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Lockdown in the Philippines and Holy Week Crackdown

PRESS STATEMENT
Holy Week crackdowns during the lockdown reflect Duterte’s insincerity to address pandemic. Filipino migrants reaffirm commitment to oust Duterte!

Migrante International condemns the vicious crackdowns on leaders of workers’ unions, farmers’ organizations, women groups and other legal democratic organizations while enforcing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in designated provinces including NCR. Instead of providing much needed health services and addressing the alarming rise of COVID cases during this period, the Duterte government turned Holy Week into “Huli” week.

Duterte’s “kill all” order does not spare even sacred days when Kilusang Mayo Uno national vice chairperson Dandy Miguel, a staunch defender of unionists, was killed in a street in Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna. Early morning on Holy Monday, police mounted simultaneous raids on regional leaders of farmers’ organizations in Central Luzon and arrested KMP Vice Chairperson Joseph “JC” Canlas, also a leader of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) in Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga. On the same day, BAYAN-Central Luzon and Workers Alliance of Region III (WAR-3) leader Pol Viuya was arrested in a private residence in Bamban, Tarlac. He was reportedly brought to Camp Olivas in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Overseas Filipinos fear for the safety and security of their families in the Philippines as they hear stories of rights defenders being subjected to extrajudicial killings, illegal searches and arrests, interrogations all while in the midst of alarming and unprecedented rise in COVID cases in the country and no clear plan and direction developed by the Duterte regime to address the serious health crisis.

While these human rights violations are being carried out, overseas Filipinos and their families are suffering from the calvary imposed by the Duterte regime during this pandemic. Filipino migrants abroad are experiencing grave government abandonment and criminal neglect as they experience lack of livelihood, hunger, lack of temporary shelter, abuse and discrimination with little to no assistance from the government. Hundreds of land and sea-based migrant workers continue to be stranded in their host countries and at sea with their health deterioriating because of the slow repatriation assistance, while human trafficking and illegal recruitment victims like those in Syria have yet to see justice in their cases.

Instead of providing much needed financial, food and other forms of assistance and support to secure the health, safety and livelihood of our overseas Filipinos, the government is occupied and wasting the people’s resources on hosting seminars conducted by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in order to demonize and spread lies against progressive and democratic organizations that legitimately serve and respond to the needs of our fellow kababayans in distress.

Despite the difficulties and dangers, thousands of Filipinos are forced to continue to seek employment abroad and leave their families behind because of the lack of economic and livelihood support and sustainable jobs in the country. And despite their ongoing agony, the Duterte regime continues to rake in profits from overseas Filipinos through mandatory government fees from PhilHealth, SSS, Pag-ibig, OWWA membership while no one is still being held accountable for corrupting the 15 billion-peso funds committed by Duterte’s PhilHealth minions.

Filipino migrants say enough is enough! It is time to end Duterte’s ineptitude, greed, fascism and quest to perpetuate power together with his relatives or chosen ones. It is clear that the Duterte regime does not give a damn if our people die from his war on drugs, extra judicial killings, hunger and poverty.

Duterte has clearly failed to protect the Filipino people from the pandemic through increased mass testing and contact tracing, support for our health care frontline workers and hospitals, accelerating the roll out of the national vaccine program and procurement of more vaccine supplies, and providing consistent economic aid and livelihood support for all.

Therefore, Filipinos overseas reaffirm our commitment to join all sectors of Philippine society in the movement to oust Duterte!

Statement on International Women’s Day 2021

As we salute the working women all over the world on International Women’s Day, Filipino women migrants reaffirm their stand for the ouster of the tyrannical, militarist and corrupt regime of Duterte!

Years have passed since Duterte assumed office in Malacanang but women migrants continued to suffer from various forms of exploitation and continuously treated as commodities for export. Like the majority of the working and peasant women, Filipino women migrants are denied their rights to a just wage, right to land, right to a secure and decent livelihood and right to access free social services such as healthcare and education. Filipino women migrants had spoken – enough is enough! Duterte must be out of Malacanang!

Government neglect persists among Filipinos overseas especially for thousands displaced, stranded or died because of the pandemic. Notwithstanding, Filipinos are forced to risk their lives and leave their families through the Duterte government’s Labor Export Program which plunges them into deeper economic crisis as they undergo training and pay exorbitant fees required by unscrupulous employment agencies on top of other fees exacted by Philhealth, POEA, OWWA, DFA, NSO, NBI and other agencies created to extort from the poor Filipinos. Economic heroes indeed!

In Hong Kong, an increasing number of Filipino women migrants are being terminated from work and suffered not just for losing employment but even in returning home. Their flights are cancelled and have no place to stay while waiting for the next available flight schedule. They became stranded migrants in need of temporary accommodation but the Philippine government remain silent about their plight.

In the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, cases of Filipina migrants who run away from their employers because of maltreatment, non-payment of salary and different forms of abuses, among others are being reported on an almost daily basis. It’s been happening since the labor export program of the government started and it continues to happen despite Philippine government promotions of unified contracts among others. In 2020, the situation of Filipina migrants in the Middle East worsened as the COVID 19 pandemic spread throughout the region and worldwide.

Young Filipina women who were first brought to UAE end up being trafficked in Syria. It took them years before their voices were heard. Last year, MIGRANTE International together with UMC Philippines held a press conference to expose and demand for their repatriation. We learned that aside from being trafficked, their handlers in Syria, even staff of the Philippine Embassy, are reportedly extorting money from them with the promise of repatriation. These are trafficked women and they were victimized not just once but several times.

Despite the reported cases of increasing job terminations and different forms of work schemes as a result of the global crisis and widespread pandemic, government cash relief efforts end up in empty promises to many who were not able to receive the first trance of DOLE-AKAP.

A study conducted last year by IBON revealed that cash assistance has dwindled to almost nothing compared to the magnitude of needs. Only Php239.3 billion in cash assistance was disbursed under Bayanihan 1 and dwindled to just Php13 billion under Bayanihan 2 as of December 2020. “There does not seem to be any other allocation for COVID-related cash assistance anywhere in the Php4.5 trillion budget. Nor is there any mention of additional cash assistance in the 340 pages of the supposedly post-pandemic updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 released in early February 2021.

”What is more distressing though for women migrants is the unforeseen danger behind the evils of trafficking such as the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who for ten years now continue to languish in a jail in Indonesia. Despite strong indications that Mary Jane is innocent, President Duterte’s administration did not actively pursue and exhaust all efforts to protect and defend the rights of Mary Jane as a victim of human trafficking. Additionally, President Duterte has not appealed Mary Jane’s case to the Indonesian authorities for pardon or clemency. Mary Jane’s case exemplifies the grave government neglect experienced by Filipino human trafficking victims, and the long, arduous journey victims have to undergo to achieve justice.

On February 7 this year, Jerlyn Isah Quisumbing, 24-year old woman seafarer, fell overboard in a vessel while preparing a gangway for MB Santa Clara, Flagship Denmark and has gone missing until now. Her mother, Rossana Lozada Quisumbing, is appealing for help to investigate the case of her missing daughter but her call for help seems to fall on deaf ears.

Yesterday, several activists including women were murdered and arrested in different places in Southern Tagalog. According to reports, 9 activists were murdered and 6 were illegally arrested at the crack of dawn by combined forces of PNP and CIDG. MIGRANTE International condemns these lawless actions by those in authority which only show who are the real terrorists in this country. Furthermore, we are one with the families of the victims and other progressive organizations demanding justice and calling for immediate and unconditional release of those arrested.

MIGRANTE International believes that as long as the regime of Duterte stays in power, Filipino women including migrants will continue to suffer from state terrorism, government neglect, discrimination and various forms of abuses. Indeed, the struggle of the working class women in 1909 to fight against oppression and inequality and other conditions in the form of feudal and capitalist exploitation hold true today. We need to strengthen women and peoples movements along with international solidarity in order to survive and win the struggle.

Migrant Women, Unite!

End Tyranny!

Oust US-Duterte Regime!

Long live International Solidarity!

More woes welcome migrant Filipinos in 2021 with PhilHealth premium increase

PRESS RELEASE

Overseas Filipino workers face the dread of job losses amidst the COVID pandemic crisis aggravated by onerous government fees as 2021 ushers in. This was declared today by Migrante International (MI), an alliance of progressive organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families.

Certainly, the mandatory PhilHealth membership and premium rate hike has been a burden for OFWs since the passage of the Universal Healthcare Act (UHC) signed by President Duterte on February 20, 2019. Under the UHC law the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is mandated by the State to protect and promote the right to health of all Filipinos. Ironically, PhilHealth has been used as a tool for unscrupulous health officials appointed by the President to amass billions of members’ contributions for their own selfish interests.

According to reports, a “mafia” involving the whole of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s executive committee has stolen some P15 billion from the agency using different fraudulent schemes. Why should contributors suffer by paying increased premiums in response to the agency’s lack of funds? The corrupt PhilHealth officials involved should be held accountable and duly prosecuted.

Meanwhile, OFWs believe that President Duterte’s recent announcement to defer the collection of increased PhilHealth premiums is only a tactic to quell the anger and anxiety of the people especially during this COVID crisis. Merely deferring the increased premium does nothing to calm down the people.

OFWs and Overseas Filipinos demand a total scrap of mandatory PhilHealth membership and make it voluntary for those with capacity to pay contributions. What the people want is a genuine, pro-people, universal health care program through free and comprehensive medical and health services.

Migrante International and all its chapters abroad urgently call on the government to provide services and protection of OFWs affected by the COVID pandemic at home and in the countries of work. Let the DOLE-AKAP serve its purpose to extend aid not just to a few and privileged ones but to every OFW. OFWs and Filipino migrants vow to continue campaigning for the passage of HB6698 that would remove the unjust provisions of the UHC law mandating the premium rate hike and mandatory membership for OFWs and overseas Filipinos.

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Reference:

Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson, Migrante International,
PH contact number: 0908-129-28-51
Email: chair.migranteintl@gmail.com

#SAVEMARY JANE TIMELINE OF EVENTS: LET THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

This timeline is based on the sworn affidavits of Celia, Cesar and Maritess, Mary Jane’s mother, father and sister; a timeline given, upon request, by the DFA to the Velosos; the personal knowledge of Migrante and the National Union of People’s Lawyers of actions taken for the #SaveMaryJane campaign; and, Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacanang statements released to the media.

#SAVEMARYJANE THE PEOPLE HAVE PREVAILED, NOW HEADS MUST ROLL

It is with utmost jubilance that we announce to all Filipinos and supporters here in the Philippines and around the world that the Indonesian government has suspended the implementation of the death sentence on our kababayan Mary Jane Veloso until all proceedings in the Philippines is finished.