Unnumbered Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) on death row, thousands raped, tens of thousands fall victims of human trafficking, massive unpaid salaries, discriminated, thousands terminated, charged of crimes and incapable of defending themselves. These slave-like conditions continue 22 years after the execution of Flor Contemplacion and the passage of the Migrants Act of 1995.
March 17, 2017 marks the 22nd year after the execution of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore. Flor was a Filipino domestic worker who was wrongly accused of killing a fellow OFW and a child in the latter’s care. She was arrested on May 1991 and was executed by hanging 5 years later. Five years should have been more than enough time for the Philippine government to save her from the death row.
When the punishment of death penalty was declared, Filipinos all over the country and overseas were raging. An estimate of 75,000 migrant workers in Singapore protested. Millions of Filipinos, international solidarity organizations, and supporters all over the world held different forms of actions to call on the governments of the Philippines and Singapore to stop the execution. Nonetheless, she was executed in the morning of March 17, 1995 in Darshan Singh. Instead of providing necessary diplomatic processes and legal assistance to uphold her innocence and save her life, the government agreed with the Singaporean government that Flor was guilty of the crimes charged against her.
After the execution of Flor, R.A. 8042 or the Migrants Act of 1995 was created under the administration of Fidel V. Ramos. The law is supposed to protect the rights and welfare of OFWs but in reality, it is a two-faced policy which contains decorative details but treacherously traps us into worst possible scenarios of exploitation and commodification. It allowed the government to neglect their responsibility for the protection and welfare of OFWs while permitting the financial exaction through the Labor Export Policy. Moreover, this law put us in the mercy of profit hungry, and unscrupulous recruitment agenciess and their foreign contractors without any defense. Since the passage of this law, the situation of OFWs did not change but rather escalated. Unnumbered OFWs continue to languish in jails without assistance.
Hopes were up during the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 25, 2016. He specifically mentioned the welfare of OFWs and his war against human traffickers and illegal recruiters, and the creation of a one-stop-shop for OFWs.
Concretely, before President Duterte assumed office last June 30, 2016, there were already thousands of OFWs on death row and in detention overseas. There are thousands of rape cases against OFWs, tens of thousands of human trafficking cases, massive unpaid salaries, maltreatment, violations of contracts, massive termination, stranded OFWs and many more. These cases are extreme results of no decent jobs, unemployment and poverty back home.
Recently, Jakaita Pawa was executed on January 25, 2017 in Kuwait after being jailed for almost 10 years. Pawa was accused of killing her employer’s daughter in 2007 and was sentenced to death. As a manifestation of neglect, the Philippine authorities were not even aware of her execution.
In another case, Mary Jane Veloso was spared from death penalty on April 2015 in Indonesia because of the intervention of Migrante International and in solidarity with other groups.
As we commemorate the 22nd year since Flor’s execution, Innabuyog joins Migrante and other solidarity groups calling to save the life of another OFW in death row in United Arab Emirates. Jennifer Dalquez has been languishing in jail since 2014 for a murder case. In her testimony, “Napatay ko po ang aking among pulis dahil tinangka niya po akong gahasain at patayin. Sinunog po niya ako… Pinalo ng bote sa mukha, sa bandang taas ng mata. Noong tinangka niya po akong saksakin, nakaiwas po ako at sa awa ng Diyos ay naagaw ko ang kutsilyo sa kanya,” (I had killed my employer, a policeman, because he tried to rape and kill me. He burned me… Hit my face with a bottle, just above my eye. When he tried to stab me, I was able to dodge and take the knife from him) she said (Rappler.com).
Contemplacion, Pawa, Veloso, and Dalquez are only few among the thousands of OFWs suffering across continents. They are discriminated against, charged of crimes and penalized under foreign state policies, laws, cultures and traditions. Because of unilateral protocols, limited rights and protection of Filipinos overseas, our government cannot save the lives of its own people.
Innabuyog along with the Cordillera women and their communities will not be silenced on the continuing Flor Contemplacion stories. We continue to strengthen our solidarity among our OFWs and call on the government to scrap the Labor Export Policy that perpetuates slavery against our people.
We continue to call on the Philippine government to create employment for Filipinos so that they do not have to go overseas in search of survival. Jobs created should sustain our needs for economic survival imbued with dignity and decency.
In our ultimate goal to end modern day slavery, we have high hopes for the continuation of Peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that tackles the fundamental reforms of our socio-economic policies. We believe that it is only in building a sustainable economy which is not beholden and dependent on imperialist and capitalist dictates can we break the chain of slavery and give birth to a better society. #nordis.net