Migrants’ miserable situation under Duterte
The Duterte regime is scrambling to push Filipino workers to take their chances overseas to artificially keep the deteriorating economy of the country afloat. Amid worsening unemployment and continuously declining local production, the regime is agressively selling its large pool of unemployed Filipinos to capitalist countries that are salivating over cheap and docile labor.
Among Duterte’s most recent maneuvers was his junket, together with his economic and military officials, in Russia last October 2-5. They had an audience with Pres. Vladimir Putin and Russian capitalists to directly beg, not only for financial and military aid, but also for additional job opportunities for Filipinos.
Last month, the regime also bragged about several bilateral labor pacts it signed with various foreign governments. From January to July, it purportedly deployed 4,498 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in six client countries. Majority of whom were deployed in South Korea and Saudi Arabia. In addition, it claimed that it will be deploying tens of thousands of workers annually in Canada, Israel and Spain among others.
Reliance on remittances
The Philippine economy is in chronic crisis and cannot stand on its own two feet. To support local consumption and artificially address the continuously increasing deficit in the balance of payments (BOP), the reactionary state is dependent on overseas remittances.
Last year, the total overseas remittances peaked at $28.9 billion or P1.5 trillion ($1=P52.44, December 2018), which is the highest in the country’s history, and is equivalent to 9.7% of the gross domestic product in the same year.
The largest remittances came from the US ($9.99 billion), which hosts the largest number of OFWs (4 million) across the world. This was followed by by Saudi Arabia ($2.23 billion) and United Arab Emirates ($2.04 billions).
Duterte is itching to increase overseas remittances even more as it improves the credit rating of the country, which he uses to attract more foreign loans and investments for his Build, Build, Build program.
In 2018, a daily average of 6,298 Filipino workers went overseas (or a total of 2.3 million), which is thrice bigger than the 2,250 new local jobs created on average per day during the same period. Approximately 1.28 million among those deployed are women. Most of them work as contractuals, are exploited by their employers, and endure inhumane labor conditions, racist discrimination and other forms of abuses.
In 2013, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimated that approximately 10.2 million Filipinos are working overseas. This figure excludes the number of undocumented migrant workers.
Various profiteering maneuvers are being implemented by the regime to squeeze billions from OFWs. Migrant applicants are charged a total of P27,450 per head by various agencies of the reactionary regime to process their papers. This includes for intial SSS and Philhealth premiums valued at P11,400 implemented by the regime in 2018 through the enactment of the bogus Universal Health Care Act.
The profit-thirsty regime also implemented the “no pay, no service policy” to force OFWs to pay the said fees. On the other hand, the policy absolves the regime of its legal obligation to protect the rights and welfare of OFWs.
Last year, the reactionary state was able to collect P36.91 billion from approximately 1.3 million migrant workers.
Meanwhile, it only allocated P1.2 billion for its services to OFWs last year. The budget is only 3% of the amount it was able to collect from various exactions, and is not even 1% of the total overses remittances during the same period.
Despite squeezing trillions from migrants, the regime’s services for OFWs remain very inadequate, especially for 4,000 languishing in jail overseas, including 73 on death row.
One of the starkest cases is that of Mary Jane Veloso, a human trafficking victim who was put on death row in Indonesia. In 2017, the regime seemed to have allowed the Indonesian government to carry out the death sentence when it barred Veloso from submitting her written deposition against her illegal recruiters Ma. Cristina P. Sergio and Julius Lacanilao in Nueva Ecija.
The final hearing on the case of the illegal recruiters was initially scheduled on September 26 but the local court resecheduled it on October 28 to give Veloso a last chance to testify. Despite this, the regime continues to turn a deaf ear to the plea of Veloso’s relatives, friends and supporters to allow her to testify in order to save her life.