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.#