for nationalism and democracy, against tyranny and fascist rule. We call on Pres. Duterte to do away with Marcosian actions and tactics. He must prove himself still worthy of the people’s trust and confidence by holding accountable all human rights violators in the military, police and in government. He must cease from carrying on the legacies of Martial Law by releasing the more than 400 political prisoners. He must put a stop to Oplan Bayanihan that continues to terrorize communities nationwide despite the ongoing unilateral reciprocal ceasefire declarations by the AFP and the New People’s Army,” Catuira said.

The migrant leader called on all freedom-loving OFWs and families to continue Bonifacio’s revolution.

“The struggle of OFWs and their families is not isolated from the struggle of other exploited and oppressed sectors. The problem of forced migration is deeply rooted in the fundamental problems of Philippine society. Our struggle for dignity, rights and welfare, against government neglect and against forced migration plays a very important role in the struggle for genuine freedom and national democracy. The only solution to the problems of the Filipino migrant sector and their families is through system change so that families would not have to separated and broken apart in order to survive. ###

Filipino migrants hail Erwiana’s victory

10991579_10204596152478023_7759963146395981685_oGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International celebrate the victory of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih after the Wanchai District Court in Hong Kong found her employer guilty on charges of abuse, maltreatment and exploitation.

Migrante International said that Erwiana’s victory is a victory for all migrant workers who continue to stand up against modern-day slavery. “Erwiana continues to serve as a great inspiration for Filipino migrant workers, especially Filipina domestic workers all over the world. Her victory is well-fought and much-deserved. We celebrate her victory as we also prepare to commemorate the 20th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion this year,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general.

Erwiana’s case, the latest most gruesome case depicting the suffering and plight of domestic workers, especially women domestic workers, is testament to how forced migration and labor export have become the worst cause and manifestation of all forms of abuse, oppression and exploitation of women all over the world.

Pillas said, since Contemplacion’s execution in 1995, the “feminization” of labor migration driven by the rise in number of domestic workers and caregivers going abroad has perpetuated very specific vulnerabilites that women migrant workers face because they are women. “They suffer sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the sorts of work where they tend to predominated. This is especially the case for domestic workers.”

“They are most vulnerable to abuse and often mistreated by employers. Many are beaten and raped, and many are murdered. They are lowly-paid and do not enjoy social protection, isolated and discriminated against and without legal recourse because their work is not considered as work and not covered by any existing legal frameworks. Worse, their marginalization is implicitly condoned by States as principal agents peddling domestic workers like ordinary commodities without guarantee of protection or avenues for redress of grievance,” she said.

Migrante International also extends its solidarity with other migrants’ organizations and advocates that fought for Erwiana. The Justice for Erwiana and All Migrant Domestic Workers Committee, of which Migrante is part, led 5,000 domestic workers and supporters in a protest march and rally in Hong Kong last year. Other Filipino and migrant domestic workers also held solidarity actions and activities for Erwiana as her case was being heard.

“But, while we won this battle, a war continues to rage. There are still many Erwianas and Flors elsewhere in the world who have fallen victim to trafficking, abuse, exploitation and government neglect.  May Erwiana’s recent victory further encourage Filipino migrant workers to unite, organize and galvanize collective action to oppose anti-migrant policies and end modern-day slavery,” Pillas said.

Migrante International and its chapters all over the world are gearing to kick-off its year-long “Remember Flor@20 Campaign” on March 17, the date of Contemplacion’s death anniversary. ###


#DearPopeFrancis Filipino migrants and families call on Pope Francis to heed cry of OFWs in distress

pope migGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International will hold a small gathering at the Plaza Miranda later this afternoon to welcome the arrival of Pope Francis and to call on the Holy Father to heed the cry of Filipino migrants and their families, especially those in distress.


Around Metro Manila, simultaneous activities were also held earlier today to gather “letters to the Pope” from families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress.


In a previous open letter to the Pope, Migrante International had called on the Pope to “bear witness to our struggle. We call on you to speak on behalf of overseas Filipinos in our quest for a better life.”


According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, “We are thankful to Pope Francis for consistently speaking on behalf of migrants and refugees. We agree with him that human trafficking is indeed ‘a crime against humanity’ and that forced migration is ‘an anomaly’ and a matter of grave concern for our migrant workers and their families.”


“As he visits the Philippines, we call on Pope Francis to speak on behalf of an estimated 15 million overseas Filipinos in over 239 countries around the world. We call on him to speak out for Filipino migrants in distress and their families,” Martinez said.


There are currently 125 Filipinos on death row abroad – the most number of whom have been executed under the present Aquino administration. At least 7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad without legal assistance and at least 25,000 are stranded and awaiting repatriation in the Middle East alone. Millions are undocumented and in danger of being criminalized abroad as host countries continue to impose more strict immigration and border policies. At least half a million Filipinos, mostly women and children, are victims of trafficking. Millions more suffer labor abuses and violations and endure modern-day slavery for the sake of their families back home.


Despite all these, Martinez said, the Aquino administration has intensified its labor export policy. “The Aquino government has highly praised itself for its supposed efforts to work with migrant-receiving governments to ensure the rights and welfare of OFWs. But the truth is OFWs are plagued with an assortment of issues and problems throughout the entire migration cycle yet the Aquino government has barely done any decisive action to support and protect OFWs and their families. The Aquino government’s ability to uphold Filipinos migrants’ rights and promote their welfare has lagged behind its apparent success in implementing its labor export policy.”


Pope Francis is a staunch supporter and advocate of the rights and welfare of migrants and refugees. He has been very vocal in his criticisms on forced migration and the criminalization of undocumented migrants and refugees, and his stance against trafficking in persons and modern-day slavery.


On January 16, the Holy Father will be holding a dialogue with some Filipino migrants and their families at the Mall of Asia Arena.


On the same date, Migrante International will be holding an International Day of Prayer and Solidarity to bring to the Pope’s attention the plight of Filipino migrants and their families all over the world.


“We call on Pope Francis to heed our call: Stand with us against trafficking and modern-day slavery of Filipino migrants! Struggle with us against Aquino’s labor export policy!” Martinez said. ###