Philippines: OFWs have little to celebrate on Migrants Day, House Centennial — Migrante

Jun. 07, 2007

MANILA — As the House of Representatives marks its Centennial today with a visit from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an alliance of OFWs and their families led a lighting rally to highlight parallels between the observance of the Congress Centennial and Migrants Day today.

In the same way that there is little for OFWs to celebrate on Migrants Day, there is also little for this Congress to actually boast of, says Garry Martinez, Migrante International Spokesperson during the rally in front of the Congress gates this morning.

We recall Congress historical role in propping up a colonial then semi-colonial government. Today, the large majority of Gloria allies in Congress assure us that again it will attempt to rubber stamp an array of anti-people and anti-migrant measures pushed by Malacanang and foreign dictates, he said.

Among these measures is the passage of the so-called Human Security Act. This measure will surely intensify the repression the people now face. Already under Arroyo, more than 840 church people, lawyers, students and other activists have been murdered while hundreds were abducted, said Martinez.

The Migrante leader noted that while the 13th Congress passed this terror-Act against the people, it couldnt even muster quorum yesterday to ensure the passage of the important Human Rights Victims Compensation Bill.

In this light, we call on pro-people and progressive legislators to remain firm in their stand against the passage of laws that will only suppress our rights and heighten our hardship. Likewise, we call on them to proactively forward and support legislation geared towards advancing our rights and welfare, said Martinez.

Among the OFW issues Migrante highlighted during the rally was the case of OFWs on death row, especially Rodelio Lanuza, Rey Cortez and Marilou Ranario.

Its ironic that while Migrants Day is commemorated because it is the anniversary of the 1995 Migrants Act, the government actually violates this Act more times than it even observes it, said Martinez.

According to Martinez, provisions for legal assistance, repatriation of distressed OFWs and other services for migrants and their families is often ignored altogether by various government agencies.

We contribute billions of dollars annually to government coffers through our remittances yet during times of our distress were met with excuses such as the lack of funds available for even lawyers of OFWs on death row, he added.

OFW remittances this year are estimated to reach approximately US$14 billion, an increase from the US$12.8 billion last year. Migrante further estimates that OFWs contribute an estimated P13 billion annually directly to government coffers through the various government fees collected from OFWs for a range of documents and services like passports, birth certificates and forced membership fees to the OWWA.

Later in the afternoon, Migrante International continued to highlight the plight of OFWs, especially those on death row, with a forum at Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City. At the end of the forum, OFWs and their advocates symbolically lit candles for justice for OFW victims of government neglect. #

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