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.