DAMAYAN MANITOBASTATEMENT 27 July 2009 References: Orli Marcelino, 204-218-7100 Jomay Amora-Mercado, 204-509-2491
Damayan Manitoba, a progressive organization of Filipino migrant workers in Manitoba and a member-alliance of Migrante International and Bayan Canada, denounces President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Charter change (Cha-cha) and her desperate move to remain in power beyond 2010.
On 2 June 2009, Arroyo’s cohorts in the Philippine House of Representatives swiftly passed House Resolution 1109 enabling themselves to convene the House as a “constituent assembly” (Con-Ass) with the power to amend the Constitution – even without the concurrence of the Senate. Chacha will pave the way to change the government set-up from presidential to parliamentary form, allowing Arroyo to run again as a member of Parliament without any term limits and become Prime Minister.
Aside from changing the form of government, Cha-cha also proposes several economic agenda. Cha-cha will push for the removal of certain nationalist and protective provisions in the Philippine Constitution, allowing 100% foreign ownership of land; allowing foreign capitalists to own public utilities, schools and mass media; allowing US military bases to return to the country; and subsequently removing certain provisions that protect our basic civil rights.
Intensifying political repression
With Oplan Bantay Laya II in effect, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, torture, intense militarization in the countryside and other forms of human rights violations continue to be committed with utter impunity .
According to Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights), extrajudicial killings have already claimed the lives of 1,013 victims, 202 persons have been involuntarily disappeared while 1.036 have been tortured since Arroyo came to power in 2001.
Among these HR violations was Melissa Roxas’ case, a Filipino-American and an active member of Bayan USA who was abducted and tortured by suspected elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The Arroyo government has still not taken any significant action to arrest this continued spate of killings. Its commitment to upholding the rights of its citizens is plain political rhetoric, not a genuine pursuit of justice.
Even UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston strongly criticized Arroyo regime`s human rights record. In his most recent report on the UN Human Rights Council, he cited that the ongoing Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program and the AFP’s target to eliminate the revolutionary forces by 2010, are some of the factors that lead to the growing number of human rights violations.
A few weeks ago, several bombing incidents occurred in different government offices. A bomb exploded in the Office of the Ombudsman, while a bomb was found inside the Department of Agriculture. It is believed that the bomb threats in Metro Manila are just being used as a tactic to divert public`s attention from the current issues concerning the GMA administration and might be used as an excuse to declare “emergency rule” or “no elections” scenarios.
Anti-OFW Arroyo regime
Damayan Manitoba joins its compatriots from other overseas Filipino organizations across Canada and all over the world in condemning and calling for the ouster of this despotic, anti-people and anti-OFWs Arroyo regime who threatens to surrender our national independence and interests.
Due to massive unemployment and lack of decent-paying job opportunities in the Philippines, around 3,000 Filipinos, mostly women, leave the country everyday to work abroad as OFW.
Filipinos numbering 8 million, or approximately a tenth of the population, now live and work in 194 countries and territories around the world, with concentrations in North America, Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe.
According to Migrante International, this migration which started by waves in the course of Philippine history has become an almost daily phenomenon since the government initiated its labor export program (LEP) in the 1970s. What was initially meant as a temporary measure to address the country’s unemployment problem has become a regular fixture, massive and systematic in scope, and bruited about as a tool for national development.
This is mainly because OFW remittances have kept Philippine economy afloat. From $659 million in 1984, these remittances have grown to a staggering $16 billion dollars by the end of 2008, making labor export the top dollar earner in the country.
However, these remittances were earned at tremendous costs to Filipino migrants and their families who had to endure long years of separation and suffer from various forms of exploitation, abuse, discrimination, violence and terrorism.
Thirty-five (35) OFWs are currently languishing in death row: one (1) in Brunei, one (1) in the US, two (2) in China, four (4) in Kuwait, nine (9) in Saudi Arabia, and ten (10) in Malaysia. Four of these are women.
Migrante’s Middle East chapter estimates that some 10,000 OFWs are currently stranded in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Syria. The numbers, though, are climbing everyday. Most of them are runaways, escaping from abusive employers or illegal recruiters or stuck because of retrenchment or unexpected change in visa rules. Three-hundred sixty (360) of them in 2007-2008 were repatriated home upon Migrante’s intervention and assistance but thousands more were awaiting government help especially those brought in detention or deportation cells, in camp-outs under bridges or in consular/embassy premises.
Migrante estimates that around six to eight dead OFW bodies are being brought home everyday. The causes of death were usually suspicious and unknown.
In Canada, live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers are vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, harassment, unfair labor practices, denial of access to health care, onerous contracts, unjust living condition, deportation and violence. Abuses ranged from exorbitant and anomalous placement fees to unjust wages.
Damayan Manitoba, along with all Migrante chapters all over the world, urges all Filipino migrants in Manitoba to join the “No Remittance” day once Con-ass convenes as legitimate and fair protest action against Arroyo’s neglect of OFWs’ rights and welfare. The No Remittance Day action condemns Arroyo’s betrayal of our people’s trust, putting our future and our nation’s wealth and patrimony at risk.
Damayan Manitoba also calls on Pinoys and OFWs in Manitoba to encourage their families and relatives back home to join protest actions against Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled on the 27th of July.
OFWs and their families have enough reasons to say No to Cha-cha and end the anti-people, anti-OFWs and most corrupt Arroyo administration!
Enough is enough!
ZERO REMITTANCE if CON-ASS CONVENES!
NO TO CHARTER CHANGE!
No to an Arroyo dictatorship! No to emergency rule! Never again to Martial Law!
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
27 July 2009