MAIN STORY | 20 years after Flor Contemplacion, Filipino migrants suffer same exploitative conditions
Bumaba na po kayo. Magresign na po kayo. Yun ang gusto namin.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “Bumaba na po kayo. Magresign na po kayo. Yun ang gusto namin.”
(Please step down. Please resign. That is what we want.)
This was the call of artist Nora Aunor to President Aquino over his criminal neglect on overseas Filipino workers.
“Long before, I had believed that the OFWs are one of the most exploited sectors of our society. They have always been neglected by government. That was why when I was offered to play the role of Flor in her bio-film, I did not have to think twice,” Aunor said during the protest action.
Aunor said that she learned more on the hardships that Filipino migrant workers experience abroad when she met Contemplacion’s family. This, she added, pushed her to produce the play titled “DH.”
The artist, revered by activists as “national treasure,” an apparent reference to Aquino’s refusal to name her National Artist, joined the protest action commemorating the 20th year of the execution of Flor Contemplacion.
Aunor wore a black shirt that read, “Proud to be a Filipino, ashamed of my government.” She endured the heat and marched with protesters from Avenida to the historic Mendiola bridge.
“Idol! Idol!”people on the street called out to her, as they took out their phones and clicked away to get pictures of the multi-awarded singer-actress. Even activists who were self-proclaimed “Noranians” did not miss the opportunity to have a selfie with her.
But it was her fiery speech in Mendiola that got Aunor the loudest cheers.
“In truth, Noynoy himself is the one who exported, burdened and endangered our compatriots. Because of his policies and inaction, because of his puppetry to the foreign imperialist, he himself pushes the Filipino workers to leave the country. And because of his labor export policy, he is the worst president to the migrant Filipinos and their families,” she said.
In an ambush interview, Aunor was asked by the media if her calls for Aquino’s resignation was triggered by his refusal to recognize her as a National Artist.
“Not even in my dreams did I want to become a national artist. I am more than happy if I am able to do a movie that is appreciated by the people, gets screened in international film festivals and even wins awards,” she said, adding that more people deserve to be named National Artist.
She also told media that what bothers her is Aquino’s incompetence and poor discretion in governing the country, adding that he should have not been elected president in the first place.
Is she not afraid of the consequences of coming out with such strong pronouncements? Aunor said that she is not.
“Whenever I come out during occasions such as this, things I say come from my heart. I am thankful to those who believe in me because it is really from my heart and there is nothing I should be afraid of,” Aunor said.
Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr., for his part, said Aquino has been at the forefront in protecting OFWs, and that the calls for his ouster for his supposed criminal neglect on them is “baseless.”
Shortly after her speech during the protest, Ofel Beltran-Balleta of the human rights group Karapatan pinned a wood carving pin on Aunor’s shirt. The pin was made by political detainees and peace consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.
Russel, Contemplacion’s daughter, became emotional as soon as she arrived at the assembly point of the protest and heard the song “Kahit konting awa” being played on the mobile address system. The song is the soundtrack of the bio-film that was recorded by Aunor.
Many protesters were moved, when Russel and Aunor hugged each other and cried. At the program, Russel said she appreciates Aunor’s presence, because it was like seeing her mother again.