Overseas Filipinos around the world launched simultaneous protest activities to participate in the People’s SONA (State of the Nation Address).
Migrante International chapters in different parts of the world led members, other migrant organizations and Filipino communities in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Macau, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States in marking President Benigno Aquino III’s second SONA with protests in their respective countries.
In Hong Kong, OFWs’ held a rally on the Sunday before SONA, July 22, at Chater Road in Central before marching to the Philippine Consulate. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 180 OFWs again staged a hunger strike on the day of the SONA to protest labor violations and government neglect. In Jeddah and other parts of Saudi, OFWs held indoor protests and gatherings.
In the US, Filipinos in different states held simultaneous People’s SONA rallies to protest the Aquino government’s labor export policy. In Europe, overseas Filipinos called for justice for slain Dutch community worker Willeem Gertman and Italian Fr. Pops Tenorio, victims of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration.
Here at the home front, hundreds of families of OFWs in distress and OFW communities joined the BAYAN-led march towards Batasan.
Rise in number of OFWs in distress
“OFWs around the world are outraged by Aquino’s failed promises and empty rhetoric. In the past two years, the situation of OFWs has deteriorated despite Aquino’s declarations of improved welfare and services for them,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that this is evident in the record-high increase in the number of cases their organization has handled in the past two years. “From 1,500 cases yearly before Aquino assumed power in 2010, the number of cases we have documented and facilitated has shot up to 4,500 by the end of 2011. This does not yet include cases handled independently by our chapters abroad,” he said.
Martinez said that for the first half of 2012, the number of cases they have handled has reached an average of 35 to 40 a month. He added that cases they have processed so far have “broadened in scope and widened in range.”
“Unlike before when majority of our cases were either individual cases or cases similar in nature, we have borne witness to a much wider scope of cases under this regime, ranging from overcharging, illegal recruitment, to wide-scale human trafficking and different facets of government neglect. More OFWs have also become victims of maltreatment, abuse, labor violations and foul play than our experience in previous years,” Martinez said.
The migrant leader also said that there was a significant rise in the number of cases they have handled in the past two years of jailed OFWs and OFWs on death row. “For the first time in history, four (4) of our kababayans have been executed abroad, and in just a span of two years. It’s incredible, it’s horrible.”
Stop labor export policy
Martinez attributed these to Aquino’s implementation of a more intensified, aggressive and sophisticated labor export policy.
“Because of the Aquino administration’s desperation to further seek job markets abroad due to the country’s worsening economic situation brought about by its unreformed policies, its only recourse has been to intensify its labor export program at the expense of the rights and welfare of OFWs. It has become more clear that the labor export policy is nothing but a bug business venture from which the government profits, with OFWs as milking cows.”
”Despite his promises and posturing, without doubt, President Aquino is cut out of the same mold as a modern-day slave trader. Increasingly millions of migrants Filipinos are seeing through this. For OFWs, wala namang nagbago. We now see Aquino’s promises and posturing for what they are. Lies, nothing but lies.”