Gabriela Women’s Party on Monday urged the House of Representatives to investigate where the P250 million OWWA fund set aside last year for OFWs affected by the global financial crisis went.
“The Arroyo government’s so-called ‘assistance program’ for Filipino workers displaced by the global financial meltdown could be a ruse to divert millions of OFW money to the pockets of corrupt government officials,” Rep. Luz Ilagan said.
Ilagan’s call for investigation was brought about by the “duping” incident in Malacanang last December, wherein around 100 retrenched workers from Taiwan were escorted to the presidential palace supposedly to accept checks amounting to around P50,000.
But after they were used for a photo gimmick by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the OFWs were asked to return the checks.
Ilagan demands that DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque and OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimson be included in the investigation as they were the ones who escorted the OFWs.
“The incident was a grand show of this government’s insensitivity and further exploitation of migrant workers. The OFWs have already lost their jobs and still they were cruelly used and tricked by the institutions and people they are relying on for help,” said Ilagan.
The P250 million crisis fund came from the P11.2 billion OWWA has accumulated using the $25 OFW mandatory membership fee.
Thus, Ilagan said, “Filipino overseas workers should have immediate access to this fund as it came from their own sweat and blood.”
Gabriela Women’s Party also demands that the Philippine government, through its departments and agencies, particularly DFA, DOLE and OWWA, establish a more responsive program for Filipinos displaced by the global financial crisis, other than the current questionable program which requires a tedious and lengthy application process.
Persecution Geared to Keep Gabriela Out of 2010: Gabriela Women’s Party Poised to Defend Leaders, Members, Women, Against State Attacks
Militant women’s partylist group Gabriela has vowed to defend itself against escalating state-instigated attacks and political persecution on progressive partylist groups and militant organizations nationwide.
Gabriela Women’s Party national president and partylist representative Liza Maza said that in the partylist organization’s recently concluded National Council meeting, they have adopted resolutions to combat head on the systematic political persecution against their partylist organization.
“We have documented several cases of illegal arrest, filing of fabricated cases, vilification campaigns and harassment against Gabriela Women’s Party and other progressive organizations nationwide, especially in Southern Tagalog and Negros island.”
Maza specifically stated the fabricated cases of arson, conspiracy to commit rebellion, multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder filed against Gabriela Women’s Party 5th Nominee and Gabriela Southern Tagalog Secretary General Helen Asdolo, Gabriela Women’s Party provincial coordinator for Cavite, Amy Sto. Tomas and 70 others from Southern Tagalog. They have been accused of participating in a raid conducted by the NPA in March 3, 2006 in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental.
In Negros, Gabriela staff and volunteer Mary Grace Delicano, was illegaly arrested for her alleged participation in a raid conducted by the New People’s Army in Bgy. Malasibog, Escalante City in 2006. Similarly, Emilia and Marycris Quirante have been arrested after a .38 caliber pistol was purportedly found in an unspecified area of their home in Bgy. Trinidad in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.
Yesterday, Maza filed a resolution directing the House Committee on Human Rights to conduct an inquiry into the political persecution and pending arrest of Gabriela Women’s Party leaders in Southern Tagalog and 70 other activists including 18 other women on fabricated charges against them.
Maza further said, “we have also received reports that in meetings and forums conducted by the military in communities, they continue to identify Gabriela Women’s Party as a communist front and villify our leaders as terrorists.”
“We have faced similar attacks since the 2007 elections. It appears that this early in the electoral game, as Arroyo’s camp and her allies prepare their candidacies, they are likewise preparing to keep us out of 2010. They are bound to fail.”
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza today acknowledged the determination of the American people in their struggle for change with the historic election of Barrack Obama as the first black US president. “Like the Filipino people, they have been the ones suffering from Bush administration’s bent policies that plunged them into this financial meltdown. They have endured the brunt of the militarist Bush regime that led them into wars of aggression under the pretext of its so called global campaign against terrorism.”
“His strong and vocal opposition against the Bush administration effectively won him the seat in the White House. His campaign rhetoric was indeed translated into landslide victory as he projected himself as the total opposite of Bush,” said Maza.
According to the Gabriela lawmaker, “This much anticipated event has drawn more attention worldwide at this very period when the US economy is at its worst. Undeniably, there is a growing resistance among the American people against the Bush regime that has brought them into the depths of despair.”
“The challenge for President-elect Barack Obama right now is how he could truly provide concrete relief measures that would effectively address the just demands of the American people. It is a matter of making bold decisions that would strategically respond to their quandary. It is a matter of redirecting its policies to provide real jobs and income, basic social services and security instead of pressing forward its warmongering schemes.”
Gabriela Women’s Party likewise poses the challenge for Obama to end all forms of US military intervention in its foreign relations policy, “The pull-out of US troops should happen not just in Iraq but in other countries where US military personnel have permanent or temporary military presence, including the Philippines.”#
GABRIELA PARTY-LIST CONDEMNS ARROYO FOR BIDOYA’S BEHEADING, DEMANDS URGENT ACTION TO SAVE EX-GABRIELA LEADER ALCARAZ FROM DEATHROW
“There is no one else to blame for the beheading of Jenifer Bidoya but GMA. In favor of preparing an ostentatious welcome for current and future business partners in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), President Arroyo has further pushed aside the welfare of Filipinos abroad,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan.
Bidoya was an overseas Filipino worker beheaded in Saudi Arabia last October 14 after two years of serving detention for allegedly murdering a Saudi national.
“The support this government provided Bidoya was just a “drop in the bucket” of what a government should have done for its citizen facing a legal battle outside its borders,” Ilagan said. “They may have asked the Saudi government for pardon, but that was it; plain lip-service for the sake of saying that they tried to help him.”
Recently, another OFW was sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly robbing and murdering a Taiwanese national. The Philippine government remains silent on the issue and has not offered any form of support to Cecilia Alcaraz, a former Gabriela women’s alliance leader in Laguna, or her family.
“The fact that Arroyo can sleep at night or proudly call the Philippines a model country for Labor Export while OFW blood is in her hands is a proof that she does not have even an inch of concern for them,” Ilagan said demanding that the government seriously and immediately take heed of Alcaraz’s and her family’s calls for help in negotiating for the commutation of the former’s death sentence.
There are currently 29 overseas Filipino workers still languishing in jails and awaiting execution abroad. According to Ilagan, the actual number would have been twice as many, if not for the relentless lobbying of local and international human rights organizations for them to be pardoned.
While dozens of Filipinos are literally shedding sweat and blood in other countries for their poverty-stricken families in the Philippines, the Arroyo government is busy spending time and millions of pesos on the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), a multi-stakeholder process tagged by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan as “a closed-door meeting between business tycoons exchanging deals and strategies on how to maximize profits from Labor Export of Third World countries”.
“Arroyo is far too excited about the GFMD to care about the OFWs. And why shouldn’t she be: this is a big opportunity for her to show off the country’s wide variety of “cheap labor for export” to potential buyers. For a businesswoman like her who thinks about nothing but amassing wealth from the sweat of other people, labor export is lucrative.”
“This is not just a show of the famed Filipino hospitality; This is a proof that migrant workers around the world are one in opposing the plan of business-minded governments to turn them into milking cows and modern-day slaves through the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).”
GFMD is an informal multi-stakeholder process to be held in Manila on October 28-30.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan said today as she joins overseas Filipino workers and their families in welcoming International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) Chairperson Eni Lestari at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The Indonesian national will be one of the speakers in the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a parallel conference aiming to expose the anti-migrants agenda of the 2nd GFMD. IAMR is an international conference to be attended by grassroots migrant workers from all parts of the world holds the theme “No to forced migration. No to labor export. Create jobs at home. End poverty. Defend and advance the rights of migrants and refugees!”
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Migrants, Dr Jorge Bustamante is one of the invited observers in the IAMR.
Among the planned activities are panel discussions, workshops, and other activities that shall center on themes highly-relevant to migrants, immigrants, refugees and other displaced peoples. There shall be presentations on various themes by reputable leaders from different grassroots migrants’ groups and advocates for the rights of migrants from different countries.
A public speak-out will also be conducted to give an opportunity for grassroots migrants to express their concerns.
“Beware,” warns Ilagan “GFMD is a sham: while it pretends to be a gathering to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers around the world as it promotes regular labor migration, it is actually hatching anti-migrant plans behind their backs. How can it be the genuine voice of migrants when its attendees are all businesspeople negotiating how much they will get from OFWs’ money?
“She has robbed them off their money, rights and even votes before; now she is depriving OFWs and their families a joyous Christmas,” says Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party. “GMA is worse than the Grinch.”
According to Ilagan, “while Christmas has ceased to be a happy occasion for Filipino overseas workers because of the loneliness they have to endure during this special time when families are supposed to be together, this Christmas is showing signs of becoming the most depressing for them as they face the possibility of layoffs as a result of the global financial crisis which has forced a number of big companies abroad to close down.”
“More than having no money to buy gifts for Christmas day, migrant workers fear that their families might not even have food on their table in the coming days.”
Ilagan blames the government for implementing copycat strategies such as the Labor Export Policy of the Marcos administration and perpetuating unemployment, hunger and poverty in the Philippines.
“Common sense tells us that 34 years of experience and painful evidence are more than enough to know that the government’s Labor Export Policy is anti-development. The Philippines has sent millions of Filipinos to work outside the country and has received billions in remittances, but until now the Philippines is far from the economic take-off stage that its supposed to have been assuming that the government is correct in its assumption that migration and development are related concepts,” Ilagan said.
She added, “All we got from exporting labor are daily news of Filipinas raped in the Middle East, OFWs languishing in jails and in the deathrow in Kuwait, domestic workers maltreated, starved and not given their salaries in Singapore, or migrant workers tastelessly and racially discriminated in television shows in Europe or North America.”
Last Tuesday, migrant worker Jenifer Bidoya was beheaded one-and-a-half years after he was convicted of murdering a Saudi national and sentenced to death by the Jeddah Sharia’h Grand Court.
According to the lawmaker, “Migration can never be a tool for development, despite what GMA and the Global Forum on Migration and Development are trying to brainwash us with,” the Gabriela Party-list solon said. “To achieve development, people must have secure jobs to counter poverty and hunger with and receive appropriate social services for holistic human development.”
“The absence of public accountability in the midst of billion-peso anomalous deals, the impunity with which human rights violations are committed and the penchant for tyranny is never good for the economy, it is never good for our country.”
Thus said Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza as she today joined petitioners in the filing of new impeachment complaint against Arroyo. The lawmaker was responding to claims that filing of a new impeachment complaint was mere politicking in the midst of a global financial crunch. “On the contrary, this new impeachment complaint is a necessary democratic process that will help our country survive the global financial crisis.”
According to Maza, “Those guilty of corruption and the plunder of government funds need to be held accountable. Without transparency and without accountability, the Arroyo government cannot expect to efficiently lead and enjoy the confidence of the people most affected by the crisis—the poor—as well as the business sector.”
“Furthermore, President Arroyo cannot expect to continue to implement the VAT and collect more taxes from the ordinary Filipinos amid the foreseen inflation and joblessness when her administration cannot account for how government funds are actually spent.”
Gabriela Women’s Party, along with other progressive partylists Bayan Muna and Anakpawis will be endorsing the complaint that will be filed by ZTE whistleblower Joey De Venecia and lawyer Harry Roque. “Year after year, we have filed and endorsed impeachment complaints against President Arroyo. There is no reason to stop filing these complaints as none of the issues that have been previously raised were resolved.”
“President Arroyo’s legitimacy remains in question. Allegations of corruption against President Arroyo and her family in multi-million anomalous contracts and government funds from the Macapagal Boulevard to the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani and down to the NBN-ZTE deals remain unresolved. The killings, abductions and disappearances continue,” explained Maza.
Aside from the impunity with which human rights violations are committed under her regime, the impeachment complaint holds President Arroyo culpable for betrayal of public trust for the Northrail rehabilitation project, bribery in the ZTE-NBN deal; and graft and corruption for her administration’s involvement in various irregularities including the P728 million fertilizer scam, P2 billion swine scam and alleged ballot-switching in the 2004 presidential election.#
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan witnessed firsthand how a weak inter-agency committee formed by the Philippine government as a result of the RP-Malaysia Working Group in 2005 to ensure the humane detention and deportation of undocumented Filipino migrants in Sabah has neglected the deportees, during a Fact-Finding Mission in Zamboanga last October 2-6.
“The inter-agency committee does not follow a standard procedures in dealing with the deportees, like properly getting their profile. This resulted to the lack of complete and detailed record of the victims, which could either be plain irresponsibility or a tactic of the government departments and agencies to cover their lack of interest in helping the deportees. The inadequate data do not show the true picture of a humanitarian crisis affecting Filipino refugees,” Ilagan stated.
IAC is composed of the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of National Defense, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, National Statistics Office, National Bureau of Investigation, Board of Investments and the Office of the Muslim Affairs.
Ilagan, together with Migrante International, visited the Silungan center, one of the only two one-stop processing centers for deportees aside from the one Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, and documented the cases of human rights violations committed against the deportees while they were languishing in Sabah jails. The IAC has failed to probe deeper into their experiences, much more act on the said inhumane treatment of Malaysian authorities.
Moreover, Ilagan discovered that “there is not a single doctor or a medical expert from the Department of Health to check on the medical condition of the deportees. The Silungan center has only one nurse for every 300 people, therefore, it is impossible to conduct the required medical check-up on each of them. A deportee will only be given attention when he or she obviously extremely ill.”
The Departments of Labor and Employment and of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, are concerned mainly with how to bring the deportees back to Sabah.
“This obvious lack of concern for the undocumented migrants in Sabah and in other parts of the world is an indicator of the overall apathy of the Philippine government on their situation. It is hypocritical of the Arroyo administration to host the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development, and to boast that the Philippines is a model of labor export when it is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the protection of migrants’ rights and promotion of their welfare,” said Ilagan.
She added, “DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. is right: the GFMD is not just a simple job fair; it is a bargain sell-out of our people to foreigners. The Arroyo government sees this as an opportunity to display our “wide variety of flexible workers who come at very cheap prices.”
The Gabriela Party-list solon invites her fellow representatives in Lower House to instead join the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a parallel forum to the GFMD which will table all the issues concerning the migrants and refugees in the Philippines, including the newly implemented immigration rules and massive crackdown in other countries.
Gabriela Womens Party Representative Liza Maza today renewed calls for the GSIS to fully disclose immediately its foreign investments as the global financial meltdown worsens in the midst of a foiled US bailout.
“The clamor for a full public disclosure of GSIS investments is urgent. The pension of at least 2 million government employees, including public school teachers is at stake,” said Rep. Maza.
“Government employees practically all of whom are GSIS fund owners and legitimate stakeholders all deserve to know what is going on with their money. We have received and continue to receive complaints from several government employees and public school teachers who do not receive their pensions and benefits on time.”
The Gabriela solon added that all GSIS loans for employees of the House of Representatives have been suspended since the second week of September. “All these indicate that there is something wrong with the GSIS.”
According to the Gabriela solon, at least $1B worth of assets for investment have already been released by the GSIS to international fund managers ING Investment Management and Credit Agricole Assset Management late last year.
In November 2007, Rep. Maza, along with fellow Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan and representatives from Bayan Muna and Anakpawis filed House Resolution 333 which seeks to look into the $1B Global Investment Program. “To date, this resolution has not seen action in any committee.”#
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza today criticized President Arroyo’s Executive Order 739 as “a dangerous move towards the operationalization of a police and betrays the Arroyo regime’s propensity for totalitarianism.”
According to Maza, EO 739 which reorganizes the National Peace and Order Council places the country, down to the smallest and most isolated barangays under the framework of internal security order (ISO) that poses the risk of further undermining civilian authority. “It portends a human rights catastrophe.”
The National Peace and Order Council has a composition is no different from that of the National Security Council, except that it has, at its helm, DILG secretary Ronaldo Puno. “By virtue of this EO, Puno is virtually at par with the President, with sweeping powers and blanket authority.”
The Gabriela solon also accused President Arroyo of doing a Marcos by raising the communist bogey to implement a creeping Martial Law. “She is laying the groundwork for the perpetuation of her stay in Malacanang.”
Maza also raised concern on the bid to delay the country’s commitment to the Optional Protocol against Torture. “Clearly, this is a regime that does not in any way intend to uphold international human rights doctrines. This delay, along with the EO brings the Philippines nowhere near a resolution to the unresolved extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances and abductions.”#