“OFW Bank” further institutionalizes bankrupt labor export program

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International objects to the creation of an “overseas Filipino worker bank” (OFB), saying that it is geared towards “managing OFW remittances for the perpetuation of a long-bankrupt labor export program”.

President Duterte recently authorized the transfer of shares of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PPSB) to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) for its subsequent conversion into the OFB through Executive Order 44.

The creation of the OFB is in tune with the Duterte government’s economic thrust of “managing migration” as a “tool for development”, a neoliberal prescription that does not in any way address the root causes of forced migration nor even attempt to curb it in the policy-level. Its main objective is to “manage OFW remittances” to enable a more fast-tracked, sufficient and concentrated system of profiting from overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) hard-earned incomes.

This in itself further institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances in accordance to neoliberal policies and dictates.

Previous administrations have been aggressive in crafting programs and services aimed at facilitating and encouraging forced migration. While acknowledging the many social costs and human rights violations, these are effectively downplayed by the hailing of OFW remittances. Instead, past administrations have unfailingly and resolutely promoted the labor export program as unequivocally beneficial to OFWs and their families. This is particularly done by overstating supposed development benefits for the economy and the income benefits of households.

Precisely, this is what the Duterte regime hopes to achieve anew through the creation of the OFB, to the detriment of our OFWs.

Instead of providing a comprehensive and genuine economic program that decisively deviates from a policy of labor export and focuses on creating domestic jobs to end the cycle of forced migration, Duterte’s economic compulsion is to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to increase, concentrate and manage remittances.

Further, the EO’s supposed vision to “provide OFWs with priority support for their growing financial needs” is plain braggadocio. Encouraging OFWs to embark on “microfinancing” will only bury them in greater debt to big banks and financial institutions, this time facilitated by the state itself. Meanwhile, enticing investments for so-called “microinsurance” may only be deemed as yet another state exaction scheme in which OFWs are encouraged to allot their earnings to premiums and contributions that will ultimately be useless to them. This has long been the case with the controversy-laden and corrupt-ridden OWWA funds.

Migrante International firmly stands on the position that, should there be “OFW banks”, these should ensure that OFWs’ hard-earned money are invested towards genuine rural development and national industrialization that will create jobs at home and end the vicious cycle of forced migration. Unfortunately, this thrust is hardly the case under the Duterte regime’s present economic agenda.

To address the problem of forced migration, the government’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. It should depart from neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances. Only then can OFWs look forward to a future in which they will not have to leave their families behind just to survive. ###

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Never again to a fascist dictatorship! – Migrante

Today, wherever we may be in the world, Filipinos come together to mark the 45th year of the declaration of martial law. But this year’s September 21 protests go beyond commemoration and recollection of the crimes of the US-Marcos dictatorship. Today, we unite to hold accountable the fascist US-Duterte regime for crimes perpetrated in its Marcosian all-out war against the people.

We are gathered today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny. We condemn in strongest terms the government’s mass murder under the banner of the regime’s three wars – the war against the Moro people, the bloody “war on drugs” and the anti-people Oplan Kapayapaan. We vow to fight Duterte’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to resist and reject any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties.

We vow to frustrate any and all moves by Duterte to install himself as a fascist dictator like his idol Marcos.

We are not cowed by President Duterte’s attempts to sabotage, belittle or mock today’s protests. We shall hold no less than Duterte responsible for manoeuvres to disrupt or cause trouble in today’s peaceful mass actions. We are aware that Duterte is more than capable of creating scenarios to serve as pretext for the declaration of nationwide martial law.

We will not be intimidated. Should Duterte make good his threat to declare martial law nationwide, we vow to be ever vigilant and continue with efforts to mobilize the broadest number of Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to call for an end to his fascist rule.

 

September 21 protests go global

Migrante chapters held different forms of protests around the world today.

In Hong Kong, OFWs trooped to the PH Consulate to condemn the spate of killings. Meawhile, OFWs in Japan distributed leaflets in train stations to call for solidarity with the Filipino people against Duterte’s fascism and tyranny.

OFWs in Qatar, Italy and South Korea held indoor and outdoor protests. Filipinos in Canada, Australia and the United States also held simultaneous protests. In the United Kingdom, Filipinos are set to hold a protest action on September 24.

 In the Philippines, Migrante chapters in Davao, Cebu, Negros, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Baguio participated in the nationwide protest centers. Manila-based chapters of Migrante joined the big multisectoral rally in Luneta. ###

#SONA2017: OFWs protest Duterte’s fascism and ‘broken vows’ in People’s SONA

On Pres. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International led protests worldwide condemning the regime’s martial law and empty promises.

“Today’s protests are happening at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the US-Duterte regime’s militarist authoritarian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people. We lend our voices against the government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

“The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move has paved the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide,” he said.

“History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.”

Hernando said that today’s SONA protests around the world is also testament to overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) continuing clamor for genuine change.

Joining the Migrante contingent in the People’s SONA in Manila are returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia; the family of Mary Jane Veloso; and, the family of Teresa Quedding, an OFW victim of mysterious death whose remains arrived from Kuwait without internal organs and with apparent signs of torture and maltreatment.

Migrante also raised OFWs’ strong opposition to fees and tax impositions brought on by the new OFW ID, or the iDOLE, and the Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order 04-2017 on balikbayan boxes which will be effective on August 1.

“After a year of Duterte’s presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits OFWs and their families. Duterte vowed to end forced migration and the policy of labor export but continues to cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the root causes of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are compelled to leave their families just to survive. These are also the root causes of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

Like in the Marcos era, he said, Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people will only further force Filipinos to seek security and refuge abroad.

“History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Martial law extension in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, is a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace,” Hernando said.

Migrante also condemned the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide.

“Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject the US’ involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence,” Hernando said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. 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 and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante International calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.”

“We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Only through collective action and struggle can the Filipino people ultimately topple the rotten, corrupt system that has produced one tyrant leader after another,” Hernando said. ###

SUMA 2017: A year of big talk, band-aids and business-as-usual for OFWs and families

State of Migrants, Prepared by Migrante International, June 30, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte, for all his posturing and promises, has so far done nothing substantial to curb forced migration, something that he promised to make “optional and not a necessity” when he assumed office. Instead, what we have seen thus far is a rehash of the same neoliberal policy of labor export when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market.

 

Weak economy resulting in forced migration

Pres. Duterte’s earlier promise to end contractualization by yearend 2016 was widely welcomed even by OFWs because it brought hope of them coming home to decent-paying regular jobs. However, this promise is yet to be fulfilled. In light of the continuing crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Europe, OFWs are expected to return to the country only to be forcibly driven away again to seek jobs despite risky conditions abroad.

Independent think-tank IBON Foundation estimates that there are still 11.5 million Filipinos who are without work or still looking for more work because of the poor quality of jobs. There were 24.4 million citizens in low-paying and insecure work with little or no benefits in 2016. The most recent Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Order 174 has been exposed to even fortify the practice of contractualization rather than end it.

With the passage of DO 174-2017, packaged as the government’s solution to workers’ problems, contractualization is legalized, aggravating the already rampant problem of labor flexibilization, depressed wages, and, ultimately, more massive unemployment.

Widespread unemployment and contractualization are root causes of forced migration. Fewer Filipinos were jobless in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, but Filipino optimism on job prospects went down as well, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed. According to Trading Economics, a New York-based global economics research institute, unemployment rate in the Philippines rose to 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, from 4.7 percent in the December quarter. This is the highest jobless rate since March 2015.

The gap between the rich and the poor has further widened, with the income of the top 1% of families equivalent to that of the bottom 30% of households (IBON). According to Forbes, 13 of the richest Filipinos made it to its top billionaires of the world in March 2017.

It is in this light that Migrante International fully supports workers’ demand for a P750 national minimum wage. A P750 national minimum wage can significantly reverse the migration of OFWs. If implemented, for every year, around 200,000 workers can opt to stay and contribute their labor and skills to nation-building while living decently with their families.

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

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) shows that since 2011 the country has been annually deploying at least 200,000 OFWs to job positions with salaries ranging from USD$400-500 per month. Majority are household service workers and general laborers in the Middle East who receive monthly salaries of USD$400 1,500 Saudi riyals, respectively. According to 2015 data from the PSA, these OFWs account for 33 percent of the total OFW deployment.

Meanwhile, OFWs are coming back home in droves not because they choose 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 Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. What awaits them in the event of their emergency return? Definitely there are not enough decent-paying domestic jobs available. What the Duterte 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.

 

Intensification of labor export

The government’s response to the ongoing crisis in Saudi Arabia is testament to the continuing bankrupty of the Philippines’ labor export policy. Last July 2016, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III promised to resolve the issue of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia by yearend. Now, a year since, what has the government done so far in response to their plight?

In a press conference in Malacanang last November 22, Sec. Bello announced that “only 2,000 OFWs remain to be repatriated in Saudi Arabia”. In the same breath, Sec. Bello said that they “have succeeded in bringing back 3,000 OFWs while the rest have managed to find good-paying jobs in other companies”. This statement is very problematic.

Firstly, the government merely accounts for some 5,000 affected OFWs, still a far cry from the 11,000 it vowed to repatriate early on – and still yet a small percent of the actual number of affected OFWs outside of the three big companies, Saudi Oger Ltd, Saudi Billadin Group (SBG) and Mohammad Al Mojil Group (MMG).

Sec. Bello, in the same press conference, announced that the OFWs opting to transfer to other companies “made it easier for us (the government)”, but he also admitted that the OFWs have not yet been paid their withheld wages and necessary money claims. These statements are not only contradictory but treacherous on the part of the government.

On one hand, while efforts of relief operations and on-site assistance should be lauded, these are short-term and band-aid solutions that do nothing to address the major issues of emergency repatriation, labor issues and comprehensive reintegration for affected OFWs and their families.

Government efforts have also been fragmented, with various agencies involved, particularly the DOLE and Department of Foregin Affairs (DFA), “one-upping” each other in terms of who played a command role in the government’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia. Migrante’s sources in the DFA claim that after the initial and only press conference, where Sec. Bello and DFA’s Perfecto Yasay publicly flanked Pres. Duterte as he welcomed a handful of repatriated OFWs from Saudi, the labor secretary had been reluctant to conduct a follow-up humanitarian mission after he first one in July.

Thus begging the question: Was the DOLE’s objective in the government’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia not really for the main purpose of repatriating stranded OFWs but conducting damage-control for the beleaguered Saudi companies and local recruitment agencies through the facilitation of job transfers?

If so, the promise to “end the Saudi stranded crisis” by yearend 2016 was misleading and bound to fail from the start. Job transfers of crisis-ridden OFWs have been the thrust of the previous governments – as in the case of the MMG workers who initially called for emergency mass repatriation in 2014, were convinced by the PH government to be transferred to other companies, only to enlist yet again for repatration in 2015 after the company they transferred too was also affected by the Saudi crisis.

If Sec. Bello worked mainly to facilitate job transfers, then he only succeeded in buying time for and “rescuing” the companies and local private recruitment agencies instead of the affected OFWs. This is unsurprisingly in line with DO 174 and other deceiving, pro-capitalist and anti-labor policies that the DOLE has been advocating thus far.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Saudi and the Middle East continue to worsen. OFWs, those who Sec. Bello said “opted” to stay on, have not become impervious to the crisis just because they were transferred to different companies. The crisis is also now affecting not only OFWs in industrial and construction sites but those in the service and health sectors as well.

The Duterte government, however, now appears to deem the Saudi crisis fait accompli, problem-solved, and therefore business-as-usual between the Philippine government and its biggest OFW labor importer.

Remittances from OFWs remain at record-high despite the global economic crisis, reaching a record-high USD$26.9 billion in 2016 and accounting for 10 percent of the country’s Domestic Product (GDP). However, although annual remittances increased, its growth rate has been decreasing in recent years. The continuing decrease in growth rate is a constant worry for the Philippine government. If the trend continues, as it is expected to, the governent will be in big trouble because it relies mainly on remittances for its foreign exchange revenues.

This explains the Duterte administration’s thrust to further to seek job markets abroad and intensify its labor export program. Through remittances, the government earns exponentially without having to shell out much capital investment. Even funds for labor export management through agencies sucha as the POEA or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are directly sourced from OFWs or recruitment agencies and employers through an assortment of fees.

Duterte, while mouthing local job generation as the government’s core program to eliminate forced migration, continues to hail the “bagong bayani” and their “contribution to the economy” to further promote labor export. To do this, he has become more aggressive and active in lobbying for job markets and signing of bilateral agreements with host countries in the past year though numerous state visits.

Aside from remittances, labor export also provides a tempting alternative to the unemployed and underemployed. Through it, the government insulates itself from its responsibility to create local regular jobs that offer decent wages. Instead, it becomes more convenient to evade genuine and strategic policy reforms to turn the economy around.

The  country’s  economic  situation  has  not  improved  under Duterte’s rehashed neoliberal economic policies. Duterte’s “10-point economic agenda” still relies heavily on foreign investment, debt and export-dependence, particularly the dependence on the export Filipinos’ cheap labor in exchange for remittances.

 

Foreign policy

With regard foreign policies and relations affecting our OFWs and Filipinos overseas, Duterte’s statement that he “will not lift a finger” to help the almost one million undocumented Filipino e/migrants in the US under threat of mass deportation due to US Pres. Trump’s anti-migrant program is very telling of his overall attitude and policy.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are currently 3.4 million Filipinos in the US, second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of Filipino populace. Of the 3.4 million, close to one million are undocumented and vulnerable to Trump’s repressive crackdown.

It is the government’s duty to assist Filipinos abroad, regardless of their status. Do we turn our backs on them when they direly need the help of their government? Should any harm befall them in the US, Duterte will be to blame if he continues to tolerate and support Trump’s neo-fascism.

The Duterte government’s position calling on all undocumented Filipinos in the US to “just come home” is also a very insensitive stance. Like all other OFWs, they were forced to seek so-called better pastures in the US (or elsewhere in the world) due to widespread joblessness, contractualization and low wages, landlessness and lack of basic social services. Over the years, OFWs in conflict-ridden areas have opted to stay and risk their lives and welfare because they know that no jobs await them in the Philippines.

The plight of OFWs against racism, xenophobia, rights violations and fascism in host countries is also a very important agenda in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Duterte government has withdrawn from the 5th round of formal negotiations.

 

Welfare and services

The economic compulsion for the government to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or especially to increase remittances unfortunately overrides and precludes undertaking any measures that (i.e. OEC partial abolition, extension of passport validity, stopping of “tanim-bala” scheme, etc.), directly or indirectly, constrict the flow of migration – even if such measures would immediately prevent the incidence of abuses and migrant rights violations.

Indeed, there has been a growing clamor among (overseas Filipino workers) OFWs and their families for a “one-stop shop” that would cater to better services and  the protection and promotion of OFWs. This is mainly because the present “one-country-approach” being implemented by agencies tasked to provide direct services to OFWs, namely, the DFA, DOLE, OWWA and POEA, has been deemed dysfunctional, anti-migrant and inoperative.

Migrante therefore sees and appreciates the rationale behind Duterte’s proposal of establishing a “Department of OFWs (DOFW)” that seeks to systematize, consolidate and strengthen government efforts to protect our OFWs. This proposal in itself is already an initial critique of the performance of the above-mentioned government agencies over the years.

Migrante, however, forwards serious apprehensions on the basis of its assessment of the performances of existing agencies concerned with dealing with OFW services and welfare.

If a DOFW is to be established, it is imperative that the Duterte administration first thoroughly investigates how current concerned agencies, as well as existing laws and policies, benefited or failed our OFWs and their families. Duterte’s proposal to create a DOFW should not work to merely further institutionalize labor export, but instead address the decades-long clamor of OFWs and their families to put an end to it.

Filipinos are being forced to migrate because of desperation as a result out of the economy’s lack of development resulting in job loss, low wages and lack of livelihood at home. OFWs have borne witness to how insincere, insensitive and inept past governments have been in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of OFWs. The past four decades of Philippine labor export has showcased a more blatant and unapologetic policy that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances in accordance to neoliberal interests and dictates.

Migrante can only be compelled to support the formation of a DOFW if, and only if, it would work towards the eventual irrelevance of such a department and instead strive for a society in which families do not need to be torn apart just to survive.

 

Prospects

Unless Pres. Duterte makes good his promise to address the root causes of forced migration, it will be a never-ending and chronic cycle for OFWs and their families. If Duterte 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.

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. ###

 

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

 

nov30-2016

“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. ###

#MarcosNoHero protests go global: OFWs and families call on Pres. Duterte to end alliance with Marcoses

taksil-hindi-bayaniDifferent time zones, weather conditions and thousands and thousands of miles are not stopping Filipinos worldwide from sending out their statements of solidarity and rage, launching mass actions, protest activities and expressing their outrage through social media.

Migrante chapters and Filipino communities in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and United States are joining today’s Global Action Day against the hero’s burial of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

For overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), immigrants and their families here and abroad, a hero Marcos is not. The real heroes are those who fought the Marcos dictatorship, including those who have been forced to flee abroad during the dark days of the dictatorship. The real heroes are those who continue to seek justice, those who have been tortured, jailed, killed and disappeared during Martial Law.

The real heroes are our “bagong bayani” who continue to bear the brunt of Marcos’ labor export policy that continues to exploit our OFWs’ cheap labor, separate us from our loved ones and place us in dire and dangerous conditions.

Four decades ago, Marcos employed a labor export policy to cushion the blows of a weakened economy through the influx of foreign remittances. Four decades ago, Marcos used the labor export policy to quell our people’s dissent due to widespread unemployment, landlessness, growing poverty, massive corruption and dismal social services. Four decades have passed, the labor export policy has gone bankrupt and has done nothing but aggravate the same economic, political and social ills that are the root causes of forced migration.

Having treacherously buried Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is an insult to our “bagong bayani” who continue to fight and struggle for a society devoid of corruption, tyranny, injustice, imperialist plunder, foreign debt, political turmoil and widespread poverty – factors that continue to drive us away from our homeland for the need to survive.

Migrante International holds President Duterte accountable for this audacious revision of history and blatant disregard of the Filipino people’s collective outrage. His alliance with the Marcoses is a poisonous pact that can and will isolate him from the people, especially from our OFWs and their families for whom he has promised a “better Philippines”. Continuing this poisonous pact means that he subscribes to and accepts Marcos’ governance of dictatorship, puppetry and state fascism.

Migrante International calls on Pres. Duterte to put an end to his alliance with the Marcoses. We call on the president to make good his promise to respect human rights, work for a just peace that would put an end political turmoil and employ an independent foreign policy that shuns imperialist neoliberal dictates. This is what a “better Philippines” means for OFWs and our families.

Filipinos, wherever we are in the world, will never allow the return of the Marcoses to power, nor will we tolerate any moves from the Duterte administration to bring us back to the dark days of Martial Law. Never again. ###

(Photo credits to Migrante International)

garry

Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez in London, UK

hongkong

Meme made by OFWs in Hong Kong who will hold their own protest action there later today.

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Filipinos and international supporters in The Hague, Netherlands.

rome-italy

Filipinos brave the cold weather in Rome, Italy.

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Filipinos and international supporters at the Philippine Embassy in the United Kingdom.

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. ###