JOURNALISM IS NOT TERRORISM

Journalism is not terrorism. (NUJP image)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) memorandum ordering the blocking of the two media outfits’ websites, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s shutdown order against Rappler are part of the systematic campaign against independent media.

These recent incidents aim to drown out the truth on one hand, and to drumbeat disinformation and misinformation on the other hand.

Just recently, the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) once again labeled the NUJP as a communist front.

The red-tagging of journalists is a deliberate attempt to discredit, isolate and render the Philippine media irrelevant. We are not taking all these sitting down.

Today, Bulatlat.com is filing a petition before the Courts to have the NTC order stopped and dismissed. We are fighting back. We will persevere in speaking truth to power. History is on our side. Press freedom will always remain a pillar of every democracy while those who sought to curtail press freedom were always repudiated and consigned to the dustbin of history.

#defendpressfreedom

AMARC Asia-Pacific condemns attacks on Radio Ada, Ghana

KATHMANDU, Nepal–AMARC Asia-Pacific, the regional chapter of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) joins the world community of free media and freedom of expression in denouncing the attack by armed men on Community Radio Ada, situated in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana on 13 January 2022. AMARC Asia-Pacific supports the call for Ghanaian authorities to hold to account the people behind the attack on the station and ensure that journalists can work safely in Ghana.

According to media reports, the attackers left the radio station completely vandalized and threatened to return to shoot the staff if Radio Ada continued reporting on a recently granted mining contract.

Radio Ada is a member of the Ghana Community Radio Network, (https://gcrn.org.gh), that hosted the AMARC World Conference, 2015.

Radio Ada logo.

“As a member of one global family of community radios, AMARC Asia-Pacific feels the pain of the attack on Radio Ada,” said Dr. Ramnath Bhat, President, AMARC Asia-Pacific.

“It is unacceptable that community radio broadcasters have to be subjected to attacks and intimidations for carrying out their duties as independent journalists. We demand that the urgent steps are taken by the concerned authorities to ensure that such incidents are not repeated,” he said. 

AMARC Asia-Pacific expresses solidarity with the staff and volunteers of Radio Ada who have suffered physical and mental abuse by the attackers. #

JOINT STATEMENT: Stop the cyber attacks!

AlterMidya

Over the past few months, several news sites have been subjected to cyber attacks.

According to a February 7 article in the Manila Bulletin, the websites of CNN Philippines, Rappler and Philstar.com have been attacked, purportedly by a group calling itself Pinoy Vendetta, a group that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has praised and has encouraged to take down more websites.

The websites of Altermidya and Bulatlat have also been targeted for three consecutive days.

In the same week, the websites of Inquirer.net and of One News have also briefly gone offline. Inquirer has yet to confirm that it was attacked but One News reports that some of its content is no longer available.

Last year, forensic investigation by Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation shows that the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on alternative media websites have been linked to the Philippine Army, using the infrastructure of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

No less than the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) confirmed that the IP address used for the unauthorized vulnerability scan was assigned to the Philippine Army.

While the recent cases of DDoS against a number of corporate media outfits have not been investigated yet, the timing and frequency raise our suspicion that the cyber attacks are orchestrated, systematic, and politically motivated.

What is clear by now is that the ones behind these are so afraid of the truth that they try to put down the websites of news organizations.

Cyber censorship has no place in a democracy. It is deplorable that a publicly funded task force supports and promotes cyber attacks on news sites.

We call on the DICT and the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division to look into these incidents, stop the cyber attacks, identify and hold the perpetrators accountable.

We want to continue doing our duty to inform the citizenry; knowing that by doing so we aid them in their decision-making.

SIGNATORIES:

NUJP

NUJP Philstar chapter

NUJP NCR

Altermidya

Bulatlat

Kodao

Rappler

KODAO TO PREMIERE FILM ON BABY RIVER

Today, October 9, marks the first death anniversary of Baby River Emmanuel, the three-month old infant who was born in detention by her political detainee mother Reina Mae Nasino. Mother and child were separated early and the infant died weeks later due to the State’s denial of maternal care for her.

In a display of State cruelty, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management ran away with the infant’s remains on October 16, 2020, during her burial. It shocked the country and the whole world.

In partnership with human rights groups Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Kapatid, Kodao Productions will premiere a film based on the events surrounding Baby River’s death and burial.  It will be held next Saturday, October 16, at four o’clock in the afternoon.

The video-documentary “River of Tears and Rage” is directed by multi-awarded filmmaker and former political prisoner Maricon Montajes and written by journalist Raymund Villanueva. It is based largely on Kodao Productions team’s Facebook Live coverage of the controversial burial, led by Jola Diones-Mamangun, Sanaf Marcelo, Jek Alcaraz and Joseph Cuevas. Music was by Jhoc Jacob.

The premiere will be streamed live on Kodao, Kapatid and Karapatan’s Facebook pages.

The film is dedicated to the memory of the recently-departed National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Kodao’s long-time Board of Directors chairperson. #

A Call to the Philippine Army: Respect for Press Freedom in Word and Deed

STATEMENT: September 27, 2021

The Freedom for Media Freedom for All (FMFA) a coalition of press freedom advocates, condemns the Philippine Army’s Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) cyberattacks on the websites of two alternative media organizations, Bulatlat and AlterMidya, as assaults on press freedom and free expression.  

We call on the press and the media community as well as free expression groups to join their voices in the collective resistance of these violations of Constitutionally-protected rights.

Philippine Army spokespersons have denied responsibility for the attacks. But the government’s own Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), through its Computer Emergency Response Team has traced these actions to the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to the PA.

DDOS attacks overwhelm websites with fake traffic and makes them inaccessible. It is no more than a form of censorship repugnant to any society that claims to be a democracy. 

Information has always been crucial to the exercise of a people’s sovereign will that is the core of a democracy. A free press must provide a diversity of views so that society can engage in the decision-making process, debate and argumentation that is crucial to good governance.  

It is specially vital today when, besieged by a pandemic and in preparation of national elections in 2022, Filipinos must be able to decide who will lead them for the next six years after the end of this administration. The Filipino people are called to make one of the most important decisions in the country’s political history. 

The Philippine Army is sworn to defend the country and protect the people. Its service does not operate in the political sphere. In contrast, the press in providing news is necessarily engaged in political affairs. The Army’s interference in the conduct of news organizations over reaches the military mandate. Even as it claims to respect press freedom, these recent actions have directly attacked the press, an institution protected by nothing less than the Constitution. 

Since the military by its function is not a repository of democratic values, we call on our soldiers to cease forthwith this insidious campaign to silence media and its members; to limit citizen access to views and perspectives that may differ from those held by the government in power. 

The Philippine Army should demonstrate the respect for press freedom in deeds as well as in words. 

Signed,

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

Mindanews

Philippine Press Institute (PPI)

The death of my daughter Kerima

I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened

This article was originally published by The Diarist.PH. It is republished here with permission.

By Pablo Tariman

As I write this, it’s been 14 days since my daughter Kerima died. (Twenty-two days as of this posting.–Ed.)

It was not a peaceful death, as it turned out. An encounter between military and rebel groups at 6 a.m. on Friday, August 20, 2021, left three dead, one soldier and two reported insurgents.

I got a mysterious message saying one of the casualties in the encounter was a “young woman” with her companion. I refused to believe my daughter was that “young woman.”

The next day, Saturday, August 21, a friend from Bacolod told me the military had identified the female casualty as Ka Ella. I asked my friend to send me a picture that appeared in the military FB.

In my Messenger, I saw a picture of a woman left alone on a mountain trail. Her face was blurred. Her arm was almost severed after being riddled with bullets.

I know how my daughter looked like, then and now. After one more hard look at the picture, I realized the dead woman was my daughter Kerima, who turned 42 last May 29.

I had been ready for this years back. I knew it would come to this.

We had some arguments about this. But all this is water under the bridge, so to speak. In the end, I respected her choice.

It is easy to say you are prepared to see the worst happening to your daughter because of her involvement in the movement. But when you see her in the picture, cold and lifeless on a mountain trail, you know you need more courage to accept what has happened to her.

I was looking at her son, Emmanuel, that morning still asleep, when I accepted the news. My next predicament was how to break the news to him.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

The next day, her violent death was all over Facebook. The newspapers also carried news of the encounter. And always, she was identified as Ka Ella, also known by her real name, Kerima Lorena Tariman.

It is the first death in the family. She was the second of my three daughters.

The last time I saw her, she showed up in the city unannounced two years ago. She said it was better that we saw each other in a neutral place, definitely not in our house.

I knew she was preparing me for some big decisions she had made. We had very little conversation. She knew I had no other choice but to accept her decision.

After a few lingering moments, I kissed her on her forehead. Before she walked away, all I could say was, “Ingat, Kima.” Kima was how she was known in the family.

Still, she wanted to see more of her son, in my care since his grade school years. While I was doing my last concert at the Nelly Garden in Iloilo City, I met my grandson at an inn. He said someone would meet him and bring him to his mother.

The meeting was short, just an overnight stay. And he was back in Iloilo while I was preparing to travel with my performing artists after a farewell concert at Nelly Garden. By then, I had an idea why my daughter desperately needed to see her son before she totally disappeared.

And so her death was all over FB. I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened.

I asked a family friend to come to break the news to my grandson. I didn’t think I could handle it without turning the moment into a scene from a teleserye. And so the family friend arrived, condoled.

Then I asked him to take on the sad task of breaking the news to my grandson. He did it gently, from what I could figure out.

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile

Emmanuel Tariman Acosta delivering the response after the four-hour tribute to his mother Kerima at Bantayog ng Mga Bayani on Aug. 28, 2021. (Photo from Altermidya)

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile as if to tell me, “This is not a big deal. I can handle this.”

The sad news transmitted, I let out a sigh of relief. My grandson is made of sterner stuff, and he showed it.

Then he told me he knew something was wrong just by reading my face that early morning, while I was trying to confirm the news.

I told myself we could move on and do what had to be done.

We had to fly to Bacolod to claim the body. We had to subject ourselves to swab tests to be able to board the plane. We had to apply for Silay and Bacolod passes so we could move around.

That was my first swab test. What if I tested positive? Did this mean only my grandson could fly to Bacolod while I had to face isolation?

The swab test results didn’t come on time by email for us to be able to board the Monday 8 a.m. flight. No way could you board the plane without the results of your swab test, the lady at the check-in counter told us.

We had to rebook our tickets for an afternoon flight. The swab test results finally arrived after the plane had left. My grandson and I tested negative!

We were able to rebook an early afternoon direct flight direct to Silay-Bacolod airport. Meanwhile, I had to brace myself for what I would see when I claimed my daughter’s body.

I have never been inside a funeral morgue. I have never been inside a dingy room full of dead bodies. Before the plane landed, I had to let go of my quiet sobbing. After all, this was not my idea of my last reunion with my daughter.

First order of the day upon arrival was a briefing with our lawyer, who happens to be a city councilor.

I needed to present papers to be able to claim my daughter’s body: birth certificate, marriage certificate, my grandson’s valid ID and birth certificate, and my ID and birth certificate.

Next was the moment of truth.

The funeral parlor aide guided us to a room full of dead bodies all covered in white cloth. I looked at my grandson. I wondered how he would react upon seeing his dead mother for the first time.

When I saw my daughter’s lifeless body on that steel stretcher, I let out a long, painful howl of grief. I embraced her and kissed her forehead like the last time we saw each other.

He saw how helpless I was that moment, so I felt my grandson’s hands massaging my shoulder as I cried endlessly. My grandson’s inner strength is unbelievable.

No tears for him. No breakdown like I had.

When I calmed down, I realized I had to attend to more details to be able to claim my daughter’s body.

The plan was to claim the body, bring it to a Bacolod crematorium, and fly home the next day with the urn.

Our lawyer appealed to the Silay city chief of police if we could cremate the body first and attend to the paper requirements later. He nodded to say yes.

But when the body was about to be pulled out from the funeral parlor for cremation, the chief of police said no.

We had to produce all the papers: death certificate, permit to bring the body from the Silay funeral parlor to the Bacolod crematorium, and another permit to transport the remains from Bacolod to Manila.

We had to secure a barangay clearance from the barrio where the incident happened. I was appalled to learn that my daughter actually operated in the shadow of Mt. Silay, where the sugar cane workers lived.

Meanwhile, the cremation had to wait until we were able to meet all the requirements. Our lawyer brought me to the office of the Silay chief of police to secure another requirement, a spot report filed by the local police.

Said he: ‘I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect’

We noticed the chief cop kept on revising the incident report. He made small talk while we waited for the final version.

Said he: “I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect.”

We left the chief cop’s office convinced we had a rewritten version of what happened during the bloody encounter at Hacienda Raymunda.

I read a study by my daughter where she detailed studies of the plight of sugar plantation workers at Hacienda Raymunda. The report said workers got as low as P500 a month for backbreaking work.

Ironically, she died in an encounter also at Hacienda Raymunda in Silay City.

I don’t know what to make of my final hours with my daughter.

After we secured all the permits, her body was finally released for cremation.

Our coordinators noticed we were being shadowed by police operatives, taking photos and videos of us everywhere we went.

Meanwhile, I scheduled a video call with my daughters based in Frankfurt and Pasig before the cremation. I saw my daughters weeping as they said goodbye to their rebel sister.

I couldn’t help sobbing as her body was shoved into the big burner. “We can give you the urn in two hours,” said the crematorium staff.

I had to make peace with myself as we flew back to Manila.

There was a tribute for her at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani where friends, classmates, and supporters from all over the country paid their last respects Saturday, August 28.

They were so many who remembered her, the tribute lasted four hours.

For the first time, I saw a composite picture of my daughter as classmate, poet, warrior, and Red fighter. I didn’t realize she was feared as much as she was respected.

My wife and I recited  poems in her honor. The tribute of her Frankfurt-based sister Karenina drew applause. She recalled how she spent one night in an Isabela jail in 2001 just to be with her sister Kerima, at least for one night of her sister’s month-long detention.

I thought the most poignant recollection during the tribute came from her son, Emmanuel, who closed the tribute.

My grandson recalled: “Bata pa lang ako, tinuruan nya na ako ng iba’t ibang bagay na hindi ko matututunan kung saan man at pinakita niya sa akin yung mundo at naiintindihan ko yung mga desisyon na ginawa nya at ng aking ama. Proud ako sa nanay ko, sa kanyang tapang, sa kanyang talino, hanggang sa huling hininga ay nasa isip niya ang masa at sambayanan. Hindi nagtatapos sa kanyang pagpanaw ang laban at marami pang magpapatuloy: tayong mga naririto. Mabuhay ka, Nanay, at maraming salamat sa lahat!” (Even when I was young, she taught me many things that I would not have learned elsewhere, and showed me the world, and I understand the decisions she and my father made. I am proud of my mother, of her courage, her intelligence, until her last breath the masses and the country were on her mind. The fight does not end with her death, and many will continue it: we who are here. Godspeed, Nanay, and thank you for everything!)

At home, I made a special place for her in the living room.

I cannot imagine her leaving us for good. And so I wrote this poem.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father company
As he welcomes another sunrise
Without you.

Stay a little longer my daughter
Keep your son company
He who is proud of you
In your prolonged absence.

Stay a little longer my child
Let’s reminisce days
As we welcomed sunrise
In the black sand of San Roque
And frolicking at the park
In the shadow of Mayon.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father warm
Watch over your only son
For a few days more.

Memories come and go
And far too few
I still see us welcoming sunrise
With the perfect cone
Towering over us.

Suddenly you are gone
The little child
Who once romped by the beach
Is suddenly limp and cold
Finished off by bullets
From ruthless strangers.

Stay a little longer my child
Let me just remember
The last hug
The kiss I planted on your forehead
In this room full of dead bodies.

I can’t help it
Letting out a howl of grief
Akin to a whining dog.

Your son remained strong
And unperturbed
As he massaged my shoulders
As I let out
A shrill whimper
Echoing through
The mortuary.

Now
I have to make the most
Out of this last plane ride
With your son and I
Huddled together
As we keep watch
Over your urn
From Silay to Manila.

You are home now
Stay a little longer my child
As we prepare
Your new home
Away from home.

I can see peace
And deliverance
In that small crypt
Just a walk away
From where we live.

Welcome home my child
There is peace and quiet
Waiting for you
In that small door
Leading to the great beyond.

On Aug. 29, 2021, Cecile Licad, the author’s longtime friend, performing Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary Etude’ in the open-air concert in Tivoli, New York, with Kerima Tariman in mind. A music fan wrote the pianist that it was the ‘fiercest’ ‘Revolutionary Etude’ he has heard in his life. (Photo from the file of Cecile Licad)

IN SUPPORT OF CONG CORRALES AND LADY ANN SALEM

A statement by Fellows of the 2011 UP-CMC Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop

Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vicente “Cong” B. Corrales is again under attack by enemies of press freedom and freedom of expression. Shady people behind Facebook page “Kamatooran” and “Uswag Radio Bukidnon” red-tagged Cong, an abominable act that puts our colleague in grave danger.

We, fellows of the 15th University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop, condemn the cowardly attacks against our co-fellow Cong. He has not done anything illegal and immoral in voicing out his opinions. It is his attackers who warrant investigation and prosecution for their dastardly deeds.

Like Cong, our Lopez Jaena batch mate and Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem is also being made to suffer for speaking truth to power. She was unjustly arrested last December 10, International Human Rights Day, and slapped with patently trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The State preposterously accused her of being a member of a gun-running syndicate when all she wields is her pen and camera. Icy has yet to be released from prison more than two weeks after the Mandaluyong Court dismissed the charges against her.

The enemies of freedom are mistaken in thinking our colleagues are easily cowed. Both remain steadfast and vow to keep speaking out for truth and justice. We applaud Cong and Icy’s fortitude against efforts to silence their voices. We are proud of them.

When social injustices reign, critical voices like Cong and Icy’s could only spark hope. There should be more voices like theirs, not less. #

SIGNED:

-Joseph Ben “JB” R. Deveza                             -Rev. Fr. Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm

-Ronalyn “Len” V. Olea                                     -JM Agreda

-Michelle Castro Zoleta                                    -Raymund B. Villanueva

-Bobby Q. Labalan                                            -Renato “Macky” Macaspac

-Winnie Aguilar                                                -Kim Arveen Patria

-Ryan D. Rosauro

-Ed Lingao (Resource Person)

NUJP: Stand with AlterMidya, Defend Press Freedom

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy to support the alternative media against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials at the December 1 hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization.

These small but courageous news outfits play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues – land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice, to name a few – and oft-neglected sectors – the peasants, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole.

Baseless accusations against the alternative media are nothing new, of course. But the level of vilification from this administration, through the agencies and officials in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, indicates that government and its security machinery are bent on silencing contrary views and voices, and force conformity on our people.

Make no mistake, this assault on the alternative media is no different from the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations that insist on fulfilling our role of watchdog, of holding power to account, of speaking truth to power.

We cannot, we must not, allow them to succeed. Let us once and for all show them that we, the Philippine media and people, are free not because we are allowed to but because we insist on being free. #

‘Laban, Kampamilya’: Altermidya’s statement of support for the People’s Initiative for ABS-CBN franchise

STATEMENT

We, independent media outfits and journalists under the Altermidya Network, express our support to the People’s Initiative to Grant ABS-CBN a People’s Franchise or Pirma Kapamilya, a movement that seek to gather 7 million signatures for ABS-CBN.

After 70 legislators voted a death sentence for the network and its 11,000 employees, many Filipinos and press freedom advocates remain hopeful of possible avenues to grant ABS-CBN a franchise.

‘People’s Initiative’ under the 1987 Constitution grants Filipinos the power to amend the Constitution or enact laws. This procedure is governed by Republic Act 6735 or “The Initiative and Referendum Act,” along with Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 10650.

Under the said rules, a proposed legislation needs the signature of at least 10% of all registered voters or about 6.1 million signatures based on the total registered voters in the 2019 National Elections Record. To ensure that enough signatures are secured after the verification process, a target of 7 million registered voters has been set.

The sheer number of signatures needed is not lost on us: indeed this road is painstaking and difficult, an arduous task only aggravated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Yet at a time when those in power are relentless in eroding our rights – press freedom, our civil liberties, our right to know –we take every instance we have to defend and reclaim these rights with every risk and effort.

The campaign has only just begun, and yet paid hacks and naysayers already accuse it of being an elaborate scheme funded by so-called oligarchs. This claim conveniently ignores how it was precisely those in power who conspired to steal from the Filipino people one of their main sources of information at the height of the public health crisis.

We have underscored from the beginning that this campaign is not a move to protect mere corporate interests. It is an assertion by the Filipino people who cannot tolerate abuses to our constitutionally-guaranteed right to press freedom and free expression.

The road may be difficult but the initiative is a form of taking back the power of the phrase “we, the sovereign Filipino people” enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. As we have always said and done in the past, we will fight back, together for press freedom, for the people’s to know, and for democracy.

Laban, Kapamilya!

Duterte’s SONA is a pack of boasts and lies – Filipinos in Asia Pacific

26 July 2020

Reference: Dolores Balladares-Pelaez
Spokesperson, MIGRANTE Asia-Pacific
Tel. (852) 9747-2986

Filipino migrants in Asia-Pacific will not be silenced as Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s trumpets boasts and lies in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SoNA).

Four years into the Duterte presidency, Filipinos are now fighting a regime that multiplies the difficulties the people face with the pandemic. We have had enough.

For the Duterte regime, overseas Filipinos are but cash cows as shown by its drive to make PhilHealth mandatory to Filipinos abroad, at the same time as it increases the premium to be paid. The mandatory initial payment is Php2,400, after which the amount will depend on the monthly salary, with some annual payments amounting to Php 21,600 in 2020 and will increase dramatically in the coming years.

Scores of migrant Filipino workers have complained about this, stating that this is a requirement before they could leave. OFWs are resisting to pay this as PhilHealth is useless in our places of employment, with work contracts having insurance provisions. With serious allegations of almost Php1 billion questionable transactions in PhilHealth, there is a growing fear that the hard-earned money of OFWs will go to fatten the pockets of corrupt officials.

Aside from the mandatory PhilHealth contribution, there are other government exactions, including the Social Security System (SSS) contribution, which is another requirement for the superfluous Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). The fees charged by the SSS, PAG-IBIG, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and other fees migrant Filipinos oppose to, are mere money-making schemes, as these fees do not translate into better services for migrant Filipinos, our families, or the Filipino people in general and milking the OFWs dry.

Speak Out protest in Hongkong (Video from MIGRANTE Asia Pacific)

The problems continue to pile up. The response of the Duterte government to the COVID-19 crisis has made life for both OFWs and their families even more miserable. From the start, it did not refuse people from coming into the country. When it finally did, it also prevented OFWs, residents, and students from returning to the places of their employment. This resulted in OFWs being terminated by their employers for failure to report back to work.

Other migrant Filipinos who were able to stay in their places of employment in the region faced other problems. Some were overworked, abused, or incapable of getting their own supplies for prevention of COVID 19. However, the embassies or consulates began lessening their working days, such as in Japan and Thailand. We were left to fend for ourselves, even with the Philippine government blaming migrant Filipinos for resorting to eating trash to survive, or selling their blood to survive. Now, we are facing the repatriation of 167,000 OFWs, the funds for which may dry up by August. As of last month, only 33% have been repatriated. By 2021, an estimated 10 million OFWs might be displaced.

To top it all, majority of OFWs did not receive the AKAP DOLE was supposedly distributing. Our families back home are also exempted from receiving financial aid from the government as they have OFWs for relatives. This is aside from the problem of how our families can maintain their daily sustenance, with the lockdown the Philippine government imposed on ordinary citizens (but not on government officials), and the government unable to consistently deliver meaningful assistance. As of this month, the Philippine government has secured US$5 billion for COVID-19 response, with Php374.9 billion has already been released, yet it has reached a dismally small number of Filipinos. Certainly, it has reached a minority of Filipinos in Asia-Pacific, as OFWs continue to complain of the inaccessibility of the assistance. The same can be said of Filipinos still in the Philippines.

The situation of migrants has always been miserable, but it is worse now due to COVID-19 and the Philippine government’s ineptitude. And now that more and more people are clamoring for better social services, wiser spending of government funds, punishment of government officials violating the lockdown, the anti-terror act (ATA) was enacted. With the anti-terror act in place, it will embolden government officials in attacking just about anyone who even merely complains about government services. We remember the case of Taiwan OFW Elanel Egot Ordidor, expressing her frustration with the government’s services, faced a cyber-libel case. The government eventually backed down due to public outcry.

Attacks on press freedom have intensified, as even mainstream media is being targeted. Independent and critical press, who reports on corruption and bad practices of governance, is seen as thorn on the side, and Duterte wants it to be muzzled and dealt with. If the Duterte government is going after the big, established institution, what is in store for us ordinary citizens?

Speak Out protest in Aotearoa (Video from MIGRANTE Asia Pacific)

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict will be even more aggressive in terrorist-tagging the progressive movement overseas, which it has been doing even before the ATA. Cases of this has been seen in the region, specifically Australia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, wherein those who are expressing their dissent to government policies are vilified and tagged as terrorists.

With the ATA in force, it will also be used against critics of the intrusion of the imperialists US and China into Philippine territory. Duterte allowed the full foreign ownership of national resources and operation of utilities. He made a 180 degree turn on his pronouncement to terminate the US Visiting Forces Agreement, after much ado due to the cancellation of his lackey’s visa. He clings to the US, and uses the increased aggressiveness of China’s occupation of the Scarborough Shoal as the reason to maintain the unjust treaty. But it is mere posturing, as he still allows Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to operate without paying taxes. If anything, he is afraid of the people’s ire, and is therefore willing to continue to be both US and China’s lapdog, in an attempt to some semblance of protection. As Duterte clings to both due to his waning power, so will protests rain.

Hence, the Asia-Pacific Filipino migrants refuse to be silenced. We, along with the rest of the Filipino people, live the reality of having a Duterte regime: Hungry, miserable, but angry! Enough with the sweet lies. Migrant Filipinos, let us Speak Out Na! Let us oust Duterte now!