Migrante International has successfully conducted SUMA 2017: The State of Filipino Migrants and their Families under the Duterte Administration last 7 June, 2017 at the UP College of Law, University of the Philippines Diliman. The event was also commemorated as Migrants Day, which is on its 22nd commemoration since the creation of the Migrants Day Act of 1995.
Migrante Interational presented a report to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), government agencies, and other stakeholders. Several families of the OFWS were in attendance, including the family of Mary Jane Veloso. Speakers from various sectors, institutions and government agencies like Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), United Methodist Church, and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) delivered messages.
Throughout the program, most of the speakers reiterated that more than anything, Migrants Day is a reminder of the rights of the OFWs and their families.
For this year, the annual event highlighted the state of the OFWs in the context of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. In his speech, Migrante International Spokesperson Arman Hernando specified particular pronouncements of Duterte during the presidential campaign period in 2016 which are related to the concerns of the OFWs, namely:
- The end to forced migration of Filipinos in 10 years because he will fix the Philippine economy during his term.
- He promises to persecute those who are involved in “tanim-bala” schemes in airports.
- He will penalize the oparatives of Bureau of Customs who overprice and open Balikbayan boxes without authorization.
Hernando revisited the 10-Point Doables that Migrante presented during a forum they conducted last year. An official from the Office of the President who was present at the said forum promised to take into serious consideration the aforementioned concerns and proposals.
Migrante said that most of these doables are not far from what Duterte has already promised in his speeches during the campaign trail, namely:
- Punish PDBM Secretary Florencio Abad for squandering the money of the Filipino people, specially the budget allocated for the OFWs
- Assist Filipinos who do get benits from OWWA (to get benefits or who do not get benefits?)
- Immediate distribution of OWWA claims to OWWA members
- Persecute crooks from past administration as a sample of Duterte’s promise that he will not back down from miscreants from powerful backgrounds
- Remove NAIA officials found guilty behind “tanim-bala” extortion
- Investigate notorious agencies and traffickers and their backers in the government
- Open embassies and consulates closed down by the Aquino administration
- To lessen, if not completely remove, fees such as terminal fees that bog down OFWs in constant air travel
- The scrapping of unnecessary fees that burden Filipino seamen
- To uphold human rights, specially those of the Filipino migrants
Hernando emphasized that Duterte must address the root causes of forced migration in the Philippines, which is abject poverty, landlessness, lack of livelihood and employment for the majority of the Filipino people. He also said that the Labor Export Policy must be abolished in no time.
He further mentioned that while at first Duterte responded well to these proposals of Migrante, Duterte must eventually follow up on “conditional transactions”.
As a final message, Hernando asserted that OFWs and their families’ fight for their rights does not go to waste because it results in success of campaigns and struggles of all Filipino migrant workers. “We must carry on and strengthen our unities and resolve in order to harvest bigger successes (for all Filipino migrants and our families),” he concluded.