Monday, July 27, 2009

People's SONA in British Columbia: Filipinos raise voices in opposition to Philippine President

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights and MIGRANTE B.C. combine its collective voices in opposition to the State of the Nation (SONA) address of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her devilish scheme to perpetuate herself in power well beyond 2010.

As overseas organizations of Filipino migrants and immigrants and human rights advocates in Canada, we closely follow the developments in the Philippines. We are well aware that the Arroyo regime has kept the Philippines in an ever worsening political and economic crisis; that it continues to wage a counter-insurgency campaign against its own people and that it does not care that it has a notorious human rights record that has claimed more victims and spawned more intensive militarization than any of her predecessors; and that it has made a name for itself in corruption schemes that benefit the her First Family, her cronies and her loyal allies in the Legislature.

President Arroyo’s evil plan to stay in power is strongly reminiscent of the maneuvers of the late dictator Marcos to stay in Malacanang well beyond the two-Presidential term limits and his eventual declaration of Martial Law. Arroyo’s plan in her desperate fight for political survival is already in place with the swift passage of House Resolution 1109 that would call for a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), which in turn will move for changes in the Philippine Constitution, also known as Charter Change (Cha-Cha). As early as her SONA in 2005, Arroyo already made public her preference for Charter Change and for a parliamentary form of government.

The grand scenario would then involve the transition to a parliamentary form of government making it possible for Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, who will most likely run for and win as Representative of her district in Pampanga in the 2010 elections, to run for Prime Minister. Under a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people but is chosen by the majority party in the legislature. There are no term limits for Prime Minister so Gloria Arroyo can stay strapped to the seat of power and run the Philippines until she is bald and toothless.

Arroyo’s survival plan also ensures that she enjoys immunity, and thus protected from any lawsuit that will certainly come from the families and relatives of those who have been killed, disappeared, detained, tortured, and displaced by her forces of terror.

And if her political schemes do not work, there is nothing to prevent Arroyo from declaring the country under martial rule or emergency rule which also gives her insurance to stay in power, surrounded by her army and her principal supporter, the United States government.

Let this be her last SONA, her farewell to a people who would oust and replace her if she does not step down willingly. Arroyo believes the myths that she peddles to the public and refuses to see that in the last nine years, the people have seen record joblessness, falling household incomes, increasing poverty, fiscal crisis, unprecedented debt and debt service, social service cutbacks, increasing landlessness, and deeper Philippine underdevelopment. She continues to peddle Filipino men and women to work abroad with no regard for their protection but only mindful of their remittances that prop up her shaky economy. She has wantonly sold the country’s national patrimony and national sovereignty to foreign and imperialist ownership, interests and profits.

Arroyo has not learned the lessons of history. The people’s protests that are fueled by poverty, resistance, desire for human dignity, nationalism and a genuine desire for comprehensive change in society grow bigger and bigger each time. These will be the most decisive factors that will dictate the course of events in the coming months.

It is the march of the people in the streets and in the countrysides which will prevail, not the nefarious dance of the Cha-Cha or the evil spectre of Martial Rule.###

Vancouver, Canada

July 27, 2009

Philippine migrants in Canada call for Zero Remittance Day July 27

Migrants Say No to Cha-cha, Calls for Zero Remittance Day on July 27!

Damayan Manitoba, a progressive organization of Filipino migrant workers in Manitoba and a member-alliance of Migrante International and Bayan Canada, denounces President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Charter change (Cha-cha) and her desperate move to remain in power beyond 2010.

On 2 June 2009, Arroyo's cohorts in the Philippine House of Representatives swiftly passed House Resolution 1109 enabling themselves to convene the House as a "constituent assembly" (Con-Ass) with the power to amend the Constitution - even without the concurrence of the Senate. Cha-cha will pave the way to change the government set-up from presidential to parliamentary form, allowing Arroyo to run again as a member of Parliament without any term limits and become Prime Minister.

Aside from changing the form of government, Cha-cha also proposes several economic agenda. Cha-cha will push for the removal of certain nationalist and protective provisions in the Philippine Constitution, allowing 100% foreign ownership of land; allowing foreign capitalists to own public utilities, schools and mass media; allowing US military bases to return to the country; and subsequently removing certain provisions that protect our basic civil rights.

Intensifying political repression

With Oplan Bantay Laya II in effect, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, torture, intense militarization in the countryside and other forms of human rights violations continue to be committed with utter impunity .

According to Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights), extrajudicial killings have already claimed the lives of 1,013 victims, 202 persons have been involuntarily disappeared while 1.036 have been tortured since Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Among these HR violations was Melissa Roxas’ case, a Filipino-American and an active member of Bayan USA who was abducted and tortured by suspected elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Arroyo government has still not taken any significant action to arrest this continued spate of killings. Its commitment to upholding the rights of its citizens is plain political rhetoric, not a genuine pursuit of justice.

Even UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston strongly criticized Arroyo regime's human rights record. In his most recent report on the UN Human Rights Council, he cited that the ongoing Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program and the AFP’s target to eliminate the revolutionary forces by 2010, are some of the factors that lead to the growing number of human rights violations.

A few weeks ago, several bombing incidents occurred in different government offices. A bomb exploded in the Office of the Ombudsman, while a bomb was found inside the Department of Agriculture. It is believed that the bombthreats in Metro Manila are just being used as a tactic to divert public's attention from the current issues concerning the GMA administration and might be used as an excuse to declare “emergency rule” or “no elections”scenarios.

Anti-OFW Arroyo regime

Damayan Manitoba joins its compatriots from other overseas Filipinoorganizations across Canada and all over the world in condemning and calling for the ouster of this despotic, anti-people and anti-OFWs Arroyo regime who threatens to surrender our national independence and interests.

Due to massive unemployment and lack of decent-paying job opportunities in the Philippines, around 3,000 Filipinos, mostly women, leave the country everyday to work abroad as OFWs.

Filipinos numbering 8 million, or approximately a tenth of the population,now live and work in 194 countries and territories around the world, with concentrations in North America, Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

According to Migrante International, this migration which started by waves in the course of Philippine history has become an almost daily phenomenon since the government initiated its labor export program (LEP) in the 1970s.What was initially meant as a temporary measure to address the country’s unemployment problem has become a regular fixture, massive and systematic in scope, and bruited about as a tool for national development.

This is mainly because OFW remittances have kept Philippine economy afloat.From $659 million in 1984, these remittances have grown to a staggering $16 billion by the end of 2008, making labor export the top dollar earner in the country.

However, these remittances were earned at tremendous costs to Filipino migrants and their families who had to endure long years of separation and suffer from various forms of exploitation, abuse, discrimination, violence and terrorism.

Thirty-five (35) OFWs are currently languishing in death row: one (1) in Brunei, one (1) in the US, two (2) in China, four (4) in Kuwait, nine (9) in Saudi Arabia, and ten (10) in Malaysia. Four of these are women.

Migrante’s Middle East chapter estimates that some 10,000 OFWs are currently stranded in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Syria. The numbers, though, are climbing everyday. Most of them are runaways, escaping from abusive employers or illegal recruiters or stuck because of retrenchment or unexpected change in visa rules. Three-hundred sixty (360) of them in 2007-2008 were repatriated home upon Migrante’s intervention and assistance but thousands more were awaiting government help especially those brought in detention or deportation cells, in camp-outs under bridges or in consular/embassy premises.

Migrante estimates that around six to eight dead OFW bodies are being brought home everyday. The causes of death were usually suspicious and unknown.

In Canada, live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers are vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, harassment, unfair labor practices, denial of access to health care, onerous contracts, unjust living condition, deportation and violence. Abuses ranged from exorbitant and anomalous placement fees to unjust wages.

Damayan Manitoba, along with all Migrante chapters all over the world, urges all Filipino migrants in Manitoba to join the “No Remittance” day on July 27 as legitimate and fair protest action against Arroyo’s neglect of OFWs’ rights and welfare. The No Remittance Day action condemns Arroyo’s betrayal of our people’s trust, putting our future and our nation’s wealth and patrimony at risk.

Damayan Manitoba also calls on Pinoys and OFWs in Manitoba to encourage their families and relatives back home to join protest actions against Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled on the 27th of July.

OFWs and their families have enough reasons to say No to Cha-cha and end the anti-people, anti-OFWs and most corrupt Arroyo administration!

Enough is enough!

No to an Arroyo dictatorship! No to emergency rule! Never again to Martial Law!

Statement by Damayan Manitoba
contact number: 204-509-2491
email address:
Damayan Manitoba (Caring for one another) is a solidarity and advocacy organization for Filipino migrant workers in Manitoba.

References: Orli Marcelino, +1 204-218-7100 or Jomay Amora-Mercado, +1 204-509-2491

Sunday, July 26, 2009



By: Migrante B.C.

It was a history lesson unlike any other. Told through archival and current images, nationalist poetry, songs and dances, the story of the Philippines and its people from pre-colonial period to the present is that of a proud and brave lineage and history. (Photo: Bibak dance group)

Organized by MIGRANTE B.C. in collaboration with the Vancouver Public Library's Multilingual Services, the July 12th event drew at least 270 people to the library's MacKay Room. Mothers with their toddlers and babies in strollers, school-aged Filipino-Canadians, seniors, families, neighbours and MIGRANTE members and supporters made it a truly community event –– and more, with the presencence of Canadian friends and guests.

MIGRANTE B.C. brought together local organizations and resource people for a program that showcased not only the community talents but also the network and community relationships that MIGRANTE B.C. has built up. Mable Elmore, the MLA from Vancouver-Kensington, gave a warm welcome to the audience and lauded the collaboration between MIGRANTE B.C. and the Vancouver Public Library.

The BIBAK men in their traditional G-strings and the women in their woven skirts danced to the sound of the brass gongs and opened the program; when they came out later for the finale, they had the children and adults in the audience joining them in the collective dance. As the bamboo poles pounded the floor, the young dancers from La Riva Dance Studio had everyone clapping and swaying with their Tinikling dance and, much later with their American- inspired modern dances. The Filipiniana Dance Troupe of the Ginintuang Seniors Brigade of B.C., in their Filipina dresses, wowed everyone with their Spanish- influenced waltzes and their agile footsteps. The new MIGRANTE B.C. Cultural Group performed a Muslim dance and an interpretative choreographed piece of "Ang Manggagawa" (The Worker).

"I have seen those dances before but not this way, where you contextualized them in history," said one of the seniors in the audience, impressed by the show. One woman remarked that she was pleasantly surprised to see the old and young generations of Filipinos represented in the community dance numbers.

Poetry was recited by Senor Paco Tejero who delivered Jose Rizal's "Mi Ultimo Adios" in Espanol which brought back memories of Spanish classes and memorization of that same poem to many Filipino adults in the audience. Aileen Villeta of the MIGRANTE BC Cultural Group recited two short pieces on the migration and hardships of Filipino overseas workers. MIGRANTE youth member Charisse Curata held everyone spellbound with her rendition of Andres Bonifacio's "Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa" (Love for One's Native Land) and Rom Dongeto's "Isang Bansa Para sa Mga Bata" (A Nation for our Children) which tells of the one dream, one vision that all Filipinos share, which is to make the Philippines a nation for our children, wherever we may be.

Award-winning Artist Bert Monterona's two huge murals, "Continuing Revolution" and the "Historical Struggle," flanked either side of the wide screen and attracted a lot of interest, inquiries and admiration from the audience. Monterona, who now makes his home in Vancouver, is a Lumad from Mindanao.

A young Chinese student with a Filipino host family came away from the event with more clarity in her understanding of the situation in the Philippines and why she sees so many Filipino domestics in Hongkong. A father who came with his three young children repeatedly said that the presentation was very good, that it was the right length, and for a history lesson, "it was not at all boring!" "This should be shown widely to as many audiences because the understanding of Philippine history is very important," he suggested. Parents also remarked on how their young children listened attentively and watched the Philippine history on the screen.

Congratulatory telephone calls and e-mails from those who saw the show were made to MIGRANTE members with the suggestions to have it shown again! MLA or Vancouver Kensington Mable Elmore. who gave the inspirational remarks at the event, expressed her admiration and thanks for a program that was excellently done.

The library display of Tagalog books, DVDs and children's materials not only brought home the fact that the Vancouver Public Library has a Tagalog collection but also encouraged several members of the community to register for cards so they could borrow some of the display items. "I did not know you had Tagalog DVDs! I pay to borrow those at the Filipino video store!" exclaimed one MIGRANTE member, who immediately signed up for a library card. Delia Felipescu, the Multilingual Services outreach librarian, who worked with MIGRANTE for this event, spoke highly of MIGRANTE's collaborative work with the library and was thrilled to see an enthusiastic community turnout.

Indeed, everyone came away truly proud to be Pinoy/Pinay! For more information on how you can show the same history presentation to your groups, please contact Migrante BC at or call 604.408.0830. Migrante B.C web site:

For photos, please go to:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Migrante International calls for Zero-Remittance Day July 26

Manila, Saturday, July 18, 2009 -- "Zero Remittance on the First day of Con-Ass, July 26: this is our clarion call to all and sundry who would try to subvert further the last modicum of democracy in our country."

This was the reiteration of Migrante International's resolution in a press conference held at the Cypress Café in Manila, Philippines, today. A little over a week before the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA), the largest alliance of Filipino migrant organizations also unveiled the plans of its chapters across the globe to "register their protest actions against the convening of a constitutional assembly (con-ass) by Congress or any dastardly scheme to extend the term of PGMA, through a con-ass, emergency rule or coup."

"To many OFWs, PGMA is the epitome of everything we distrust and hate about government: pabaya, mukhang pera, sinungaling at mandaraya!," declared Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International. "Thus, we want to be absolutely clear that this SONA will truly be her last."

"More and more OFWs and their families want to 'stand and be counted' as they realize the importance of their economic and political role in Philippine society," continued Martinez, "and they are increasingly realizing how they can, indeed, send a strong message to the government."

Vanessa Valmadrid, the wife of an overseas Filipino worker (ofw) in Taiwan, present at the press conference, also declared: "My husband will support this Zero Remittance day call of Migrante. I told him that my daughter and I understand that no remittance for a day is nothing compared to all the hardships we endured as OFWs. Para sa aming OFWs, ang kapabayaan ng gobiyernong ito ay mas kasuklam-suklam kaysa sa mga dinaranas na pangaapi naming sa kamay ng mga dayuhan. Mas masakit malaman na pagkatapos kang pagkakitaan ng husto ng gobiyerno, parang trapo ka lang na ihahagis kung wala na silang perang makukuha sa iyo."

Valmadrid, a worker in Taiwan retrenched last December, is still waiting for the government to resolve cases she filed against her recruitment agency continued, "Ngayon ko nakikita ang kahalagahan ng pagkilos ng mga OFWs!"

"Kasama kaming migranteng Pilipino sa nagmamartsang sambayanan laban sa Con-Ass!" added Martinez. He cited the growing strength and growing awareness of organized OFWs and their families as he enumerated their various protest activities building up to the SONA as they heed the call for a Countdown to the SONA starting July 20.

"For the first time in history, a synchronized Black Friday protest on July 24 will simultaneously be held by our Middle East chapters in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, a thousand strong kababayans in Hongkong under the banner of UNIFIL will be marching on the streets on the 26th, simultaneous with our kababayans in South Korea. Halfway across the globe, our kababayans in Canada are also gearing up for a simultaneous action in all key areas of Canada. Our counterparts in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom have signified their intention to join the Zero Remit campaign while Migrante Australia will be holding a protest action at the Philippine Consulate in Sydney on July 27."

"Sa ilalim ng pamahalaang US-Arroyo, lalong lumala ang kalagayan naming OFWs. This government is so greedy and so desperate to stay in power that it is selling our kababayans like slaves: available to anyone for the right price. PGMA does not care if OFWs are in countries that are at war, or blatantly violate international labor standards, or have had thousands of cases of violence against women! declared Garry Martinez, chairperson of the largest alliance of Filipino migrant organizations across the globe. PGMA's only interest in us is for us to bring home the bacon, so to speak—through exorbitant state exactioons and remittances to keep the economy afloat."

Migrante International and its chapters in the country will also be conducting protest actions and will be joining all chapters around the world for a synchronized protest on the eve of the SONA.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees prepares to meet in Athens

The International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) is an assembly where migrants and refugees speak for themselves through their grassroots organizations supported by a broad spectrum of migrants rights advocates, progressive workers' groups and social movements.

The First IAMR held in Manila, Philippines last October 2008, embodied the autonomous voice of the migrants and refugees through their own gathering. It challenged the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) process and its agenda of promoting migration for development through remittances. The IAMR in Manila presented the true picture of modern slavery in labor migration and debunked the notion of development by exporting human labor.


The 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) will be held in Athens, Greece on November 4-5, 2009. The first was held in Brussels in July 2007 and the second in Manila in October 2008. The GFMD is a multilateral and state-led initiative under the aegis of the United Nations (UN). It purports to facilitate dialogue among sending and receiving countries, but in reality, the rich countries dictate the agenda and main thrusts in the GFMD. They impose their own self-serving concept of development and define the modalities in “managing” the flow of cross-border migration.

Two things make the GFMD in Athens particularly significant. It will take place in the midst of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression. It will also take place in Europe where migrant workers particularly the millions of undocumented face an uncertain future in an increasingly unfriendly environment with the imminent implementation in 2010 of the EU Return Directive.


The Second IAMR will be held in Athens, Greece on November 1-4, 2009, in conjunction with the government-led GFMD and the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) meeting. The Second IAMR will focus on urgent migrant and refugee issues, particularly the situation and protection of the rights of undocumented migrant workers and refugees.

The Second IAMR in Athens, Greece will be a four-day gathering that will include plenary discussions, workshops, street mobilizations, bazaar, cultural solidarity, networking and most especially sharing of experiences and action plans among migrants, refugees and advocates.


Uphold and Advance the Rights of Migrants and Refugees Against Exploitation, War and Discriminatory Laws, Amidst the Global Economic Crisis! Oppose 'Fortress Europe' and the EU Return Directive!


1) Bring to the fore the urgent issues and challenges facing migrants and refugees all over the world and take the progressive positions on such issues especially in the face of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression;
2) Challenge the EU claim of being an open and humanist society in the face of a growing list of draconian laws and measures being taken against migrants and refugees such as the EU Return Directive.
3) Expand and strengthen the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) as a militant and progressive alliance of organizations of migrants and refugees, and advocates of migrants rights;
4) Develop a broad international advocacy network that will continuously engage states and official multilateral bodies regarding issues and concerns affecting migrants and refugees;
5) Adopt a program of action/campaigns around general and specific issues on migrants rights and welfare.


1) The Impact of the Global Economic and Financial Crisis on Migrants
2) The Situation of Women Migrant Workers
3) The Precarisation (Marginalization/Exclusion) of Labor, especially Migrant Labor, and the Relations with Unions and the Social Movements
4) The Violation of the Rights to Asylum and the Plight of Refugees
5) The Urgent Issues of the Undocumented, Their Criminalization and 'Fortress Europe'
6) Fighting Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Fascism
7) The Continued Attacks and State Repression on Migrants and Refugees under the so-called War on Terror
8) Political Empowerment and Participation for Successive Generations of Migrants and Confronting Policies and Problems in Integration
19) Engaging the United Nations and other International Bodies within the Framework of Upholding and Advancing the Rights and Welfare of Migrants and Refugees
10) Drawing Lessons and Celebrating Successful Campaigns on Migrant and Refugee Rights and Welfare, and People's Resistance

11) Developing An Education Campaign/Program to Increase our Capabilities and Skills to Arouse, Organize and Mobilize Migrants, Refugees and Advocates


The Second IAMR is being convened by the following: the International Migrants' Alliance (IMA)-Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), IBON International, Class March (Greece), ATIK (Germany), Migrante Europe (The Netherlands)


IAMR Athens, Greece Contact Details:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Postbox: 15687, 1001 ND Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Grace Punongbayan, head of secretariat
Mobile: +31-6-33056411

See also: International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees unites migrant workers in Manila