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Philippines violated 5 articles of migrant workers pact — report

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Philippines violated 5 articles of migrant workers pact — report
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the key role that migrant workers play in the global economy, as well as the “terrible risks” that they are forced to take to find work.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — A global network of Filipino migrant organizations said the Philippines violated five rules of an international convention that aims to provide guidelines and strengthen the protections of migrant workers and their families. 

The Philippines is a party to the convention and the report was done for the 41st session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Migrante International’s alternative report on the Philippines said that while the country does have policies and has adopted frameworks to ensure the safety of Filipino migrants, “its enforcement and implementation remains weak.”

READ: US report: Philippine laws on discrimination, workers' rights not effectively implemented

Right to leave any state

Migrante said the Philippines violated Article 8 of the convention, which emphasizes an individual’s right to leave any state or country. 

The group reported that the country put a cap on the number of Filipino health workers allowed to work abroad at the height of the pandemic. Only 6,500 health workers were initially allowed to go overseas, but the limit was eventually increased to 7,000

“The deployment cap essentially violates the right of migrant healthcare workers to access better employment opportunities, higher income, and benefits,” Migrante said.

It also flagged the government for its “ineffective” solution of putting deployment bans on countries where rights abuses against Filipino workers become highly publicized, only to have the ban removed after a few months of its implementation. 

READ: Palace: OFW deployment ban to Kuwait stays

Right to free speech

Meanwhile, Migrante said the country violated Article 13, which provides for migrant workers’ rights to freedom of expression, when the government went after Elanel Egot Ordidor for criticizing the government. 

READ: DOLE wants Pinay caregiver deported over anti-Duterte posts 

The group said that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, through its seminars for overseas Filipinos, has denounced progressive organizations such as Migrante. 

“Filipino migrant organizations and leaders overseas are [also] tagged as ‘terrorists’ and disseminated through a Facebook page ‘For the Global Public,’ the posts of which are shared by NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy,” Migrante said. 

Badoy is currently facing multiple complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman after red-tagging activists, religious groups, teachers, student leadershealthcare workerscommunity pantry organizers, and Vice President Leni Robredo.

In one of its recommendations, Migrante is asking to put a stop to the NTF-ELCAC’s seminars and other overseas activities.

Protection against violence

The Philippine government also allegedly violated articles 16 and 23 of the convention, which details migrant workers’ rights to protection by the state against violence, physical injury, among others and their rights to get support and assistance from consular or domestic authorities. 

Migrante, citing the cases it handles along with its chapters in the Middle East, said government officials often tell Filipino domestic workers to look for their own solutions when they encounter abuse or exploitation. It also reported that some foreign service posts have not provided assistance to migrant workers whenever needed.

The group also noted that the Senate’s Committee on Women and Children investigated the reported cases of Filipino girls trafficked into Syria to work as domestic helpers, where even employees of the Bureau of Immigration were involved.

The minors were reportedly abused and experienced inhumane working conditions.

READ: Immigration says fact-finding probe looking into trafficking of Filipino women to Syria

Migrante’s report also noted that Filipino seafarers need more protection and assistance after some experienced exploitative working conditions amid the pandemic.

“The Philippines is among the biggest [suppliers] of seafarers in the world and yet the government has not signed on to the International Labor Organization Fishing Convention,” Migrante said. 

The Fishing Convention aims to ensure safety and humane working conditions for those serving on board. Only 18 states have so far ratified the convention, excluding the Philippines. 

Right to information upon detention

Lastly, Migrante said the government has failed to provide detailed timely information to families of detained migrant workers, violating article 16 of the convention that details a migrant worker’s “right to be informed at time of arrest, nature of charges against them.” 

The group said families left behind by detained migrant workers are not often provided with the full picture of their overseas family members’ arrest. They are also left to scramble for information on the developments of the legal case and the extent of assistance provided by the Philippine government, among others.

“This causes undue distress on the family members and prevents them from taking the necessary actions and seek immediate assistance to ensure the welfare of the migrant. Such was the case for Mr. Archie Yago Garcia and Mr. Ron James Duran,” Migrante said.

Recommendations

Citing data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Migrante noted that there are 10.1 million Filipinos working abroad — with 4.2 million temporary workers and 1.2 million “irregular migrants.”  

The group wants a comprehensive evaluation by multiple stakeholders of existing laws, policies, and practices for every agency and post that have been assigned to look after migrant workers. 

“(N)ational legislation, policies, and developed mechanisms remain insufficient and inadequate to uphold and secure the rights of an increasing number of distressed Filipino migrants and victims of abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking,” Migrante noted.

Migrante also wants increased funding for welfare, legal assistance, and social protection programs for overseas Filipino workers, while also holding more private recruitment agencies and individuals accountable for rights violations by establishing more mechanisms.

MIGRANTE INTERNATIONAL

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS

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