Migrant workers join Church in praying for humanization of overseas labor

MANILA, Feb. 26, 2012—Migrante Middle East (ME) joins the universal Church in celebrating the 26th Migrants’ Sunday and in praying for the humanization of labor.

In a statement sent to CBCPNews, Migrante-ME regional director John Leonard C. Monterona said that the theme of the celebration of the Church, “Migration and New Evangelization” is a very appropriate one, as it encourages migrant workers and their dependents—families and relatives—to ‘reflect and pray,’ in order to gather strength on their fight for equal rights and protection, as stipulated in different international labor conventions and laws.

However, the migrant leader is saddened on the “dehumanization of human labor and migration” brought forth by racism, labor malpractice, and other forms of abuses.

“We, OFWs, are living witnesses of our fellow OFWs’ sufferings abroad due to rampant cases of abuses, labor malpractices and other acts that dehumanizes migrants treating them like cheap commodity sold in the international labor market without protection of their well being, rights and welfare,” Monterona said.

In Saudi alone, where Monterona is currently working, the problems of labor malpractice, physical and sexual abuse against female domestic workers, and inhumane treatment of Filipino workers imprisoned due to real and trumped-up cases are very rampant.

In Saudi jails, he said, there are still 600 or more who are imprisoned due to petty crimes and had their jail terms served but had never been released. Filipinos in death row who are pleading the government for pardon and help, but still, their future remain uncertain, said the migrant leader. Rogelio “Dondon” Lanuza, is one of them.

“For Lanuza to be released, he needs to raise US$800,000 or P34,279,220.67 for the blood money,” said Monterona.

Migrant workers hope for better society

As the Church hopes for a better and just society, migrant workers’ pray—and fight—for that too, Monterona said.

“Just like the call of the universal Church, we are also calling on President Benigno C. Aquino III to seriously implement economic reforms that would benefit those who are at the lower social echelon –the majority of the farmers and workers and poor urban dwellers – who have been hit hard by the continued price hikes of oil products, basic commodities and services,” he said.

Earlier this year, Manila Auxiliary Bishop and CBCP-NASSA [Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace] Broderick Pabillo had issued a statement that bad economic policies are to blame for the continuous rise of poverty and hunger in the Philippines.

Pabillo said aside from the controversial conditional cash transfer (CCT) being implemented by the Social Welfare department, there is no other program for poverty alleviation. He said what the country needs is a program for a sustainable economy.

The bishop also raised concern for not implementing agrarian reform and other programs in the countryside, not to mention the solution to various labor concerns such as contractual labor, lack of job generation, and low wages for workers.

Monterona said that they urged Mr. Aquino to “initiate, through his partymates and allies in Congress, the repeal of Oil Deregulation Law and to seriously consider the removal of expanded value-added tax on oil products in order to lower pump prices that affect the price of other commodities, utilities, and services such as food, electricity, water, and transport.

His group also called, just like the universal Church, for the implementation of agrarian reform, accompanied by necessary technical and financial support from the State.

“The distribution of all CARPable lands is long overdue. If the Government is truly sincere with the agrarian reform, which the late Corazon C. Aquino had crafted in 1988, and extended until 2014 by the former Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, it would hasten the distribution of the remaining lands that are under CARP, including the Hacienda Luisita,” he said.

The migrant group also called on the faithful to press for the nationalization of key industries to ensure genuine progress and to prevent profiteering, just like what the multinational, transnational, and local large companies allegedly do.

“[The] nationalization of the country’s basic industries must be done side-by-side the distribution of lands to the farmers. Our basic industries must provide the needed support to genuine agrarian reform program as well as spent government earnings from OFWs remittances in support of the agrarian-based economic activities,” Monterona explained.

“We are glad that we share the above policy ideas with the CBCP in view of bringing economic progress and development to the country: Pro-people and pro-migrants economic policies are needed to end State-sponsored forced migration a.ka. intensified labor export program of the government,” he said.

Migrant group commends Church’s effort in helping migrant workers

On the other hand, Migrante-ME and their allies had commended the CBCP, particularly the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) in helping the migrant workers, and recognizing their efforts to make the Philippines a better country to live.

The group also promised the Church that they would not tire on calling the State’s attention, as well as the host governments, to provide concrete on-site protection to all migrants, including OFWs, and to recognize and respect their rights and well being.

“And the same time, we will be vigilant against the wrongdoings and criminal neglect of our diplomatic officials abroad in providing assistance to abused and distressed OFWs. Nevertheless, we join our Church people and laymen in providing the needed assistance, care, and programs that could uplift the conditions of Filipino migrants and members of their families,” he said. [CBCPNews.com]