“We will never attain comfort under this government which has no compassion for the sufferings of the Filipino people”.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – In a protest action, April 23, members of progressive women’s group Gabriela called on President Benigno Aquino III to provide jobs to all unemployed Filipinos. The group said the lack of jobs in the country forces women, especially mothers like Mary Jane Veloso, to work abroad for their children and the rest of their families.
Gabriela members from different communities marched from Trabajo Market to Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola bridge).
Veloso is an overseas Filipina worker who was sentenced to death by the Indonesian government on charges of drug trafficking. Lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers are now in Indonesia to meet with Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers who are set to file a petition for second judicial review as her temporary reprieve from execution ends today, April 24.
Misty Lorin, Gabriela deputy secretary general, slammed Aquino for his “continuing negligence of the people’s already poor condition.” She said the International Labor Organization’s Global Employment Trends published in January 2014 shows that the Philippines has the highest unemployment rate among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and belies Aquino’s claim of a ‘tiger economy.’
Lorin added that only those who are in the Philippines’s Forbes top 50 continue to get rich and not the majority of the Filipino people.
Thursday’s protest is one of the demonstrations held across the country and Filipino enclave cities worldwide to push the Aquino government to save Veloso from the death sentence and other Filipinos in death row.
Most women are jobless
Citing a recent survey by the Social Weather Station (SWS), Lorin said the country’s unemployment rate hit 27 percent or 12.4 million jobless Filipinos in the last quarter of 2014.
Many women are unemployed, according to the SWS survey. From the previous 33.2 percent, unemployment among women rose to 41.7 percent.
Rose Bihag, secretary general of Gabriela-Tondo said, that women have been doing multiple jobs just to bring food on the table. “To be able to buy food for the next day, women resort to all kinds of odd jobs — from manicure and pedicure services to selling anything,” Bihag said.
She added that this kind of poverty pushes mothers like Mary Jane to leave the country and work even if they leave their families behind.
The group also criticized Aquino’s flagship program, the dole-out Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) that claims to have “improved the lives of the poorest of the poor.” They assert that Filipinos needed regular jobs to uplift their lives and not just a dole-out program.
Fe Orendo, 38, a mother of four from Tatalon, Quezon City, has no work. Her husband, who sells vegetables, earns P200 ($4.51) a day. She also sells Avon products to augment their income but what she gets is still not enough. She said her children have been forced to stop studying.
Bing Galero, 35, is four-months pregnant and has no work. Her husband works as security guard with a low salary that is barely enough to pay for electricity, water and food. “Sometimes, I have to borrow money so we could survive another day,” she said. She is also worried on about their situation once she delivers her first born.
Badet Adales, also from Gabriela Tatalon, said mothers could not anymore have peace of mind as they think about where to get food for their children from breakfast to dinner.
“We will never attain comfort under this government which has no compassion for the sufferings of the Filipino people. It is only right to call on Aquino’s resignation because even if he only has less than a year. We cannot endure this kind life anymore!” Adales said.
More Filipinos on death row
Sol Pillas, secretary general of Migrante International said there are 125 Filipinos on death row – the question remains if they indeed committed crimes or do they ever have a lawyer to defend them.
She cited the case of another OFW in death row, Rose Dacanay, who has been in prison for two years in Saudi Arabia. Pillas said not a single official of the Philippine Embassy has visited Dacanay in prison.
Dacanay’s mother, Editha, was also at the protest action and lambasted the government for not giving priority to the case of her daughter and the rest of the OFWs in death row abroad. “I have been in the office of the Vice President (Jejomar) Binay but I was given the runaround,” Editha said during the program. Now, she said, even the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) cannot answer her queries on her daughter’s case.
Pillas appealed on fellow women and other sectors to intensify campaigns to save the life of Veloso.
Gabriela Women’s Representative Emmi De Jesus said, “The families that OFWs left behind are not fools to want dangerous jobs abroad. They do so out of desperation to find a job that is unlikely to be found locally, under an anti-poor bungled Aquinomics.”
She added the failure that is Aquinomics wreck livelihoods and provide very little employment in return which results to 6,000 Filipinos leaving the country on a daily basis to find work abroad. “What women want are decent and regular jobs with adequate pay and human working conditions right here in the Philippines where they do not have to leave their families.”
Lorin said women will never get tired of going back to streets, even under the scorching heat of the sun, until the government finally heeds their demands and no more Filipinos die or are sentenced to death abroad because of government neglect.