Overseas Filipino workers from different parts of the globe commemorated the 14th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, March 17.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from different parts of the globe commemorated the 14th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, March 17.
Contemplacion, a domestic helper in Singapore, was executed for murder on March 17, 1995. She was accused of killing Delia Maga, a fellow Filipina domestic helper and a four-year old boy Nicholas Huang. Two Filipino witnesses testified that Contemplacion was innocent but the execution went on.
In Manila, members of Migrante International were joined by Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakbayan and Kadamay in a protest march along Recto Ave. near Malacañang. The police prevented the protesters from reaching the Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge.
The groups criticized the intensified labor export program of the Arroyo administration. They asserted that the ‘aggressive’ marketing of OFWs abroad will not resolve the grave impact brought about by the global financial and economic crisis.
‘A recurring nightmare’
In Hong Kong, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL), an affiliate of Migrante, and the Gabriela Women’s Party local chapter held a picket protest action at the Philippine Consulate General.
Dolores Balladares, chairperson of UNIFIL, said, “With the system of neglect and policies that do a disservice to migrant workers, the story of Flor Contemplacion is a recurring nightmare for OFWs under the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
“Fourteen years after [the death of] Flor, the only thing that the Philippine government can show are the forced migration of millions more Filipinos, a highly-systematic export of labor, a full machinery for state exaction of the hard-earned income of migrants, protection that was never there, and negligible services,” Balladares said.
The group criticized government policies such as the ban on direct hiring and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Omnibus Policies. The group asserted that the ban puts OFWs at the mercy of unscrupulous recruiters and that the Omnibus Policies has taken away welfare services for migrants.
The OWWA Board of Trustees, headed by Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, passed the Omnibus Polices as Board Resolution No. 38 last Sept. 19, 2005. The omnibus policies, according to Migrante, institutionalized the collection of a $25 membership fee from OFWs while limiting OWWA membership to those with “active contracts.” Migrante added that its implementation started the suspension of some services like repatriation for distressed migrants, assistance to those with mental illness, and the suspension of OWWA’s General Financial Assistance Program.
A joint statement by Migrante chapters in the Middle East also lambasted what they called as anti-OFW policies such as the guidelines on land-based recruitment and household service workers (HSWs) placing OFWs and aspirants alike at the hands of unscrupulous recruitment agencies, which collect higher fees amounting to P35,000 to P45,000 ($724 to $931 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.31) plus other additional payments.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) cited anti-migrant policies imposed by host governments and accepted by Philippine authorities. These include the implementing guidelines of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Employment Agreement for Domestic Workers and Sponsors issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) as an advisory in 2007, and the Special Hiring Program for Taiwan (SHPT). The first stipulates that any legitimate grievance by the worker would be considered null and void if he or she absconds from his or her employer. The latter, asserted the APMM, is an indirect admission by the government that the Balik Manggagawa program of the POEA in Taiwan especially for rehires is not applicable.
The APMM also said that the Philippine government also accepted onerous terms for retrenched migrant workers in Taiwan. The recently retrenched migrant workers from Taiwan were made to pay for their airfare going back to the Philippines. For migrants who continue to work, lower wages and labor flexibility measures are tolerated.