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”. ###



Convicted trafficker Isidro Rodriguez sighted in Spain; Arrest and extradite Rodriguez now, victims urge PH gov’t

wanted isidroIsidro Rodriguez, a fugitive of law and one of the most notorious illegal recruiters and traffickers in the Philippine Embassy in the United States’ watchlist, was sighted in Granada, Spain this January. Rodriguez remains at large after having been convicted by a Manila regional trial court sentencing him to 11 years in prison for victimizing a Filipino teacher.  He has two existing warrants of arrest against him for illegal recruitment and estafa. Aside from the warrants, he has numerous pending cases of syndicated estafa and large-scale illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons filed in different courts by at least 300 Filipino teachers that he had victimized from 2009-2014. He also has pending complaints against him in US courts by Filipino teachers he has victimized there. “It has come to our knowledge that notorious trafficker and illegal recruiter Isidro Rodriguez is presently operating in Granada, Spain and has victimized at least five more Filipinos there. We learned about his whereabouts when a concerned Spanish citizen emailed us after reading about him in advertisements we released online last year. The Spanish informer also sent us photos of Rodriguez while in Granada, Spain and we confirm that it is indeed him,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson. Martinez said that they were also able to communicate via email with one of his most recent victims, a Filipina domestic worker in Spain. “She informed us that she met Rodriguez in Granada in October 2014. Along with five others, they were also duped by Rodriguez but unfortunately only learned about his cases and warrant of arrests in January 2015 through the Migrante website. She said that they last saw him last December 2014 and have not heard from him since. They fear that he might have already transferred to Madrid, Spain,” he said. According to Martinez, Rodriguez’ latest victims have also already filed police reports and complaints against Rodriguez in Granada, Spain. For her part, GURO Spokesperson Engelyn Belmonte said, “This is very distressing news. After his release from jail last year, upon advice and endorsement from IACAT (Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking in Persons), we filed for a hold departure order against him at the Bureau of Immigrations. The BI then placed him on a “watchlist”. The BI also assured us that he was still in the country and has not left since his release. When his warrants were released, we took it upon ourselves, with the help of Migrante, to launch a manhunt and public information campaign to learn of his whereabouts.” In November 2014, the trafficking in persons filed by the first batch of teachers against him was dismissed and referred to illegal recruitment courts, while batches upon batches of large-scale illegal recruitment and syndicated estafa cases against him remain unresolved to this day. They have consequently filed a motion for reconsideration for the TIP case and a motion for speedy trial for the IR cases, decisions for which the teachers await up to this day. “We cannot fathom how he could have succeeded in leaving the country despite these and the existing unserved warrants for his arrest. It pains us to hear that since his release from jail, he has continued to operate and victimize more of our innocent kababayans, this time in Spain. We feel that if only our authorities could have done their jobs and addressed our cases more actively this could not have happened,” Belmonte said. The Philippine government has an existing extradition treaty in Spain. “We call on the Department of Justice and concerned government agencies to take urgent action. They should immediately coordinate with Spanish authorities to arrest and extradite Rodriguez. “We speak on behalf of at least 300 trafficked teachers here in the Philippines, at least 300 more in the US, and now at least six other Filipinos in Spain. We hope that our authorities be propelled to act now lest Rodriguez succeeds in victimizing more Filipinos with impunity,” Belmonte said. ###

#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. ###