PRESS RELEASE23 April 2009
Migrante International calls attention to GRP violations of OFWs rights
at 10th session of UN Committee on Migrant Workers
Philippines deleted as a 'model country' in the UN Guide to the Ratification of the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers
Migrante International gave a critical intervention during the opening of the 10th session of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers held April 20 at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland, wherein it called attention to the violations by the Philippine government of the rights of OFWs, and its non-compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Grace Punongbayan of Migrante Europe together with a representative of Migrante Switzerland, both member organizations of Migrante International, gave the oral intervention in behalf of the Manila-based international alliance.
Migrante International earlier submitted a written report before the start of the 10th session to the Committee that was distributed to the members of the Commission and posted on the website of the UNCMW. It was Migrante's reply to the Initial Report of the Philippine State to the UN Committee dated 25 January 2008 and to the written replies by the Philippine state on the list of issues received by the UN Committee regarding the said initial report dated 2 February 2009.
In its report, Migrante International noted that in 2005, the documented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) had breached the one million mark in deployment. It said OFW deployment averages 3,000 workers a day, pushing the Philippines to rank third as a top migrant-sending country.
“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. 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,” Migrante International stated.
Remittances from migrants have kept the Philippine economy continuously afloat. From $659 million in 1984 these remittances have grown to a staggering $16 billion dollars by the end of 2008.
“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,” Migrante emphasized.
Migrante further stressed in its report that despite its avowed adherence to the Convention, the Philippine state has left out so many things in practice and many times had been caught red-handed over the abuse and criminal neglect of its own citizens. The report of Migrante International to the UN CMW has been endorsed by more than 170 organizations, advocates and individuals from various countries, including church and religious entities, among them, Sr. Ma. Luz F. Mijares, OSA, Superior General, Congregation of Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation; Sr. Emelina Villegas, ICM Provincial Superior, Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; Sr. Maureen Catabian of the Religious of the Good Shepherd; Task Force Urban Conscientization-Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.
Migrante International vigorously campaigned for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by the Philippines State. Migrante Europe, on the other hand, has continued to lobby for the ratification of said Convention by EU member states – none of whom has yet ratified the Convention.
In her intervention during the question and answer part, Punongbayan highlighted the cases of unjustly executed OFW in Saudi Arabia Jenifer Bidoya, the case of the brothers Edison and Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla who are in deathrow in a Jeddah jail, the issue of runaway OFWs in the Middle East, consular neglect of OFWs in need of legal assistance, the case of the Sabah refugees and the cases of forced slavery.
She stressed before the Committee that despite the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 8042 and the ratification by the Philippine government of the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Member of Their Families, the Philippine government has on many occasions violated the rights of OFWs and is guilty of non-compliance with the provisions of the said convention, which the Philippines is a signatory.
The UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (UNCMW) opened the 10th session to look into how the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is complying with its obligations to protect migrants – including Philippine nationals abroad under the UN Convention on the rights of migrant workers. April 24 is the last day of the presentation of the reports. The countries under review by the Committee also include Azerbaijan, Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In an earlier related event, during the meeting of the Steering Committee for the Campaign For Ratification of the Migrants Rights Convention presided by Ms. Carla Edelenbos, secretary of the UN CMW, at the UN in Geneva last April 8, the Philippines was deleted as a model state for compliance with the UN Convention.
The document being referred to where the Philippines was deleted as a “positive case study of state ratification and implementation” is the “Guide on Ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and members of Their Families (ICRMW)”. The steering committee approved the deletion after Rev. Cesar Taguba of the Ecumenical Ministry for Filipinos Abroad and Migrante Europe cited several instances wherein the Philippine government failed to meet its obligations under the Convention.
Present during this meeting, among others, were representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Catholic Migration Commission, and the World Council of Churches. #
1) Garry Martinez
Chairperson, Migrante International
Telefax: (02) 4210768
2) Alex Gregorio
Amsterdam, The Netherlands