Why OFWs joined today’s People’s Protest

Migrante Partylist and Migrante International joined today’s People’s Protest to bring to the public and the government’s attention the issues of Filipinos’ legitimate claim over Sabah, the rising number of victims of human trafficking because of the government’s labor export program, and the issues of tuition increases, price hikes and other state exactions that continue to force our Filipino workers to seek better-paying jobs abroad despite risks and uncertainties.

“These are all issues and problems faced not only by certain sectors of society but of all Filipinos, whether they are here or abroad. We join today’s People’s Protest as a testament of OFWs’ disgust with a government that has continuously and unapologetically betrayed the Filipino people and put our OFWs in constant danger,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson and first nominee of Migrante Partylist.

OFWs are “endangered species”

Bragas-Regalado said that because of the Aquino administration’s policies, OFWs have become “endangered species” wherever they may be.

Kung saan may sigalot, tiyak na laging may kababayan tayong nadadamay o naiipit sa kaguluhan. Mapa-Libya, Syria, Saudi, Sabah, tiyak na laging may Pilipino. Kung gaanong kasigasig silang ibinubugaw sa dayuhan at malalaking negosyo, gayon namang kakupad ang gobyerno sa pag-aksyon kapag sila ay nasa kagipitan,” she said.

She cited the case of Filipinos in Sabah where most of Filipinos are trafficked. “Sabah has become one of the worst places for any Filipino worker and national. Now with the ongoing conflict and the Philippine government’s complicity, it has become a more dangerous place for Filipinos and their children,” she said. Sabah is also one of the most common “transit points” of trafficked Filipinos on their way to Malaysia or other nearby parts of Asia.

Bragas-Regalado condemned the intensification of crackdowns and raids overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that has resulted in human rights violations and abuses especially on undocumented or “stateless Filipinos” in Sabah, and even elsewhere in Malaysia.

“After the first attack on Sabah, we have already received reports of indiscriminate crackdowns and raids on households whose residents have Filipino-sounding names. This is on the top the long-neglected miserable situation of our OFWs in Sabah,” Bragas-Regalado said. She added that they have already also received reports of discrimination and racist attacks on OFWs based in Malaysia.

“Now, with recent developments, Filipinos in Sabah have become more vulnerable to crackdowns and abuses. This, without doubt, is the direct result of Aquino government’s defeatist and passive stance on the Sabah issue. Filipinos in Sabah are now being ‘criminalized’ or deemed ‘illegal’ or ‘undocumented’ because our own government does not support the legitimacy of their stay in Sabah,” Bragas-Regalado said.

OFWs are against tuition, price hikes

Bragas-Regalado added that OFWs support calls to stop tuition and other price hikes because the unending spate of increases are taking a heavy toll on OFWs and their families, especially in light of the dwindling dollar. “Remittance-dependent families are in a very vulnerable place and dangerous place. OFWs around the world can sympathize and empathize with Kristel Tejada’s parents. Her tragedy is also their tragedy because they know all too well how it is to strive hard for their families to survive,” she said.

According to Migrante’s computations, OFWs send an average of P8,000 per month to their families to cover expenses for rent, food and other utilities. The dollar depreciation combined with tuition and price hikes and the continuously swelling inflation rate poses an ominous impact on OFWs and their families. “Sa P8,000, labas pa diyan ang tuition. Usually kapag bayaran ng tuition, mapapansing tumataas ang remittances dahil either ipinangutang ng mga OFW ang ipinadala nila o nagdoble o triple ng trabaho para lamang makapagpadala,” she said.

She said that Migrante believes that the Aquino government could actually do something to stop tuition and other price hikes if only it had political will and the welfare of its citizens in mind. The same goes for how Migrante perceives the government’s slow response and inaction during the height of the crises in Libya, Syria and now Sabah. ###