On Migrants Day: Strong economy at OFWs’ expense

Jun. 04, 2007

With less than a week before Migrants Day on June 7, an alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families hit President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the plight of OFWs in distress.

Vol. VII, No. 17 June 3-9, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — With less than a week before Migrants Day on June 7, an alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families hit President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the plight of OFWs in distress.

Its unbearable that while the Arroyo regime gloats over a strong economy buoyed by billions of OFW dollar remittances, she cant find the time or money to address the plight of OFWs unjustly on death row, in prison or stranded overseas, said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International chairperson.

Citing data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the group said there are 34 OFWs on death row including two women while thousands are languishing in prison and many more are stranded, largely in the Middle East.

Referring to numerous reports by OFWs like Rodelio Lanuza, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia, about alleged government inaction and negligence over their cases, the group called for an immediate investigation into his and all other cases of OFWs in prison.

RP posts abroad, the DFA and the Arroyo regime must be held accountable for every day that these OFWs languish in jail, said Bragas-Regalado, noting that the circumstances leading to the imprisonment of OFWs must also be scrutinized.

The group described stranded OFWs as OFWs in distress who want to return to the Philippines but are often unable because of the refusal of their employers or recruiters to provide them tickets and/or the lack of travel documents. The 1995 Migrants Act states that in such cases, the Philippine government is responsible for their repatriation.

But in spite of an approximately P8 billion ($173.2 million based on an exchange rate of $1:P46.18 as of June 1) OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) fund, a DFA budget for their repatriation and Malacaang pronouncements about the repatriation of OFWs in trouble spots, stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon and elsewhere are largely ignored, said the migrant leader.

Bragas-Regalado concluded that as Migrants Day on June 7 approaches, Migrante International will lead a series of activities to expose the worsening situation of OFWs under Arroyo. Migrants Day was proclaimed by the Ramos administration to mark the anniversary of the passage of RA 8042 or the 1995 Migrants Act.

Protests everywhere

To show their feelings, OFWs and overseas Filipinos in Japan, New Zealand, and Rome protested during the Philippine president visits in these countries.

For Arroyos visit in Japan on May 21-23, OFWs and various Japanese groups held candle lightings and vigils in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka condemning the rampant violations of human rights in the Philippines committed by the Arroyo government through its agents and hired-killers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

The activities were organized by the Amnesty International Japan, Human Rights Now, WAYAWAYA, Philippines Committee, National Christian Council in Japan, and Tokyo and Yokohama People’s Network against Political Killings in the Philippines.

Arroyos next stop in New Zealand was met with protests.

Dennis Maga, spokesperson of the Free Ka Bel Movement has been protesting since Philippines president Gloria Arroyo arrived in New Zealand on a state visit.

In Wellington on May 28, he stood in a cage outside The Beehive as Arroyo and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark held a media conference.

During the interfaith dialogue hosted by Clark at Waitangi, members of the National Distribution Union and supporters held huge banners reading ‘Stop the Killings Gloria’ and ‘Stop the Killings in the Philippines,’ planted several dozen white crosses at the entry to the treaty grounds to symbolize the 858 extra judicial killings during the Arroyo regime, and placed photographs of slain activists such as Protestant Bishop Alberto Ramento.

Renowned New Zealand law professor Jane Kelsey said that crosses planted at the entry to the Copthorne Hotel made it impossible for Arroyo to miss the protest when she arrived to address the conference.

The cold weather did not discouraged the OFWs and their supporters to show their dismay to Arroyo when she arrived in Australia on May 29.

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