Senatorial candidates sign covenant for migrants
JERRIE M. ABELLA
Asserting that the ‘Migrant Vote’ has not only become a potent force in the electoral exercise but also a compelling appeal to improve the conditions of migrant workers across the world, a migrants’ rights group Thursday revealed its seven-point covenant with the country’s next leaders.
Migrante International’s covenant, listing seven concrete ways candidates can help improve the lot of overseas Filipino workers (OFW), was signed by seven senatorial bets: Nacionalista Party’s Liza Maza, Gilbert Remulla and Gwendolyn Pimentel; Nationalist People’s Coalition Vicente “Tito” Sotto III; and Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino’s Apolinario “Jun” Lozada.
Pimentel’s husband Luigi Gana signed on her behalf, while Remulla sent his representative to manifest his support.
According to Migrante, most of the signatories have good records of advancing OFW issues.
Maza authored the Anti-Trafficking Bill while in Congress as Gabriela party-list representative; Lozada and Sotto were co-authors of the Overseas Absentee Voting law; and Pimentel helped repatriate OFWs in dire need to return home.
The covenant stated, “For nine years under the Arroyo administration the country’s overseas labor in 123 nations worked doubly hard to keep the Philippine economy afloat, delivering an unprecedented $17.3 billion remittance in 2009. But at an extremely terrible cost.”
The group cited cases of neglect, abuse and exploitation received daily by Migrante chapters abroad, but attention from government has been minimal.
“The neglect is unconscionable,” said Migrante chair Garry Martinez, who also vowed to push for candidates to implement the covenant as part of their platform of governance should they win.
The covenant’s seven points, in summary, are as follows:
1. Hold President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her key officials accountable for what it described as “crimes of corruption, plunder, and violation of human rights,” and punish abusive officials dealing with OFWs.
2. Work for the repeal of policies detrimental to OFWs, improve on-site services and protection for OFWs and their families.
3. Monitor problems in OFW work conditions; review agreements with receiving countries that contravene laws on rights of labor, migrants and women; seek legal and welfare protection in countries where OFWs have none; and oppose the criminal treatment of undocumented workers.
4. Work for the repatriation of OFWs in dire straits; ensure immediate legal and welfare services for jailed Filipinos; and work to save the lives of those on death row.
5. Give more teeth to laws against illegal recruiters; fight trafficking and exploitation especially of women and minors; and punish the violators.
6. Stop onerous exactions on migrant Filipinos, including the documentary stamp tax; fight schemes that bleed OFWs dry in the guise of education, training and livelihood assistance programs or as trust funds, tax exemptions or benefits, investments or savings.
7. Instead of encouraging migration, reverse the labor export policy by creating local jobs; work towards for national industrialization and genuine land reform; equitably distribute wealth; improve and modernize agriculture; and ensure incentives for domestic industries.—JV, GMANews.TV