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PAWIS HIGHLIGHTS

Labor Attorney says Amid Pandemic, Jobless Workers are Calling for Help Filing for Gov’t Aid

EDITORIAL

Op-Ed: We Must Crack Down on Companies Exploiting the Pandemic to Cheat Workers

By Lorena Gonzalez and Ruth Silver Taube

Lurking in the shadows in any crisis are the unscrupulous characters looking to take advantage of those struggling the most. We’ve been warned of the scammers pretending to be contact tracers to commit identity theft. We saw giant corporations ripping off taxpayer-funded relief intended to prevent small businesses from going bankrupt.

Likewise, unscrupulous companies that cheated their workers out of wages before the pandemic are exploiting the weakness in our worker protections by shutting down and reopening under a new name in order to avoid paying the wages they owe.

Since March, it’s been low-wage workers, workers of color, and immigrant workers who’ve borne the brunt of layoffs; they’re also the workers most likely to be victimized by wage theft as companies shut down without paying them back wages they’re owed.

These companies hope that their theft will go unnoticed among the thousands of legitimate, Covid-related business closures and new business filings as California recovers. Ensuring exploited workers are not left further behind as California recovers is why it’s so important that Gov. Gavin Newsom sign AB 3075.

Workers like Tess are counting on us.

She worked long hours in a care home for the elderly and people with disabilities. When Tess and her co-workers insisted they be paid overtime, the owner turned management of the home over to an administrator who sought to avoid overtime by putting a three hour gap in the middle of an eight-hour shift.

While responsibility for the home changed on paper, day-to-day management didn’t and neither did the needs to care for Tess’ patients. The same owner called the shots and forced Tess and her colleagues to work through their three-hour “breaks.”

Tess joined the Pillipino Association of Workers and Immigrants and is fighting to recover the wages she’s earned.

In industries with many low-road employers like care homes, employers commit
wage theft with impunity precisely because they know how rarely workers like Tess
are successful in collecting back wages- and that was before Covid-19.

Just 17 percent of workers who’ve gone through the difficult process to secure a court
judgment ordering their employers to pay back wages ever see even a dime of what they’re owed—precisely because companies can simply close up shop and open under a new name. California workers lose an estimated $2 billion from their paychecks to theft from their own employers each year, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

AB 3075 begins to remedy this by requiring anyone who wishes to incorporate
to sign a statement indicating that they don’t have any outstanding wage judgments.

The vast majority of California companies are doing right by their workers during this pandemic. Many small business owners are even dipping into their own savings or retirement funds to make payroll, to buy safety equipment to keep workers safe, or to keep the doors open so workers can put in the hours they need to feed their families.

But businesses who closed up shop in the pandemic and sent workers home without their last paychecks should ensure those workers are made whole when they reopen. AB 3075 would make California’s recovery is fair to the companies that did the right thing—and the workers who’ve been paying the most difficult price in recent months.

Lorena Gonzalez represents the 80th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes parts of San Diego and the South Bay. Ruth Silver Taube is the workers’ rights supervising attorney at the Alexander Community Law Center, an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, and coordinator of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to comments@metronews.com.

WORKER'S STORIES

Undocumented Workers Advocacy Letter

Dear Governor Newsom,

While all Californians are struggling with the economic and practical realities of living under a statewide Shelter in Place Order and the corona virus pandemic, one group of California residents will be the hardest hit: undocumented immigrants. More than two million undocumented immigrants make California their home. Nearly one in ten California workers is an undocumented worker. Over seventy percent (70%) of undocumented Californians have resided in the U.S. for more than ten years.
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The End of Liberal Democracy in the Philippines

By Ethan Chua on August 29, 2020

On July 3 2020, despite waves of popular resistance and incisive legal critique, President Rodrigo Duterte passed an Anti-Terrorism law that would give the executive government sweeping powers to imprison and repress political activists under the guise of combating terrorism. These powers include the ability of the executive branch to authorize what amount to warrantless arrests, the arbitrary detention of those suspected of aiding or inciting terrorism for up to 24 days, and the complete supersession of judicial checks on presidential authority. Understandably, many Filipinos are concerned that the law’s passage will usher in a new era of repression, akin to martial law under the Marcos dictatorship. Yet unlike the Marcos dictatorship, Duterte’s right wing populism stems from decades of liberal democracy that failed to address the economic needs of the Filipino people. 

The proponents of Philippine liberal democracy, from President Corazon “Cory” Aquino to her son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, essentially promised the Filipino people that poverty and economic inequality could be quelled through anti-corruption measures and liberal political reform. However, liberal reforms only ended up entrenching the institutional power of political dynasties without meaningfully improving the lives of the most oppressed, providing the stage for Duterte’s rise to power on a populist, anti-elite platform. The Anti-Terrorism Bill, now codified into law, is the resurgence of right wing populism, sprouting from the carcass of the EDSA Revolution’s co-optation by the liberal elite.

In 1986, the People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA revolution) led to the ousting of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the presidency of Corazon “Cory” Aquino. As the wife of assassinated senator and Marcos-opponent Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Cory’s rise was hailed worldwide as the triumph of democracy against Marcos’ dictatorial regime. She symbolized a newfound Filipino commitment to the ideals of liberal democracy, which were enshrined as principles in the 1987 Constitution. Yet despite Cory’s widespread support, she was never able to unify the various political forces who challenged or who stood against the Marcos regime. Instead, her presidency is best understood as a tug-of-war between a wide range of coalitions who sought to influence the new spokesperson of the Filipino people. 

Roughly, these coalitions can be divided up into the radical (primarily national democratic) left, who wanted to extend the promise of liberal democracy into genuine agrarian reform and economic justice; the more centrist upper-middle classes, which consisted of Church officials, and business leaders who despite welcoming an end to Marcos-era repression, only paid lip service to the ideals of free elections and speech; and right-wing military groups such as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, whose aspirations for a strong repressive state in the mold of Marcos led them to launch a series of failed coups against the Aquinos. In the end, Cory’s own strong ties to landholding interests (her family’s landholdings included the over 6,000 hectare sugar plantation Hacienda Luisita), coupled with internal strife within the Philippine left, led her government on a path of socially conservative, economically neoliberal policy making coupled with a public commitment to liberal democratic norms.

The national democratic left, who broke decisively with Cory after she oversaw the killing of 21 peasants protesting for land reform on Mendiola Bridge in January 1987, remained the most vocal critics of her new liberal order. They rightfully saw that Cory’s commitment to democratic principles and constitutional freedoms meant nothing if those principles were not coupled with economic justice and genuine agrarian reform. Yet the left’s own political legitimacy had been weakened after they failed to participate in the broad coalition that helmed the People Power Revolution. As such, their critique of Cory went unheeded by the government. Despite reforming the Constitution to place greater checks on presidential power, she simultaneously continued the neoliberal economic agenda of Marcos’ regime. 

Cory’s now infamous refusal to repudiate the national debt upon her rise to power, alongside her continued pursuit of foreign investment and loans from the IMF and the World Bank, caused the Philippines to be further incorporated into the neoliberal world system. The primary consequence of this rising debt was a state-sponsored surge in overseas Filipino workers, who today can be seen throughout the globe doing precarious labor as seafarers, nurses, and domestic workers. This turn to overseas employment for Filipinos was first encouraged by the Marcos government, which sought to service the national debt with the remittances workers sent home. Despite rejecting Marcos’ dictatorial regime, Cory essentially continued his policies of labor export. Under Cory, the Philippine state brokered contracts with foreign states to have Filipino workers fill labor demand; meanwhile, at home, her government began recasting overseas Filipino workers as national heroes, pushing more and more Filipinos to consider work abroad as a preferable alternative to a lack of domestic opportunities. Today, around one million Filipinos leave the country each year to work abroad.

Cory’s popular global and national appeal arose from her reputation as an icon of emergent democracy. Describing her presidential campaign against Marcos before the United States Congress in 1986, she presented herself as a self-conscious champion of a people who longed for the restoration of democratic norms: “Wherever I went in the campaign, slum area or impoverished village, they came to me with one cry, democracy. Not food, although they clearly needed it but democracy. Not work, although they surely wanted it but democracy.” However, despite her lip service to democratic practice, Cory continued the brutal military repression of activists who challenged the fragile consensus between center and right that she had brokered, with extrajudicial killings rising under her regime.

Filipinos who were born in the early to late ‘90s live in a post-Cory era where the subsequent presidents combined economic liberalization, a rhetorical commitment to anti-corruption measures and political reform, and the military repression of dissent under the broad banner of “liberal democracy.” Under Cory’s successor Fidel Ramos, the police and military apparatus were given more powers, forcing communist and Muslim separatist revolutionary movements in the southern Philippines to cede ground. Meanwhile, Ramos’ socio-economic Philippines 2000 program, which was designed to hasten industry development, only further increased the hold of foreign capital on the Filipino people. Under Ramos, state and paramilitary forces conducted military operations against local communities to clear the way for foreign mining and other projects of resource extraction. 

By the time the Philippines’ subsequent presidents came into power, the cracks of decades of neoliberal policies began to show. Corruption grew rampant. Foreign capital remained among a clique of landlords, business tycoons, local politician-warlords, who allied with whichever regime was in power. Elections and protests remained regular, but felt more like empty gestures towards an unrealized aspiration for democracy than genuine power to the people. These democratic practices continued to be marred by political violence; in a particularly egregious case in 2009, 57 people were murdered by the militia of Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. for their support of an opposition candidate. During this time, the government also disappeared many activists who went too far in their demands for economic justice. Among the middle and upper classes, political disaffection replaced the democratic enthusiasm of the EDSA revolution.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s presidency was, in retrospect, the dying breath of a liberal democratic consensus that for the preceding decades had tried to keep the masses pliant. Noynoy became a popular candidate after the death of his mother Cory Aquino because he promised to continue her legacy of democratic reform and ran on a presidential slogan that promised to end poverty by ending corruption. However, Noynoy only oversaw increasing economic inequality. While bankers, real estate developers, and business owners benefited from lower interest rates and a rising GDP, the share of agricultural and manufacturing sectors in the economy stagnated or shrunk. Meanwhile, his ostensible commitment to combating dynastic corruption was belied by his own membership in one of the most prominent political families in the Philippines. Increasingly, it became clear to the Filipino people that Aquino’s version of liberal democracy and economic growth ultimately benefited the elite–from enterprising business owners to entrenched political dynasties.


This environment of political disillusionment set the stage of Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power as a presidential candidate who rhetorically positioned himself as an outsider—a foul-mouthed, truth-telling strongman from southern Mindanao who would not put up with the pretensions of an imperial elite that ranged from Manila to Washington. His strong stance against criminals and drug dealers provided a popular scapegoat for the socioeconomic ills of the country, deftly situating the blame for poverty not on a lack of economic justice or agrarian reform, but rather on the poor choices of social malcontents. His campaign painted an image of a nation on the brink of disaster, assailed by drug lords and armed communist insurgents, which required a leader who could substitute democratic practice with the violent exercise of political will. Ultimately, Duterte’s election can be understood as the people’s verdict on the failure of the Aquinos to deliver on the promises of their cacique-led liberal democracy.

More than 30 years after the EDSA revolution, we stand in a new era of executive power and political repression. If we fail to recognize that Duterte’s popularity is a result of the past few decades’ inability to create economic justice for ordinary people, we risk making the same mistakes as our predecessors. Liberal democracy, as practiced by the landed elite and dynastic families of our nation, has never worked. Neither will Duterte’s military authoritarian regime, despite its promises of social change through the eradication of drug users and leftist dissenters. As we condemn  Duterte’s dictatorial rule, let us also call for a democracy that challenges the limits of economic liberalism, one that is committed to overturning the economic status quo in favor of the masses. 

In the face of terror, let us continue to dream. Makibaka, huwag matakot.

PAWIS Workers Push For AB 3075 to Hold Employers Accountable for Paying Wage Theft Judgments

-Ruth Silver Taube and Ethan Chua

Wage theft occurs when employers don’t pay workers commensurately for the hours they’ve worked, don’t pay minimum wage, or deny workers overtime pay. In California, employers use wage theft tactics to steal an estimated $2 billion from workers each year, yet only 17% of workers who’ve received court judgments in their favor secure any repayment from employers who have underpaid them.[1] A primary reason for this low figure is that businesses can avoid wage theft judgments by closing down and reopening under a new name, leaving business owners with the capital they’ve stolen while workers themselves are left in the dust. The spate of lay-offs occurring due to COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem, with many laid off workers still owed back pay by their employers. In addition, workers who are most vulnerable to exploitation such as low-wage workers, workers of color, and immigrant and undocumented workers are those who suffer most from unpaid wage theft claims.

PAWIS, as a member of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition, has been fighting hard for the passage of AB 3075, a bill which would close the loophole of employers shirking wage theft judgments by reopening their businesses under new names or transferring them to family members, friends, or managers. AB 3075 would extend liability for unpaid wage theft judgments to an individual or business entity that 1) uses substantially the same facilities or substantially the same workforce to offer substantially the same services as the predecessor employer; 2) has the same owners or managers; 3) employs as a managing agent any person who directly controlled the wages, hours, or working conditions of the workforce of the predecessor employer; or 4) is a family member of an owner, partner, manager, or director of the predecessor employer.

PAWIS has played a significant role in advocating for AB 3075. PAWIS member Tess Brillante participated in over 30 lobby visits and eloquently described how her former employer, who committed wage theft, transferred ownership of his company to a care home administrator in order to evade liability. Her former employer required workers to take a three hour “break” while they continued caring for patients without compensation. During these lobby visits, Tess’s testimony clearly moved legislators, one of whom even interrupted her to express his displeasure with her employer. Tess also spoke passionately about the urgency of the bill on behalf of all care home workers, who are risking their lives during COVID to receive the pay they are owed. During the Assembly Banking Committee and Senate Labor and Employment Committee hearings, PAWIS members Tess Brillante, Lilybeth Torogi, and Felwina Mondina expressed their support for the bill.  By the time the bill was heard in the Banking Committee, there was no opposition, and the bill passed with 4 members in favor and 1 member abstaining. Several senators commented that it was a “great bill.” The bill is headed for the Senate floor, then back to the Assembly for a vote on the amended bill, and finally to the Governor for signature. When the Governor signs it into law, it will be a powerful victory for all workers who are victims of wage theft.


[1] https://wagetheftcoalition.org/2020/05/20/ab-3075-gonzalez/

Our Writers

Ruth Silver Taube

Supervising Attorney of the Workers’ Rights Clinic at the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center at Santa Clara University School of Law and the Legal Advice Line of the OLSE Fair Workplace Collaborative; Special Counsel to Legal Aid at Work; and an Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. She collaborates with the PAWIS to conduct legal clinics and training. She is Legal Services Chair of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking, a member of the South Bay Coalition’s Executive Board, a delegate to the Santa Clara County’s Human Trafficking Commission, Coordinator of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition, and a founding member of the Bay Area Equal Pay Collaborative.

Ethan Chua (He/They)

Undergraduate at Stanford studying anthropology and creative writing, and a member of the Malaya Movement.

Kapehan sa PAWIS: Conversations on the Issues and Concerns of Caregivers

On August 16, PAWIS successfully hosted the online webinar, “Conversations on the Issues and Concerns of Caregivers”. The webinar started with the usual workers rights update in the midst of the pandemic. The webinar then proceeded to talk about the struggles faced by caregivers here in the United States by talking about existing lack of regulations in the caregiving industry, how the current pandemic is worsening the conditions of caregivers, and how the feudal culture from the Philippines contributes to the exploitation of caregivers.

U.S. protests echo opposition to Duterte in PH

From Inquirer.net
Original Article: https://usa.inquirer.net/57313/u-s-protests-echo-opposition-to-duterte-in-ph
Article written by

SAN FRANCISCO — Passage of the Anti-Terror Law, rising COVID cases, and the harassment of activists and government critics have drawn a strong response from Filipinos at home and abroad, many of whom have taken to take to the streets to denounce what they see as continuous attacks on democracy.

Members and allies of the Filipino community gathered in front of the San Francisco Philippine Consulate on Monday to counter President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Similar protests were held in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and some cities in Canada.

The United People’s SONA was organized by Bayan USA and Malaya Movement along with other Bay Area based groups and featured a special performance by rapper Ruby Ibarra.

The rally came a day after President Duterte delivered his SONA, which was preceded by a ban on protests during his speech in certain areas around Metro Manila, multiple arrests of protesters, activists, and the confiscation of protest materials.

“He [Duterte] fills it with lies, about how he’s solving poverty, how he’s really taking care of migrant workers, addressing COVID. And this People’s State of the Nation Address is to show that, that’s not true,” said Adrian Bonifacio of Anakbayan USA and Bayan USA of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.

Anti Terror Law

A key target of the protests was the newly enacted Anti-Terror Law, with signs, banners and chants declaring “activism is not terrorism.”

“I know that if I don’t say anything it’s not using my platform. Because I have the privilege as a Filipino American to actually speak out, whereas our kababayans back home don’t have that liberty and freedom anymore,” declared by rapper and activist Ruby Ibarra.

Mindanao Martial Law

While Duterte claimed that there were no reports of abuse throughout the duration of martial law in Mindanao. The human rights group Karapatan Alliance thousands of instances of civil rights violations within the two-year military rule in the region.

In a 2017 press conference, President Duterte threatened to destroy Lumad schools in Mindanao stating, “I will use the armed forces, the Philippine Air Force. I’ll really have those bombed because you are operating illegally, and you are teaching the children to rebel against government.”

Frankie Ortanez from Liyang Network, an organization that advocates for Lumad communities, said that Lumad schools have been tagged as breeding grounds for the New People’s Army, which they emphasize is false.

“It’s about autonomy, it’s about sovereignty, it’s about them deciding what their future is going to look like and getting to be the caretakers of their land and live how they want,” stated Ortanez. Ortanez described the closure of Lumad schools as “a violent way to attack multiple generations at once.”

Pandemic

Protesters also slammed the Duterte administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. One sign read, “Solusyong medikal, hindi militar,” (Medical solutions, not military) a protest against Duterte’s orders for law enforcement to shoot quarantine violators.

“From what I’ve heard from relatives and friends in the Philippines, continuously across the board, is that there is no concrete plan in terms of figuring out how to address the pandemic” said rapper Ibarra, who is also a working scientist. “The administration in the Philippines, (must) put a plan in place to make sure that people are taken care of during this pandemic.”

The Philippines currently has the second highest rate of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia, with 85,486 total cases according to the Department of Health website at the time of writing.

Dissent nears boiling point in Duterte’s SONA 2020

From Rappler.com
Original Article: https://rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/dissent-nears-boiling-point-duterte-sona-2020
Article written by Lian Buan and Rambo Talabong

UP Diliman swelled with people even before the scheduled 10 am start of the unified State of the Nation Address (SONA) rally on Monday, July 27.

Tama na, sobra na! (Enough is enough),” printed in huge red letters on a massive white tarpaulin, greeted everyone entering University Avenue just before the program started.

It read like the everyday rally sign of the Left, except that it belonged to the Kilusang Bente Dos, which claimed to be centrist.

“We are neither Left nor Yellow, yun na nga ang gusto naming sabihin eh. Ito ‘yung sentimyento ng mas nakararaming mamamayan ng ating lipunan, ang pagpapaalis kay Duterte hindi kailangang meron kang kulay,” said Rizalito David, infamous for his failed candidacies in 2013 and 2016, now a convenor of a group named after the February 22, 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

(We are neither Left nor Yellow, that’s what we want to say, that this is the sentiment of the majority, the call for Duterte to resign does not need a political color.)

 

The group, formed just months earlier, held up mini posters of what for them were boiling point incidents in the presidency – the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) scandal that jailed already-freed inmates, and the P1.4-trillion infrastructure spending bill that the group thinks stinks of corruption.

 

“Siya ‘yung puno’t dulo ng kahirapan na nadarama natin ngayon (Duterte is the source of all our hardships),” David said.

At the opposite end, in front of the Oblation, young people from the progressive group Anakbayan held up a poster of Duterte and stamped him a terrorist. It was an odd sight because beside them were Churchmen in cassocks led by La Sallian Brother Armin Luistro, who was allied with the other faction – the liberals.

Luistro stood there unassumingly, as if he did not take on a leadership role in bringing together a frustratingly elusive united opposition that gathered around 1,800 people, according to police estimates. Protesters, however, estimated they numbered at least 8,000.

The unified resistance

The coronavirus pandemic may have limited rally logistics – it’s the first grand protest ever to be held ahead of the President’s speech – but it’s also what turned on the heat on already simmering discontent.

“Sa tindi ng problemang hinaharap ng ating bansa, mahalaga ang pagkakaisa, mahalagang isantabi natin ang ating kanya-kanyang pagkakaiba,” said Liberal Party Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan  in his taped video message to the protest on Monday. (The problems the country is facing today are so bad that it’s important to unite and set aside our differences.)

 

For Pangilinan, the last time this happened was 20 years ago during the EDSA Dos Revolution in 2000 that overthrew the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

Pangilinan’s view of unity is reminiscent of his impassioned appeal during the 2019 midterm elections, when tensions rose between the liberals and Left, and bickering punctuated a landslide loss for all of them.

But it appears, at least for now, that this is behind them.

Prominent Left figure, Renato Reyes of Bayan, even credited Pangilinan for planning the unified protest called the #SONAgkaisa.

“It was initiated by, the inviting personalities were Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Sister Mary John Mananzan, and Brother Armin Luistro was the one who facilitated, Bishop (Broderick) Pabillo was also there, that was before he got sick, and we decided to hold a common activity for SONA,” Reyes told Rappler on the sidelines of the rally Monday morning.

That they are showing a united front is historic achievement in itself, and signals what appears to be a less fractured opposition to lead the growing resistance movement. 

Resign or oust?

In the famed Hong Kong democracy protests, a focal point of the resistance is a categorical call for leader Carrie Lam to resign. 

The Left turned that up a notch higher: a call to oust Duterte.

 

The last speaker of the program was Bahaghari’s Rey Salinas, among the arrested Pride 20, who unfurled a rainbow-colored “Oust Duterte” sign on stage, left fist in the air, shouting: “Duterte, patalsikin!” (Oust Duterte)

An ouster call, however, is a very touchy point in this fragile alliance.

Former Bayan Muna representative and longtime activist Teddy Casiño said that the Left and the liberals almost had a lasting coalition in July 2018 during Duterte’s 4th SONA – until a few months later that year when the supposed Red October plot to oust Duterte reopened the crevices. 

Vice President Leni Robredo, the LP, and its allied groups, had to go on record to say they do not want to oust Duterte.

Chel Diokno, who ran as senator in 2019 under LP, and among the lead organizers, said he “understands why people are making that call.”

“Every person has the right to express themselves, sa tingin ko lang marami nang hindi satisfied sa mga nangyayari, at hindi na rin satisfied sa pag-manage ng COVID, so I really understand why people are making that call,” he told Rappler.

(Every person has the right to express themselves, and for me there are many people not satisfied with what’s happening, and not satisfied with how COVID is being managed, so I really understand why people are making that call.)

 

For, Neri Colmenares, the Left’s candidate in the 2019 senatorial elections, whether the call is to resign, to oust, or otherwise, a common message clearly emerged.

“The consensus here is President Duterte is the worst leader we could ever have in times of crisis. He has no competence to lead a nation in times of crisis, especially in a pandemic like COVID,” said Colmenares.

‘They agitated, outraged the people’

Political analyst Ela Atienza, chair of the UP Department of Political Science, said that foremost, the expansion of the opposition coalition was born out of the frustration of people over the government’s coronavirus response. 

It tapped a critical strand of the population: the middle class.

“Because of the pandemic, a lot of middle class was affected by the pandemic and the government’s response. Some of them had difficulty with their businesses and jobs, and many are turning to social media for their frustrations,” Atienza said.

For Colmenares, the passage of the feared anti-terror law paved the political crossroad for Duterte. The pull to unite the broad-based coalition strengthened, Casiño added, during deliberations for the passage of the controversial legislation.

“They realized that it will hit ordinary people. They realized that even though the law was meant to target Leftists, it still needed to be opposed. Because if the law can hit the Left, it can hit everyone,” Casiño said.

 

In the Supreme Court, the unified voice is further amplified by the 19 petitions so far coming from all sides, including a former soldier, Magdalo’s Ashley Acedillo, who joined the Antonio Carpio-UP Law case.

Then the ABS-CBN shutdown happened.

Government pulled the plug on the biggest television network, and with it, the regular entertainment and news source for millions of Filipinos.

Journalists and media workers, raised in a culture that upholds neutrality to a fault, were suddenly thrust to the frontline of resistance.

Veteran journalist Ces Drilon took to the stage Monday, and spoke at a rally for the first time ever in her more than 3-decade decorated career.

“Narito po ako ngayon dahil lubha na pong nakababahala ang kalagayan ng ating lipunan (I am here because the state of our society is already very disturbing),” Drilon began her speech, before pausing to say how much it makes her nervous.

Drilon, among the first to be let go by ABS-CBN in its mass retrenchment, said it was crucial that she spoke.

“What really compelled me was – all these arguments I see on social media from trolls, and maybe legitimate followers, that ABS-CBN closure is not equal to press freedom, and I really want to say my piece why it’s connected,” Drilon told Rappler after.

Malacañang: Duterte’s feelings hurt by frontliners’ plea to media

From Rappler.com
Original Article: https://rappler.com/nation/malacanang-duterte-feelings-hurt-frontliners-plea-media
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday, August 3, that President Rodrigo Duterte’s outrage against medical frontliners stemmed from their public call through media to review the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press briefing held a day after Duterte taunted health workers to stage a revolution, Roque said the President would have preferred if they sent a letter to him first. 

According to Roque, “Ang hindi lang po nakakaalam ng liham ay si Presidente mismo.” (The President was the last to know about the medical community’s letter.)

’Linaw naman ang sabi ng Presidente, hindi naman kinakailangan na makaron ng splash, kumbaga. Sana binigyan siya ng pagkataon na sagutin ’yung liham bago sila nagkaroon ng publicity dahil ang naoobserbahan natin, talagang nauna pa ang webinar bago pa do’n sa pagtanggap ng liham ng Presidente,” Roque told reporters. 

(What the President said was clear, they didn’t need to create a splash. They should have given him a chance to address their concerns before they created publicity, because from what we’ve observed, their webinar was called before the President received their letter.) 

On Saturday, August 1, some 80 medical societies called on the government for a two-week timeout as they warned that the country’s health system was overwhelmed by a recent surge in cases, and that the country was losing its battle against the pandemic.

 

In sounding a distress signal, the medical community urged the government to collaborate with experts among them to refine current pandemic strategies. 

But Duterte took it the wrong way and claimed that “rampaging” doctors were crying out for a “revolution.” 

““Huwag kayo magsigaw-sigaw, ‘revolution.’ Magsabi kayo revolution, then ngayon na. Try it. Patayin natin lahat ng may COVID-19. Is that what you want? We can always end our existence in this manner,” ranted Duterte. 

“We are not incompetent because we are not doctors. You should do the soul-searching, not us. Kayo, makatulong sana. Wala kayong ginagawa kung ’di magreklamo (You could be helping but all you do is complain),” he added. 

Medical societies pointed out how the President misunderstood their call, saying they only urged the government to review its response and to collaborate with experts among them to improve the country’s pandemic response.

“The call was for the DOH (Department of Health) and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) to provide HCWs (healthcare workers) a fighting chance in the war against COVID and prevent unnecessary fatalities – NOTHING more,” said Dr Mario Panaligan, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) earlier on Monday.

In a “letter of clarification” to Duterte, Panaligan also pointed out that the PCP wrote the DOH regarding health workers’ concerns in April, but that neither the DOH nor the IATF replied to their requests.

 

“We bear no ill will and have acted without malice towards the implementers of the law and the bayanihan as one goal, but our empty cries had to be made known somehow,” Panaligan added. (READ: Staging revolt? Medical workers tell Duterte: Our enemy is COVID-19)

Last straw?

Asked where Duterte got the idea of “revolution,” seeing that medical workers never mentioned this in their appeal, Roque said it may have been a product of ill timing since it came at the end of a series of criticisms raised against Duterte’s handing of the pandemic. 

Lumabas ito ay sunod-sunod kasi na pagtawag ni Senator [Franklin] Drilon na failure ang IATF, sinusugan po yan ni VP Leni Robredo, kasabay po ’yan kumakalat na revolution song,” Roque said, referring to a viral music video of artists singing a Les Miserable song in Filipino. (READ: Duterte puts spotlight on Drilon in SONA 2020)

So ang Presidente po, sabi niya, kung talagang mga nanggugulo ’yung mga nais magsamantala sa pandemic na gusto siyang palitan through a revolution, sige na po, gawin na natin ngayon. Inuulit ko lang naman po ang salita ni Presidente,” he added. 

(This came after Senator Franklin Drilon repeatedly called the IATF a failure, which Vice President Leni Robredo echoed, and that revolution song was spreading. So the President said if people who want to exploit the pandemic are making a fuss and want to change him through a revolution, go ahead and do it. I’m just repeating the President’s words.) 

Despite this, Roque sought to deflect public attention from Duterte’s reaction, claiming that while the President made such comments, he still approved some of the recommendations made by medical workers. 

Roque urged the public to set aside the “issue” as the President was only expressing his feelings. 

Walang isyu naman po ’yun. ’Nilabas lang ng Presidente ang saloobin niya. ’Binigay rin po niya ang hinihingi ng frontliners,” he said. (It’s no longer an issue. The President just expressed what he was feeling. He gave the frontliners what they asked for.) – Rappler.com 

PH health workers infected with coronavirus reach 5,008

From Rappler.com
Original Article: https://rappler.com/nation/coronavirus-cases-philippines-august-3-2020
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

The number of health workers who tested positive for the coronavirus rose to 5,008, with majority of infections seen among nurses and physicians.

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday, August 3, that 4,576 of the 5,008 cases, as of August 1, had recovered, while 38 died due to the disease.

Among the 394 active cases, 258 or 65.7% were considered mild, 133 or 33.7% were asymptomatic. There were also two health workers in severe condition and one in critical condition.

The DOH said the 5,008 medical frontliners infected included the following:

  • Nurse – 1,734
  • Physician – 1,100
  • Nursing Assistant – 338
  • Medical Technologist – 210
  • Radiologic Technologist – 119
  • Radiologic Technologist – 119
  • Midwife – 92
  • Respiratory Therapist – 43
  • Pharmacist – 41
  • Non-medical Admin Staff – 407
  • Utility – 161
  • Dietary Staff – 73
  • Driver – 64
  • Barangay Health Worker – 50
  • Security Guard – 37
  • Caregiver – 15

During the pandemic, health workers who are severely infected with COVID-19 are supposed to receive P100,000 each, while the families of those who died from the coronavirus should get P1 million each. This was included in the Bayanihan law that expired last June 25.

Despite this, the DOH said it would not need to wait for the Bayanihan 2 measure to be passed into law as the Department of Budget and Management’s Special Allotment Release Order that covers the funding requirements for the implementation of the law is valid until December 31, 2020.

The DOH gave assurances compensation for healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 was still ongoing and that claims will be continually processed until the SARO is valid.

The latest toll of health workers infected by the virus comes as the medical sector pleaded with the government to implement a two-week “timeout” to revisit and refine the country’s strategies to curb the pandemic.

Aside from compensation under the Bayanihan law, the DOH said all health workers will also receive benefits including free life insurance, P10,000 in hazard pay, routine testing, as well as free transport and accommodations to and from their workplaces.

As of Monday, the Philippines reported a total of 106,330 coronavirus cases, including 2,104 deaths and 65,821 recoveries. – Rappler.com

GUIDELINES: What you need to know about MECQ from August 4 to 18

From Rappler.com
Original Article: https://rappler.com/nation/coronavirus-cases-philippines-august-3-2020

Giving in to a plea from healthcare workers over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting August 4. (READ: Piqued Duterte taunts doctors to mount ‘revolution’ against him)

Earlier, Duterte extended general community quarantine for Metro Manila until August 15, but revised this after coronavirus cases climbed over 100,000 on August 2.

The guidelines are largely the same as when MECQ was enforced the first time on May 16.

Here’s what you need to know, based on the community quarantine omnibus guidelines as of July 16:


Going Out

Activities

Transportation

Prohibited industries

PH coronavirus cases surge past 106,000, as DOH monitors 887 clusters

From Rappler.com
Original Article: https://rappler.com/nation/coronavirus-cases-philippines-august-3-2020
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines continued to increase on Monday, August 3, as over 3,000 newly-reported cases pushed the total confirmed cases further past 106,000. 

The Department of Health (DOH) said 3,226 new cases were reported by 66 out of 94 labs, bringing the total number of nationwide infections to 106,330. 

Among the top provinces where new cases were found were Metro Manila (1,541 cases), followed by Cebu (503 cases), Laguna (181), Rizal (158), and Cavite (129). 

The number of new cases reported on Monday was lower than previous days’ streak of record-breaking numbers, but showed the further spread of the virus as new infections were still among the highest recorded since the the start of the pandemic.  

The death toll due to the disease is now at 2,104, following 46 more deaths. Meanwhile, recoveries totaled 65,821, after 275 more patients were reported to no longer have the disease. 

Clusters

Meanwhile, the DOH said it was monitoring 887 clusters nationwide, 741 of which were found in communities.

Other clusters were found in the following areas: 

  • Hospital/Health Facility: 57
  • Jail/Prison: 26
  • Others (workplaces, accommodations, transportation): 63

Of the 887 clusters, 315 were in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak. 

Call for timeout

The continued increase in cases comes as President Rodrigo Duterte reverted Metro Manila and nearby province to an enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to August 18. The National Capital Region had earlier been placed under a general community quarantine that was supposed to last from August 1 to 15.

 

Duterte’s decision to tighten restrictions had been prompted by the medical community’s call for a two-week timeout, which medical experts and government officials could use to refine pandemic strategies. 

The medical sector earlier made the plea after it warned the country’s health system was overwhelmed by the surge in cases and that the Philippines was losing its battle against the coronavirus. 

The increasing number of cases in recent weeks has flooded hospitals in the capital region, putting a strain on limited critical care resources and further exhausting health workers who have been at the front lines of hospitals for months. 

While Duterte accepted their plea for a tighter quarantine, he expressed outrage at medical workers making their plea public and dared them to stage a revolution. Medical workers asserted they never made such a call, and urged the government to collaborate with them as the country’s enemy was COVID-19. – Rappler.com

‘COVID-19 is the enemy’: Stars defend medical frontliners against Duterte’s tirade

From Rappler.com.
Original Article: https://rappler.com/entertainment/celebrities/celebrities-defend-medical-frontliners-against-duterte-tirade

Angel Locsin, Bianca Gonzalez, Janine Gutierrez, and Vilma Santos are among those rally behind medical frontliners

Celebrities defended the country’s medical frontliners after President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at them for airing their concerns over the continued rise in COVID-19 cases via the media.

Actress Angel Locsin, who has been active in helping frontliners during the start of the lockdown reminded the government that COVID-19 was the enemy – and not the people.

Nung una, UP ang kalaban, ngayon naman health workers,” she wrote in an Instagram stories Monday, August 3, a reference to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s earlier comment about “beating” projections from university researchers last June.

(First, UP was the enemy, now it’s the health workers.)

Pagsuporta ang kailangan, hindi pagsindak. COVID po ang kalaban, hindi ang mamamayan.”(What they need is support and not threats. COVID is the enemy, not the people.)

In a separate post, Angel apologized to medical frontliners and assured them that everyone is behind them in the struggle against the virus.

Patawad kung minsan ay pasaway. Ngunit nais iparating, kakampi niyo kami, health workers. Mag do-doble ingat para makagaan sa pasanin kahit paano. ‘Wag sanang panghinaan ang inyong loob,” she said.

(Please forgive me if I’m stubborn. But I want all health workers to know that we are on your side. We will be extra careful so as not to be a burden to you. Please don’t give up.)

Mahal namin kayo. Naka-suporta kami sa inyo. Kailangan namin kayo. Kayong mga bayani sa giyerang ito. Maraming salamat sa sakripisyo para sa amin.” (We all love you. We’re all supporting you. We need you. You are the heroes of this war. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve done for us.)

TV host Bianca Gonzalez-Intal tweeting: “To our frontliners, words will never be able to express how thankful we are to all of you, pero sasabihin pa rin namin, maraming, maraming, MARAMING SALAMAT.”

TikTok comedian Macoy Dubs sympathized with medical workers who’ve been working ’round the clock, saying: “More than physical stress, bugbog na bugbog na rin sa mental stress ang mga medical / healthcare frontliners natin.” (More than physical stress, our medical/healthcare frontliners are also mentally stressed out.)

Actress Janine Gutierrez said: “Gulong-gulo sa mga pangyayari but one thing is for sure – salamat frontliners .” (So confused with that’s happening but one thing is for sure – thank you frontliners.)

Sportscaster and TV host Cesca Litton-Kalaw could not help ask why the medical workers were blamed during the speech.

Director Gino Santos and radio DJ and host Sam YG posted on Instagram: “It will take 20 years to replace a physician but only 3-6 years to replace our politicians. Let’s save our doctors!”

Batangas representative Vilma Santos-Recto earlier called on the government to listen to the medical workers.

On Sunday, it was announced that Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal would again be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine.

Members of the medical community later released a statement to remind Duterte of the same thing: that the virus – and not the medical community – was the enemy.

As of Monday, August 4, coronavirus cases in the Philippines reached more than 106,000– Rappler.com

Kapehan sa PAWIS: Conversations on the Lives and Struggles of Native Americans and the Lumads of Mindanao

On August 1, PAWIS successfully hosted the online webinar, “Conversations on the Lives and Struggles of Native Americans and the Lumads of Mindanao”. The webinar started with the usual workers rights update in the midst of the pandemic. The webinar then proceeded to talk about the lives and struggles of Native Americans. The discussion served to explain the current movements that called for the take down of racist statues all over the United States. The webinar ended with a presentation on the history and current struggles of of the Lumad, the indigenous people of the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

Pambansang Talakayan ng mga Migrante

In the midst of the worsening pandemic, we as migrant Filipinos, our families left in the Philippines and our relatives in other parts of the world are facing significant challenges.

On Saturday, July 25, Migrante hosted a national discussion to hear and share the stories, sentiments, and aspirations of Filipino migrants in the U.S. The discussion aimed to strengthen our unity as Filipino migrants here in the U.S to strengthen our fight for our rights and welfare in the U.S and for democracy in the homeland. Experiences, songs and poems were shared by a few of our kababayan from different parts of the U.S. A speaker from Migrante International reported on the conditions of our kababayan in different parts of the world and in the Philippines.

KAPEHAN SA PAWIS: Conversations on Workers’ Rights in the Time of COVID 19, Racism and Black Lives Matter

On July 18, 2020, PAWIS successfully hosted the online webinar, “Kapehan sa PAWIS: Conversations on Workers’ Rights in the Time of COVID 19, Racism and Black Lives Matter”. The webinar opened with updates on rights workers have amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. The webinar then preceded to a presentation black history and the role of systemic racism in the oppression of black people in this country followed by an open letter of a Filipino to his relatives on the issue of black lives matter.

FROM THE DUMPSTER TO THE GRAVE (SUMA 2020): DUTERTE’S GARBAGE-LIKE TREATMENT OF FILIPINO MIGRANTS AND FAMILIES

Prepared by Migrante International

Not so long ago, many Filipinos were already surviving on a hand-to-mouth existence. In the last four months however, even the most industrious of our kababayans have been reduced into hapless beggars in the streets as the most corrupt of Duterte’s cronies are living their grandest lives in paradise. The Duterte regime’s over reliance on its Labour Export Program is finally taking a toll as more than 551,000 overseas Filipino workers get displaced by the worst global recession ever to hit the world economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s. 

Battered by the world’s longest and harshest lockdown, the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) likely contracted to a whopping 14.3% in the second quarter according to UK-based Oxford economics. 

Exacerbating roots of forced migration and brewing unrest 

Presiding over the death of Philippine agriculture through the Rice Liberalization Law and the absence of a national industry that would withstand external economic turmoils, the Duterte regime is finding itself overwhelmingly polarized further from the masses with 14 Million Filipinos unemployed and 6.4 to 7 Million underemployed as of April. These numbers add up to 20 Million overall. The country’s 22% unemployment rate is the highest in many decades. Even before the COVID-19 global crisis, the Philippines has been consistent as having the highest unemployment rate in the entire Southeast Asian region. 

At least 5.2 million Filipinos experienced hunger in the last three months and the 20.9% hunger incidence rate is the highest since 2014. The increase in the prices of goods have gone unabated after Duterte signed the TRAIN Law in December 2017. Many Filipino households writhe with bill shock over the cost of electricity, water and other services. Meanwhile, Duterte’s economic mismanagement team is pushing for a cut on corporate income tax rates from 30% to 25% in July. 

In terms of social services, Duterte’s reallocation and realignment of budget through the BAHO Act (Bayanihan Heal As One) brought about the reduction of the education budget by Php 21.9 Billion. Last year, the Duterte regime halved the budget for the health department’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Program from P262.9 million in 2019 to only P115.5 million in 2020 while allocation for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine was slashed by 57%. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, there have been 19 countries that have standing travel advisories against the Philippines with the reappearance of polio after 19 years, all thanks to a very poor public healthcare system. Healthcare workers in the Philippines are not only being overworked and underpaid but are also being forced to work in overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed hospitals. This is exacerbating brain drain in the Philippines. In a country with a privately-dominated healthcare system, the Duterte regime’s much vaunted ‘Universal Healthcare Law’ which he signed last year is marred by corruption in Philhealth. Moreover, OFWs are strongly against the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate increase. 

At about this period last year, President Duterte had no qualms of vetoing even the sanitized version of the anti-endo bill going with the argument that it ‘destroys balance.’ Hypocritically his minions cited contractualization as one of their reasonings in shutting down ABS-CBN, the Philippine government itself is the chief implementer of contractualization with 600,000 government employees deprived of secure tenureship and access to benefits. 

Out of 195 countries in the world, the Philippines is among the world’s top 10 worst countries for workers according to the 2020 global rights index of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The country’s labour force are oppressed through contractualization, regionalization of minimum wage rates and the violent repression of workers through union-busting, red-tagging and murder. NCR’s minimum wage rate of Php 537 per day, the highest in the country, is way below the Php 1,400 / day or Php 42,000 / month  family living wage revealed by former Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). 

In December 2019, self-rated poverty was already at 54% which translates to 13.1 million families. Expect this number to be even higher now. The Duterte regime is using all manner of tricks to manipulate data and deceive the public just as how PSA pegged the poverty threshold to Php 10,727/month which is akin to the government telling us that any Filipino individual who earns 71 pesos a day is no longer considered poor. We find this ridiculous knowing that 71 pesos a day will never be enough to give a commuting worker a decent meal three times a day. How much more if we add the bills he has to pay plus other basic expenses?

VIP treatment of OFWs? 

President Duterte’s promise to Filipinos that working abroad will soon become an option is a hoax. The passage in the Lower House of the bill creating an OFW department only means that the government’s Labour Export Programme (LEP) is set to last far longer. But the current global crisis has really shown that over-reliance on LEP does not spur tenable development in the Philippines. 

Malacañang’s so called ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs is decoded as ‘Very Important Palagatasan’ in the manner by which the regime has forcefully extorted OFWs with all sorts of state exactions. The government did not even set a moratorium on monthly collections from OFWs at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Through the compulsory SSS, OFWs are required to pay for the employer’s share as well. Former SSS Chairman Amado Valdez has revealed SSS’ intention to divert reserve funds as additional investments in Duterte’s Build Build Build projects where profits go directly to big private contractors while OFWs would have to meet life-threatening accidents or even death before they could even get the additional insurance benefits promised to them by the government agency. The most despised Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) remains a money-making scheme that is being used by the government to forcibly collect other state exactions. 

The Universal Healthcare Law signed by President Duterte himself in February 2019 indicated an annual premium rate increase from the current 3% to 5% in 2025. This year alone, OFWs are expected to pay between Php 10,835 to Php 21,600 which is a one-year worth of Philhealth contribution. On 3 May, about 191 Filipino migrant organizations signed a joint position statement against PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 entitled “Premium Contribution and Collection of Payment of Overseas Filipino Member” which was made public on 22 April. Aside from this, there was an online petition opposing the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike which garnered 463,696 signatories. Scrambling to save face after a massive uproar from OFWs, Malacanang suspended the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. 

Nevertheless, the Duterte regime is pushing hard once more with its implementation despite enormous opposition from more than 80 Filipino migrant organizations from different leanings during an online consultation hosted by Philhealth on 3 July. Filipino migrants have been arguing that they are already covered by existing health insurance in host countries and Philhealth is not valid in overseas hospitals. The government is unmoved by the objection of OFWs. The Makabayan bloc in Congress has filed House Bill No. 6698 to amend the Universal Healthcare Law and remove the mandatory Philhealth, the penalty and the premium rate increase imposed on OFWs. 

The corruption scandal involving Philhealth officials remains unresolved. The agency lost Php 154 Billion to ghost patients, overpayment and fake deliveries. After Duterte asked all Philhealth board members to resign, Philhealth board member Francisco Duque III is exempted from investigations despite his involvement in the Php 500 Million malversation scandal in 2004. Very recently, COA flagged Philhealth’s overpriced IT project worth Php 2.1 Billion. COA auditors found irregularities. The Duterte regime seeks to penalize wretched OFWs if they fail to remit their Philhealth contributions while Philhealth itself reeks of corruption.  

Between the period 2019 to 2020, OWWA’s cash assets totaled Php 19.5 Billion. DFA has Php 1 Billion for its Assistance to Nationals and Php 200 Million as a Legal Assistance Fund. To date, 3,782 overseas Filipinos continue to languish in jail since there has been no adequate legal support for migrants facing legal cases abroad. 1000 of these jailed OFWs are in Saudi Arabia where 15 are currently on death row. In the case of Mary Jane Veloso, it took 10 years before she was given a chance to finally speak against her traffickers but her deposition is yet to become a reality despite the conviction of Mare Jane’s recruiters in January. Duterte is not doing anything for Mary Jane’s clemency. 

Over 400 OFWs have died in Kuwait alone in the past three years including Constancia Dayag and Jeanelyn Villavende. Duterte’s appointment of Mocha Uson as OWWA Executive director despite her ala rescue mission publicity stunt in Kuwait which endangered OFW lives continues to appall Filipino migrant communities. OFW victims and their families are deprived of welfare justice. During the Taal volcano eruption in January, affected OFW families only received between Php 1,500 and Php 3,000 each from OWWA’s Calamity Assistance Fund even for those OFWs who have been OWWA contributors for more than 20 years.  

We have seen how the government has handled the case of Mary Jean Alberto where it took 11 days before the Philippine embassy provided a lawyer to process the death certificate and reclaim her belongings. By then, the employer’s house had been cleared of possible pieces of evidence.

In the US, 70 Filipino teachers were among 300 victims of human trafficking. No concrete action from the Philippine embassy and consulates to address their pleas. In the Philippines, there has also been a proliferation of Japanese language schools victimizing students who pay up to US$5000 for placement, only to end up as manual labourers in Japan.

The Duterte regime pretends to solve the modern-day slavery of Filipino migrants by simply pimping them out from Kafala-imposing countries into what it sees as newer ‘labour markets’ like Russia and China. 

Middle East crisis

Failing to learn from the lessons of Iraq, Syria and Libya, the Duterte regime refused to take heed of repeated warnings and did not even bother to create a comprehensive evacuation plan. As early as the 2nd quarter last year, armed clashes between KSA and Yemeni forces have already reached deeper into Saudi territory especially in the border regions of Asir, Jizan, Najran where more than 40 thousand Filipinos live and work. While in Lebanon, stranded and distressed OFWs flocked to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut in December 2019 for mass repatriation. Many were dejected with the embassy’s instruction for them to submit documents like passport, birth and marriage certificate to avail of the government’s ‘one-time’ repatriation program. OFW victims of maltreatment argued that their documents are being withheld from them by their abusive employers. 

During the US-conflict with Iran, President Duterte did not take a strong stance against US military aggression in the Middle East. The US threat of war against Iran endangered the Middle East where about 2.4 Million Filipino migrants reside and work and the risks they faced were furthered by Duterte’s pro-US default position. Instead of sending a humanitarian mission composed of healthcare professionals, translators and social workers, Duterte tapped 800 soldiers for deployment. The militarization of the evacuation efforts from the Middle East jeopardized OFW safety. Duterte’s enemy tag on Iran only made AFP a hostile force in the Middle East which was detrimental to its supposed task of evacuating Filipinos to safety. It showed how the Duterte regime was more than willing to turn Filipinos in Iraq and Iran into collateral pawns in favour of US aggression against the Iranian people.

The appointment of DENR Secretary Cimatu in January 2020 as Middle East envoy was likewise reprehensible. Lest we forget that in 2003, it was none other than OWWA which confirmed that no evacuation took place at all during the US-Iraq War despite the release of US$293,500 to Pabaon General Cimatu. Instead, the budget allocation was used to purchase military assets and the troops sent were actually ordered to aid the US military in its terrorist war of aggression in Iraq. 

Economies of countries in the Gulf region are in the process of meltdown even before the global pandemic. 270 Filipinos were retrenched by Structurel and Qatar Airways in March. Over 23,000 Filipinos have lost jobs in Kuwait while 81,000 across the UAE were either terminated or under No-Work No-Pay status. Numbers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are believed to be even higher. Those who have retained employment are hit with 20% to 70% reductions in their salaries according to Migrante chapters in the Middle East. Contract substitution remains rampant. Many are being forced to work with unpaid salaries for months and subjected to physical and emotional abuse. 

COVID-19 crisis 

With 420,000 OFWs expected to be repatriated due to the crisis, remittances plunged to a 4-yr low  in April at $2.276 Billion, down 16.1% from $2.715 billion year on year. For the first four months of 2020, cumulative remittances was down to $10.494 Billion, a 2.9% decrease from $10.811 billion of the same period last year. In 2019, OFW remittances totaled $33.5 Billion, 10% of the Philippines’ GDP. Analysts expect remittances to plummet between $6.7 Billion to $10 Billion this year due to overseas mass retrenchments and displacements. 

As of 25 July 2020, there are 9,239 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 653 deaths among Filipinos abroad. 381 or 58% of recorded COVID-19 deaths are in the Middle East. The first reported case was in February when a seafarer was infected. Meanwhile, OFW families back in the Philippines are getting impoverished further by the world’s longest and harshest lockdown. Just as how the Duterte regime is mishandling the impacts of the Middle East crisis on OFWs, it does not have a comprehensive plan for Filipino migrants affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Migrante International and other sectoral groups even filed a Mandamus petition before the supreme court on 3 July to demand mass testing and release of accurate data. 

Over 550,000 Filipino migrants are surfacing as either displaced, terminated or under no-work no pay status. Day by day, OFWs are running out of cash to pay for their house rent, food, and other basic necessities.

President Duterte created a COVID-19 interagency task force without a single epidemiologist as member. After overborrowing hundreds of billions in loans and exacting higher state exactions, the government posted a budget surplus of Php 1.8 Billion in June and at the beginning of the lockdown, Duterte still asked for emergency powers despite having Php13 Billion as Contingency Fund and Php 16 Billion Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund. Migrant workers are always the government’s preferred extortion victims but they are never compensated with adequate welfare assistance. OFW families were also barred from availing DSWD’s Social Amelioration Package. 

Many of those who were repatriated found themselves stuck for a month-long incarceration period instead of the promised 14-days because of delays in the release of test results. Contrary to government propaganda of promised hotel accommodations, OFWs were seen in a viral video clip in April languishing in an overcrowded OWWA shelter in Pasay City. They already underwent proper isolation in Kuwait but were packed like sardines at the OWWA shelter, sleeping on floors, and subjected to food and water scarcity. 

Distressed OFWs fleeing detention-like quarantine facilities were treated like fugitive criminals while NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas, Mocha Uson, Koko Pimentel and Bong Go are enjoying full impunity. To date, nobody in the Philippine Coast Guard has been sanctioned for publishing on social media in May the google drive link containing a masterlist of OFW names who tested negative. The Google link was without online security to safeguard sensitive data and protect OFWs from identity theft.

The Duterte regime’s imposed entry quota in the early months of the lock down, from less than 1,000 then to 1,500 was only meant to buy time as the government scrambles to absorb the almost half a million Filipino migrants demanding repatriation and other assistance. DFA says that it will take until August before it is able to repatriate all 117,000 OFWs requesting for repatriation. The number should still be higher as there are still tens of thousands unable to leave the premises of their abusive employers who refuse to provide them with exit visas. DFA’s complacency with its figures show its lack of foresight which is disastrous for affected OFWs. 

DFA Usec. Sarah Arriola even went to the point of hurling cyberlibel and jail threats against starving OFWs in Saudi Arabia who posted online videos while they were scavenging for food from dumpsters after their pleas for urgent amelioration and repatriation remained unheard for months. DFA even lied claiming that an OFW has already been arrested for posting ‘staged’ videos on social media. The OFWs have denied this and none of them have been arrested. Jeffrey Yape, one of the fellow workers of scavenging OFWs died without receiving substantial help from the government. DFA Usec. Arriola would rather serve as damage controllers for abusive employers of exploited OFWs. Philippine Ambassador to KSA Adnan Alonto on the other hand insulted starving OFWs and tagged the viral video as mere theatrics. 

The string of suicide cases among stranded OFWs do not seem to alarm the Duterte regime. Without psychosocial support and substantial relief from the government, the militarized lockdown will surely take the hardest toll on the mental health of many OFWs displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Experts say that its impact on mental health could outlast the virus itself. Prior to getting repatriated, these OFWs have already endured traumatic experiences while working overseas. 

Believed to be caused by severe stress, anxiety and depression, an OFW in Pasay City committed suicide on 26 April. According to her fellow repatriates, she has already attempted suicide twice and they have been stuck at the quarantine facility since 3rd of April but were neither provided with substantial aid nor psychosocial support. Two seafarers also died of suicide in May and June aboard their cruise ships. On June 4, Melvin Cacho ended his life in Thailand after a prolonged period of depression. He recounted in the last words he penned that he was without work, without pay and has been unable to eat anything. Thailand is one of the many countries excluded from the Duterte regime’s DOLE AKAP cash aid program. In Alberta, Canada, workers complain that they only received $100 instead of $200. Located in Alberta, Cargill meat processing plant already has 1,000 cases of COVID-19 among its workers, majority of whom are Filipinos under the Temporary Workers Program. 

The DOLE AKAP’s $200 cash aid program excluded so many groups of Filipino migrants like OFWs in jail, trafficking victims, undocumented Halaw’s in Sabah, Au Pairs in Europe and J1 visa holders in the US. In Australia alone, there are 8,000 Filipino international students who have not received assistance from the Philippine government. They are prohibited from applying for work even as they continue to pay for housing rent and other expenses. As of July 4, there have already been 551,000 applications for assistance from land-based and sea-based workers according to DOLE. This reflects the total number of OFWs displaced by the COVID-19 crisis but only 188,000 who have received cash aid so far. Cash aid distribution is very poor considering that in Europe, there are 130,000 undocumented Filipinos and there are 100,000 seafarers worldwide waiting to receive cash aid. Labour secretary Bello fears that as many as 1 Million Filipino migrants will lose their jobs. The $200 cash aid won’t even suffice for one month to sustain the needs of their families. 

On March 29 and 30, there were 1,300 OFWs who trooped to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to process the DOLE AKAP cash aid and the food assistance promised by Labor Attache Nasser S. Mustafa.  It turned out that 5 to 9 OFWs were asked to divide among themselves the promised food assistance. The entire process was full of panic and stress. Philippine embassy officials harassed the OFWs and called the police to drive them out. Many OFWs were outraged since they feared being caught by the 3pm curfew and many of them travelled all the way from distant cities and locations in Saudi. 

As for Filipino migrants repatriated back to the Philippines, the world’s longest lockdown has left thousands of OFWs stranded in NCR. Many of these repatriates are now penniless after a month-long wait for medical services and financial aid that never came. OFWs complain that they are being dumped like garbage in Metro Manila’s airport terminals. Starved and made to sit close to heaps of junk airport equipment. Hundreds were likewise seen sleeping along roads, pathways and under bridges leading to NAIA. 

It can be also remembered that in April, OFWs en route to their quarantine facility in Lian, Batangas were stranded for almost 24 hours after the LGUs opposed the arrival of busloads of repatriates. LGUs blasted OWWA for failing to coordinate with local officials. The OFWs arrived at their quarantine facility famished and worn out. 

With the cessation of ship operations, 20,000 seafarers are already out of work. Tens of thousands of others remain stranded aboard their ships and are demanding repatriation. Seafarers Raul Calopez and Stanley Jungco died without receiving medical attention. Their cries for help directed to the Duterte government fell on deaf ears. House Bill 6588 or the Magna Carta of Seafarers filed by the Makabayan bloc which could have served better protection for Filipino seafarers remains out of the Duterte regime’s priorities. 

The militarized approach to address a public health emergency situation has made AFP very active in crafting Fascist methods to contain the movements of repatriates. In March, AFP Westmincom proposed to isolate 131 stranded ship passengers from Sabah in Sibakil Island where they will be confined in scorching tents. These Filipinos have already experienced all sorts of sufferings in Sabah including abuse, caning and imprisonment. Instead of prioritizing their welfare, AFP Westmincom was very keen on setting up a concentration camp for them in an uninhabited island far from healthcare and social welfare facilities. 

Duterte’s far-reaching Fascist tyranny

Filipino migrant communities overseas have not been spared by the Duterte regime’s Fascist assaults. The creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) also brought about the fielding of military attaches in Philippine embassies who conduct redtagging seminars to discredit right-based advocacies of migrants’ groups. 

At a time when the pandemic and humanitarian crisis was raging, NTF ELCAC funded military junkets like that of Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s  ‘peace briefing’ at the Philippine consulate in Melbourne, Australia where he red-tagged Migrante Australia and other progressive groups. NTF ELCAC likewise sponsored a redtagging fora conducted at the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos and University of St. La Salle on 24 August by 303rd IBPA in Bacolod City where Migrante International along with other rights-based groups were tagged as “NPA recruiters.”

For expressing her criticisms against the Duterte regime’s inutility, Elanel Ordidor was harassed by POLO officials in Taiwan which included Labor Attaché Fidel V. Macauyag. DOLE even raised a deportation order against Ordidor but their attempts were thwarted following denunciations from different rights groups in Taiwan and from Filipino organizations in other countries. 

Even worse, the Duterte regime is systematically persecuting and having a killing rampage against migrants rights advocates and ordinary members of OFW families. Bryan Conje, the son of a Saudi-based OFW was a victim of extrajudicial killing after he was reportedly abducted by elements of PNP in Navotas in July 2019. Anne Kreuger who worked closely with Migrante during the justice campaign for slain OFW Henry Acorda was among the Bacolod57 illegally arrested in November based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence planted by Bacolod PNP. On April 30, Jory Porquia was assassinated right inside his place of residence in Iloilo City. Porquia was a founding organizer of Migrante Iloilo and whose profession as an architect brought him to Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China as an OFW and migrant rights’ activist. 

The recent passage of the Terror Law is the Duterte regime’s nullification of democratic rights. Human rights groups know for certain that this will be used by the Duterte regime to persecute his critics and keep himself immune from liability for all atrocious crimes committed by state forces under his watch. 184 Filipino migrant organizations sent an open letter to the 18th Congress urging house representatives to prevent its enactment. Ignoring widespread opposition, President Duterte signed the Terror Bill. 

For freedom-loving Filipino migrants and their families, they will no longer be deceived by flowery and colourful words from President Duterte when he delivers his 2020 State of the Nation Address. Even outside of the Phlippines, Filipino migrants themselves are experiencing extortion, criminal negligence, harassment and terrorism from the Duterte regime. Filipino migrants and their families are more determined than ever to unite with the Filipino masses, to stand up and speak in the struggle to terminate the Duterte regime’s puppetry, corruption and tyranny. 

OPEN LETTER TO ALL MY KABABAYAN

 

Delivered by a PAWIS member at the 2020 PSONA
Philippine Consulate, San Francisco USA
July 27, 2020

 

Magandang Hapon po sa inyong lahat! Ako ay isang myembro ng Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants o PAWIS. Ako ay isang proud na caregiver dahil ang pagiging-caregiver ang bumuhay sa aking anak at pamilya sa Pilipinas. Tiniis ng mga migranteng manggagawa na tulad ko ang mawalay sa aming mga mahal sa buhay kahit sa mahabang panahon dahil sa kakulangan ng oportunidad sa ating bansa.

Dugo at pawis ang puhunan namin sa pagtatrabaho dito sa America. Ngunit sa kabila nito, marami sa sa mga migrante ang nata-traffic at karamihan ay naging biktima ng wage theft na tulad ko. Akala ng iba kung nasa Amerika kana, masarap ang buhay. Hindi lang nila alam kung gaano kahirap ang dinaranas ng maraming Filipino dito. At ang mas masaklap, kahit inaabuso ang mga manggagawang migrante sa mga host countries tulad ng America, walang paki-alam ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas sa amin. Oo, inaamin ko, ibinoto ko si Duterte dahil sa kanyang pangako’ng pagbabago. Ngayon, may nababago na ba sa mga buhay ng mga mahihirap sa Pilipinas? May nabago na ba sa kalagayan ng mga migrante sa ibang bansa na nangangailangan ng tulong? Nagsisisi na ako dahil sa isang boto, boto na napunta sa mga pangakong napako. Tulad na lang ng sinabi ni Duterte noong 2017, “he will never lift a finger” para tulongan ang mga undocumented workers America na ginigipit ni Trump. Nassan ang pusong makatao at maka-Pilipino ni Duterte? Undocumented man ang mga manggagawang Pilipino pero hindi sila inutil. Nakakatulong sila ng malaki sa bayan dahil dagdag ang pinapadala nilang pinaghirapang dolyar sa ekonomiya ng Pilipinas.

Maraming dumadaing, marami pang migrante ang nangangailangan ng tulong. Tuloy na bang nagbingibingihan ang administrasyong Duterte sa kanila? Wala namang pakialam si Duterte sa mga migrante. Kahit pa sumipsip sa gobyerno sa social media ang iba pang mga migrante na hanggang ngayon ay Dutertards pa rin. Nasaan ang tulong? Nasaan ang ayuda? Daan-daang mga OFWs ang napauwi dahil sa pandemic at na-stranded sa mga airports. Daan-daang seafarers din ang na-stranded sa mga barko. Marami na ring mga OFWs ang nag-suicide dahil sa kawalan ng pag-asa sa panahon ng pandemya. Dito sa US, ang mga J1 workers na ginawang mga cheap labor o utusan lang sa mga kusina ng mga hotels ay wala ring natanggap na tulong mula sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas ng sila ay tinanggal at ina-bandona ng kanilang mga amo sa nagsarang mga hotels. Ngayon sa panahon ng COVID, ang mga caregivers ay mga frontliners. Kami rin ay nababalot ng takot at nababahala dahil mataas ang posibilidad na maari kaming ma-infect dahil na rin sa ganitong klaseng trabaho. Nandyan pa ang kawalan ng PPEs at hindi naman nagbibigay ng health insurance ang mga may-ari ng carehomes. Mararami rin sa mga caregivers na matatanda at may underlying conditions. Ngunit mas lalong nagpapabigat sa kalooban namin ang nangyayari sa aming mga pamilya at komunidad sa Pilipinas na hanggang ngayon ay walang mass testing. Nasa ilalim pa rin ng enhanced quarantine at hindi sila makalabas ng basta basta. At ngayon nandito ang Anti-Terror Law na pansindak ni Duterte sa mga mamamayan upang takutin at hindi na magreklamo sa kanyang inutil na pamamalakad sa gobyerno.

Nasaan ang pangako ng pagbabago? Tayo lang pala ay ginagago! Si Duterte ay traydor ng sambayanang Pilipino. Traydor sya ng mga migrante. Nabalewala lang ang aking boto! At ngayon, gusto nya tayong patahimikin sa pamagitan ng Anti-Terror Law. Ito lang ang masasabi namin bilang mga mangagawa dito sa US — gagawin namin ang aming papel para suportahan ang pakikibaka ng mga maggagawa sa Pilipinas at nang buong sambayang Pilipino laban sa diktadurya ni Duterte! Patuloy kaming mag-iinggay laban sa Anti-Terror Law at patuloy naming abutin ang iba pang mga migranteng Pilipino at ipamulat sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa.

LABAN LANG MIGRANTE! MAKIBAKA, HUWAG MATAKOT!

Robredo hits Duterte SONA: Don’t just wait for COVID-19 vaccine

By: MARA CEPEDA

original article: https://rappler.com/nation/robredo-hits-duterte-sona-2020-do-not-just-wait-covid-19-vaccine

Vice President Leni Robredo said the Philippines will not be able to stop the crippling coronavirus pandemic if President Rodrigo Duterte’s government will just wait for a vaccine.

Robredo made the statement as she laid out a comprehensive list of suggestions on how the government can improve on its fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 29, just two days after Duterte drew flak for the absence of a COVID-19 pandemic masterplan in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). 

“Hindi mapipigil ang pandemya kung basta mag-aabang na lang tayo ng bakuna. Kailangang maampat ang pagkalat nito sa lalong madaling panahon,” the Vice President said in a video posted on her Facebook page. 

(The pandemic won’t be stopped by just waiting for a vaccine. We need to stop its spread as soon as possible.) 

Duterte revealed during his SONA that he had pleaded to China to “prioritize” the Philippines when it develops a COVID-19 vaccine. (READ: Why Duterte shouldn’t just wait for a vaccine from China)

In his almost two-hour speech, Duterte failed to lay out a clear plan to stem the surge of COVID-19 infections and instead launched fresh tirades against oligarchs. 

In contrast, Robredo was able to determine lapses in different aspects of the government’s COVID-19 response and provide concrete ways to fix them – all under 22 minutes.

Much of the Vice President’s proposals are rooted in her consultations with  public health experts, doctors, economists, frontliners, and sectors heavily affected by the pandemic, like drivers and locally stranded individuals.

‘Everything begins with data’

The Vice President reiterated how crucial accurate data is in the next steps the Duterte administration will take in fighting an enemy as formidable as COVID-19.

“Nagsisimula ang lahat sa tamang datos, na pundasyon ng tamang desisyon. Mula dito, matutukoy ang kung sino at aling mga lugar ang dapat tutukan pagdating sa mass testing, contact tracing, at suporta sa mga komunidad at ospital,” Robredo said. 

(Everything begins with data, which is the foundation of sound decisions. From here, we can then determine who and what are the places that we need to focus on for mass testing, contact tracing, and support for communities and hospitals.)

“Kung magiging tama ang tugon sa aspekto ng health care, mako-control ang community transmission, magiging mas mabilis, ligtas, at strategic ang pagbubukas ng ekonomiya, maiiwasan ang pagkawala ng trabaho, at hindi na dadami pa ang dadanas ng kahirapan,” she added. 

(If we respond well in the aspect of health care, then we can control community transmission, make the reopening of the economy faster, safer, and more strategic, and we can avoid job losses and a scenario wherein people are further sinking into poverty.)

Robredo had already outlined some of these suggestions way back on June 30, when she sent a letter to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque after the latter said they are open to the Vice President’s proposed solutions to the health crisis. (READ: Robredo’s suggestions to Duterte admin: Ways to improve fight vs coronavirus)

8 suggested ways to fix lapses

The Vice President identified 8 key shortcomings in the Duterte administration’s ongoing response to the pandemic and provided solutions to fix these problems.

Problem 1: COVID-19 data riddled with errors, inconsistencies

Robredo’s solution: Different experts have devised platforms to serve as repository of COVID-19 data. The Duterte government should study which among these are the most reliable and effective, then adopt this system.

“Linisin at pabilisin ang pagkalap ng datos ukol sa COVID-19. Kung magagawa ito, magiging mas matibay ang pinagmumulan ng mga desisyon, polisiya, at programa para mapigilan ang paglaganap ng virus,” said Robredo.

(Clean up the data and hasten data-gathering methods on COVID-19. If we can do this, then we can strengthen the basis for decisions, policies, and programs aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.)

Problem 2: Slow data validation process by the Department of Health (DOH)

Robredo’s solution: The DOH can tap into universities and other academic institutions to help them validate data on COVID-19 infections. 

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“Maraming gustong tumulong, pero may mga pagkukulang sa volunteer management process. Ilista ang mga handang tumulong at ang kanilang kakayahan, at agad na silang iugnay sa mga unit na nangangailangan ng tulong upang ma-maximize ang kakayahang ito,” said the Vice President

(There are a lot of people who want to help, but there are lapses in the volunteer management process. List down all of those who want to help, identify their capabilities, then link them to those in need to maximize this capacity.)

Robredo also suggested the Duterte government to consider pooled testing of suspected cases of COVID-19.

Halimbawa na lang, puwede nilang pag-aralan ang surveillance at pooled testing: Igugrupo ang mga tao at ite-test nang minsanan ang grupong ito. Kung nag-negative na, hindi na sila kailangang isa-isahin pa. Sa ganitong paraan, mas marami ang mate-test, pero mas makakatipid sa mga testing kit,” said the Vice President.

(For example, they can study the use of surveillance and pooled testing. Suspected cases will be grouped and tested together just once. If they test negative, they won’t have to be tested one by one anymore. This way, we can test more people and use fewer testing kits.)

Problem 3: Backlogs in releasing COVID-19 test results and slow contact tracing

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Robredo’s solution: The Duterte government should determine which laboratories are recording these backlogs and move to augment their resources so the pending COVID-19 swabs can already be processed. 

The Vice President also proposes for the national government to adopt Baguio City’s effective contact tracing model and apply it to the rest of the country.

Problem 4: The plight of locally stranded individuals

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President said stranded Filipinos must undergo COVID-19 testing for free first before the government brings them back to their home provinces. Temporary shelters that follow physical distancing rules should be provided for them.

Robredo also said local government units should get the necessary support so they can provide enough cash-for-work programs for Filipinos left jobless by the pandemic.

Problem 5: Public health professionals are not being given enough space to lead the response

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President agrees with the government’s push to have a “whole-of-nation” approach in battling COVID-19. But she said this goes beyond making new positions to handle aspects of the response, as the right people should be appointed to lead this fight. 

“Maisagawa sana ito higit pa sa pagkakaroon ng mga bagong posisyon, bansag, o titulo ng mga tauhan. Ang totoong whole-of-nation approach, maayos ang pangangasiwa at kumukumpas sa iisang direksyon. Aling direksyon at sino ang kukumpas? Dapat public health professional na tunay na nakakaintindi ng problema,” said Robredo.

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(May we go beyond just giving new positions and titles to officials. The true whole-of-nation approach is all about good management and a clear direction. What direction should we take and who should lead the way? Public health professionals, because they’re the ones who truly understand the problem.)

Problem 6: Efforts of the public and private sectors are not always harmonized

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President said the government should closely work with the private sector so all efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 are in sync. 

Problem 7: Overwhelmed hospitals

Robredo’s solution: Hospitals should always be the top priority, especially in terms of funding.

“Siguruhin na equitable at sistematiko ang pagbubuhos ng resources sa mga ospital para makasabay sila sa demands ng pandemya,” said the Vice President. 

(Ensure there is an equitable and systematic way of allocating resources to hospitals so they can keep up with the demands of the pandemic.)

Problem 8: Lack of support for overall well-being of frontliners

Robredo’s solution: Apart from providing frontliners with enough protective gear, the Vice President said the government should also give them access to free counseling services to protect their mental health. 

She said hazard pay should also be increased.

“Magpatupad din dapat ng sistema para hindi sila maburnout, tulad ng maayos na proseso ng pagrelyebo. Sang-ayon din tayo na dapat maging mas makatarungan ang pasahod sa kanila lalo na sa panahong ganito,” said the Vice President. 

‘Reclassifying’ businesses: Task force’s way of reopening economy without changing quarantine modes

By: PIA RANADA

Original article: https://rappler.com/nation/reclassifying-businesses-task-force-way-reopening-economy-without-change-quarantine-modes

The Philippine coronavirus task force had a problem. Many of the country’s major cities, including the capital Metro Manila, remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) due to high COVID-19 infection rates.

But businesses, small and big alike, are floundering because of restrictions on their operations. They’re losing money fast and they fear having to fire employees or end their enterprise altogether.

The government task force’s fix? Instead of waiting for coronavirus infections to drop in these cities in order to safely transition to the looser quarantine classification of MGCQ (modified general community quarantine), they just “reclassified” businesses they previously deemed too dangerous to open under GCQ.

We saw this “strategy” in action when Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced that gyms, fitness studios, and personal grooming services will be allowed in all GCQ areas starting August 1.

But these types of establishments were previously considered too risky to open up under GCQ. They were among the “Category IV” industries that would only be allowed under MGCQ.

But in one move, the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowed most Category IV industries to operate in GCQ areas like Metro Manila.

One resolution, Resolution No 59, was all it took.

“The IATF approves the recommendations of the Department of Trade and Industry to recategorize Category IV industries to Category III industries thereby allowing their limited operations in areas under General Community Quarantine,” reads the document dated Tuesday, July 28.

They made some exceptions. Category IV establishments like live concerts, art galleries, museums, and tourism destinations remain in the category and thus prohibited under GCQ. They also stipulated that tattoo and body piercing services are not among the aesthetic services now placed under Category III. Thus, they are still prohibited under GCQ.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also specified that gyms for contact sports like boxing, wrestling, karate, and the like still aren’t allowed under GCQ because of a provision elsewhere in the quarantine rules that bans contact sports.

Still, there was a reason why gyms and fitness studios were deemed too risky to be allowed under GCQ. Experts all over the world have said physical exercise in indoor spaces like gyms could cause infections.

This is because the sustained heavy breathing that comes from exercise, combined with confined spaces that may not be well ventilated, could lead to virus-carrying droplets transferring from one person to another.

To address this concern, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Health (DOH) are supposed to formulate health protocols to be required in gyms.

The decision to allow more businesses may soon apply to Metro Manila, the source of most new infections reported daily and which was nearly placed back on lockdown, or modified enhanced community quarantine, by Duterte if not for the appeal of mayors.

Metro Manila is under GCQ until July 31. GCQ in the megacity has been extended thrice after it was first declared on June 1. Its mayors are recommending an extension of this in August.

The “reclassifying” of businesses done by the task force renders the community quarantine classifications – ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, MGCQ – near-meaningless.

Why have different quarantine modes when the government will just change the restrictions that define those quarantine modes to begin with?

But it could also be the government’s way of conceding that its lockdowns, as initially formulated, were too harsh and there is now more wiggle room because the hospital capacity has been given a boost.

Roque hinted that the quarantine classifications may not play as pivotal a role in the government’s pandemic response after July 31.

“Let’s put it this way: sometimes we have to rely less on classifications. We need to be more innovative in our response,” he told CNN Philippines’ Pinky Webb when she asked what new quarantine classification for Metro Manila the task force is recommemding to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Philippine coronavirus cases breach 85,000


by LIAN BUAN

original article: https://rappler.com/nation/coronavirus-cases-philippines-july-29-2020

There are now 85,486 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, July 29.

The DOH confirmed 1,874 new cases on Wednesday, based on tests done by 83 out of 91 current operational laboratories.

Among areas, Metro Manila recorded the highest number among the new cases – 728 – followed by Cebu with 325.

The DOH reported 16 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,962. DOH data showed that one of the deaths just reported on Wednesday happened in March, 3 in May, 6 in June, and 6 in July. (READ: No mention of COVID-19 response roadmap in Duterte’s SONA

Of the total number of COVID-19 cases, 56,528 are active cases.

The DOH said most of the cases, or 90.1%, are mild. Asymptomatic cases make up 9%, severe cases 0.5% and critical cases 0.4%.

The DOH also said that it has 11,859 tests backlog for validation as of July 26.

According to the DOH, occupancy for coronavirus and non-coronavirus beds are now at the “warning zone” nationwide.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced Wednesday that it will now allow gyms, internet cafes, drive-in cinemas to reopen, but only at 30% capacity, and only in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas.

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The current quarantine protocols will expire on Thursday, July 30, but the government has yet to make any new announcements on new community quarantine measures. – Rappler.com

PAWIS Joins and Speaks at People’s SONA 2020 San Francisco

Op-Ed: State’s $1,000-a-Day Offer to Care Homes a ‘Bounty’ That Endangers Staff, Patients

By Ruth Silver-Taube, Felwina Opiso-Mondina and Justher Gutierrez/ May 18, 2020

On May 1, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) announced its offer to pay residential care facilities with six beds or less $1,000 a day to house COVID-19 patients. And it requested that larger care facilities indicate their interest to do so.

By the first day of the month, however, these facilities were already hotbeds of the virus.

According to CDSS figures released May 3, nearly 10,000 patients and staff in long-term care facilities statewide had tested positive for the coronavirus, and 926 had died. As of this past weekend, Santa Clara County assisted living, skilled nursing, independent living and board and care facilities had confirmed 475 cases, 85 hospitalizations and 56 deaths.

Nearly half of all deaths related to COVID-19 in California are linked to elder care facilities. That figure is more than 40 percent in Santa Clara County.

Despite these harrowing statistics, the state is offering residential care facilities a $1,000-a-day bounty to bring COVID-19 positive patients into facilities that are staffed by workers who themselves are often at high risk for the disease and that already house vulnerable elderly patients. According to a May 4 Mercury News article, Mike Dark, a staff attorney for watchdog group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, wrote that that “these facilities are lacking in protective equipment for staff” and the staff are “just as vulnerable” as residents.

L.D.—a residential facility caregiver of 12 years who does not want to provide her name out of fear of retaliation—is one of those vulnerable workers.

“If my employer accepts COVID-19-positive patients, there is a high risk that I will get infected,” she said. “Like most caregivers, my employer does not offer us health insurance, and I am just earning minimum wage. I am scared not just for myself but for my family who depends on me for financial support if I get infected. With my asthma and elevated blood pressure, I could die of this virus.”

Ranela Placides, a caregiver for eight years at various residential care homes, currently works at a facility that lacks protective equipment for staff. She disclosed how, at the start of the stay-at-home order, her employer just gave her four masks. She said her co-workers were given the same number and that they were instructed to spray the masks with disinfectants and air dry them after each use. They are reusing the masks as well as the disposable gloves, she said.

“There is not enough PPE [personal protective equipment] in the care home I work for,” she said. “My co-workers and I are very worried that we will get infected if we have to take care of COVID-19 positive patients.”

The lack of PPE at residential care homes has been such a problem that the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants (PAWIS) has been distributing equipment donated by Stanford University students and private individuals to care home workers throughout the South Bay. The California Department of Social Services may call care home workers essential, but it treats them as disposable.

Caregivers in residential facilities are not required to have medical training and their job is to assist residents with medication, feeding, dressing, grooming and bathing. In a May 4 interview with KPBS, Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long-Term Care Medicine noted that these facilities are “not hospitals” and are not “medically structured.” He couldn’t think of a single assisted living facility in the state that “is prepared to handle COVID-19-infected people.” He called the current approach “naive” and “ignorant” and warned that this approach “will get more people killed.”

Although the state Department of Social Services has asked residential care facilities to segregate COVID-19 patients and the staff that cares for them, it has not ruled out mixing coronavirus positive and negative patients and utilizing the same staff if there is no other option, despite the fact that COVID-19 is highly contagious.

According to research published in the The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the simple act of talking can launch thousands of droplets so small that they can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes. The droplets may land on surfaces like doorknobs, where people can touch lingering virus particles and transfer them to their face, but some droplets can remain aloft and be inhaled by others. It is, therefore, highly likely that even if there is segregation residential care facility staff and patients who are not sick will become infected.

COVID-19-positive patients pose a mortal danger to the staff and to the medically fragile and elderly residents in these facilities. Residential care homes are not equipped to house coronavirus-positive patients. In a May 6 KPBS interview, UCSF nursing professor emeritus Charlene Harrington called the status quo“criminal.”

We urge the California Department of Social Services to abandon its ill-conceived and potentially criminal decision for the safety of the staff and the patients they care for.

Ruth Silver Taube coordinates the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition. Felwina Opiso-Mondina is a member of PAWIS. Justher Gutierrez is a Filipina community organizer. Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to comments@metronews.com.

PAWIS Statement on the BLACK LIVES MATTER Movement

PAWIS stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protestors and supports the Black Lives Matter movement.

The death of George Floyd and the thousands of black people due to police brutality is rooted in racism, the belief that one race is superior over the others. As immigrants in this country, we condemn racism and oppressive policies.

We urge our kababayans who are scared of protests and who have been annoyed with the looters and protestors during the early days of the protests to really understand the context of the Black Lives Matter movement that is sweeping across the US today. Let us not forget that the rights and privileges we now enjoy in this country were fought for by our black brothers and sisters which resulted in the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. If black people did not fight then, immigrants would not have the right to become citizens or be considered citizens, will not be allowed to vote, to own properties and to use the bathrooms used by white people. And most importantly, we will not have the right to marry white people.

The pandemic shatters the American dream bubble and exposes the deep class inequality in America. Majority of the people who died from COVID19 are from black and brown communities. The situation is exacerbated by a racist President who does not believe in science and is proven time and again to be anti-immigrant.

 

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The fight of our Black brothers and sisters for a dignified life, living wage, free health care, access to resources, among others, is also our fight. Their freedom is also our freedom. Let us stand with them in their struggle for the realization of a society devoid of any form discrimination and exploitation.

Metro Manila’s COVID-19 bed capacity in ‘danger zone,’ 4 regions at warning level – Rappler.com

Article by Rambo Talabong
Original article:
https://rappler.com/nation/metro-manila-danger-zone-other-regions-warning-level-coronavirus-bed-capacity-july-2020


The Department of Health urges hospitals to free up more beds for coronavirus patients

Metro Manila has reached the “danger zone” in terms of bed capacity for coronavirus patients, while 4 other regions were already at the warning level, Department of Health (DOH) data showed on Tuesday, July 14.

According to data by the DOH, 76% of beds for COVID-19 patients in the National Capital Region (NCR) have already been occupied, placing it in the “danger zone” for nearing full capacity.

The following regions, meanwhile, were classified as areas in the “warning zone” for having at least 30% of their isolation beds for COVID-19 patients already occupied:

Central Visayas – 64%
Calabarzon – 60%
Davao Region – 41%
Central Luzon – 32%

Why it matters: Bed capacity is essential in the country’s healthcare system when responding to the virus, as beds are the means for patients to be monitored, isolated, and treated.

This latest development coincides with the uptick in coronavirus cases amid the easing of lockdowns to revive the country’s economy.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines recorded a total of 57,545 coronavirus cases, including 1,603 deaths and 20,459 recoveries.

What the DOH wants you to know: The high bed occupancy rates could be lowered, the DOH said, if more hospitals followed their guidelines that 30% of their beds be converted to COVID-19 beds.

So far, only 14% of hospital beds across the country have been converted to COVID-19 beds. Only 9% of private hospital beds and 20% of public hospital beds have been converted.

Aside from this, the government is planning on transferring COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who are already recovering to government isolation facilities to free up more hospital beds for those who need them more. – Rappler.com

Scrap Mandatory PhilHealth and Premium Increase! Support Genuine Free, Universal Healthcare – MIGRANTE USA

We, overseas Filipinos, OFWs, reaffirm and express our strong and collective opposition to the mandatory PhilHealth membership and premium increase.

The mandatory PhilHealth membership and premium rate hike was signed into law through the passage of the Universal Healthcare Act (UHC) signed by President Duterte on February 20, 2019.

OFWs and Overseas Filipinos are already covered by existing health insurance programs in their host countries and will not benefit from PhilHealth. Without bilateral agreements with host countries, OFWs will be forced to pay for their employer’s contributions and will be penalized if they fail to remit their PhilHealth contributions. The mandatory membership and premium increase further overburdens our OFWs who are already charged with other mandatory government fees whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID19 pandemic and have not received financial assistance from the Philippine government.

Merely suspending the collection of the mandatory PhilHealth premium increase during the pandemic is not enough. Provisions of the UHC must be amended to remove the mandatory collection among OFWs and overseas Filipinos, and the premium increase.

Therefore, we support the urgent passage of House Bill 6698, filed on May 7, 2020 that would allow VOLUNTARY membership among overseas Filipinos, remove the “double payment”, and compounded interest for unpaid premium, and unjust premium increase by amending provisions of the UHC Law.

We call on members of Congress and Senate to support the passage of House Bill 6698.

We call on President Duterte to certify urgent House Bill 6698 by the time he delivers his annual state of the nation address (SONA).

OUR DEMANDS:

1. Scrap mandatory PhilHealth membership for OFWs and Overseas Filipinos

2. No to premium increase

3. Certify urgent and Pass House Bill 6698

4. Establish a genuine, pro-people, universal health care program through free and comprehensive medical and health services

5. Enhance and strengthen the public health care system in the Philippines

Kapehan sa PAWIS: Conversations on the Anti-Terror Law

On July 11, 2020, PAWIS successfully hosted the online webinar, “Kapehan sa PAWIS: Conversations on the Anti-Terror Law”. The webinar opened with news and updates for workers regarding their rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar then proceeded to discuss how the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Act by the Duterte administration works and how it applies to overseas Filipino workers as well informing them their rights under the Philippine and US constitutions.

Virtual Know Your Rights Training 06/27/20

On June 27, 2020, the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants(PAWIS), in partnership with the Asian Law Alliance and the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition successfully hosted its first virtual Know Your Rights Webinar over zoom. The webinar generated 35 participants, 20 of whom are workers. Kiriko Takahashi and Donnalynn Rubiano presented on immigration rights while Prof. Ruth Silver Taube presented on employment rights.

Filipinos and Allies Demand Immediate Junking of Terror Bill; Community Groups Hold Action in Milpitas

Milpitas, CA: On Philippine Independence Day June 12, 2020, community groups from the South Bay and Tri-City areas held an action to amplify community concerns around the Anti-Terrorism Bill, to demand an immediate junking of the bill, and to continue to advocate for human rights in the Philippines amidst Duterte’s de facto martial law.

 

Last week, the House of Representatives in the Philippines fast-tracked the approval of HB 6875, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. We see this bill as a cause for grave concern and an imminent threat to civil and democratic rights in the Philippines. Our main worries for the threat the bill poses lie in the overly broad definitions of “terrorism”, the specter of a police state, and the implications for Filipinos abroad.

 

“As Fil-Am college students, we try our best to stay connected with the Philippines. And we’ve seen how many people have spoken out against Duterte’s presidency. Philippine college students have been vocal in demanding changes from their government. And during this time of high social unrest, we see just how important it is for communities to organize and speak out against injustices. But the Anti-Terrorism Bill infringes on constitutional rights like the freedom of speech and the right to organize. This bill, which broadens the definition of terror, effectively silences the community,” stated Trizha Aquino, spokesperson of Barkada at Santa Clara University.  

 

“Yes it is Philippine Independence Day but we suffered centuries of oppression, systemic racism, and injustices in the Philippines. Even here in America, the Black community is fighting for their rights. So we stand here today, liberated as a community, fighting against the injustices and inequalities that we face as a people,” stated Kyle Decallos, President of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth San Jose Chapter.

 

Justher Gutierrez, Regional Coordinator of MALAYA Movement Northern California stated that “in the midst of this pandemic, the Duterte administration has deemed the Anti-Terror Bill as a piece of urgent legislation. We know that this legislation will not protect the people. In fact, it will wreak the havoc it claims it will prevent.” Gutierrez calls on all Filipinos and allies to continue to voice their dissent and take organized action to have legislators and community groups to support the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act.    

 

While the Anti-Terrorism Bill awaits Duterte’s signature to be passed, Filipinos and allies in South Bay and Tri-City areas remain vigilant and will continue to advocate for human rights in the Philippines.  

 

Link: Livestream footage of the action 

 

This action was co-organized by MALAYA Movement South Bay, MALAYA Movement Tri-City, BAYAN South Bay, Kabataan Alliance at San Jose State University, and Diwang Kabataan

 

This action was co-sponsored by Maiz San Jose, Gabriela at Stanford University, Pilipino American Student Union at Stanford University, Barkada Santa Clara University, Filipino American Law Society at Santa Clara University, Anakbayan De Anza, and Anakbayan Silicon Valley  

 

MALAYA Movement is an international organization that opposes killings and dictatorship and stands for democracy in the Philippines.  

National Situationer

On May 2, 2020, the Philipino Association of Workers and Immigrants(PAWIS), in collaboration with Migrante USA, Bayan USA, and Malaya movement successfully hosted the Philippine National Situationer in the Time of Covid-19 and Duterte. The situationer featured guest speakers Teddy Casino and Carlos Isagani T. Zarate.  Casino is a former Bayan Muna house representative while Zarate is the current Bayan Muna house representative. The situationer shed light into the current national situation of the Philippines and the lackluster response of the Duterte Administration in response to the Covid 19 crisis as well as the escalation of facism of the Philippine government.

PAWIS PPE DRIVE

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PAWIS delivered PPEs to care facilities in San Jose affected by COVID19 (Mt. Pleasant and Canyon Springs) as well as to other care facilities/care homes (Elwyn California, El Sereno, At Home Senior Care) and allied organizations (Day Worker Center of Mountain View and Fight for 15). We also gave PPEs to some nurses at Kaiser, caregivers and postal workers. Shout-out to the makers of the faceshields- Bonifacio “Bon” Capuyan, Erin and Danny and to Jamie, the medical students of Stanford University and the awesome Ethan Chua for facilitating and bridging the PPE sources to PAWIS. To our big hearted donors, PAWIS made sure that the PPEs also went to ordinary essential workers struggling in the frontlines.
PAWIS also delivered Ube Halaya and cloth masks to its members and contacts.
Thank you to our delivery persons: Tess, Jude, Pura and hubby, Donnalynn and daughter.
Salamat din Pastor Ruth Casipit Paguio and Fr. David Starr for the use of the parking lot of the Holy Family Episcopal Church as our rendezvous point.

[OPINION] It’s our dissent that will save us

Source: Rappler
Author: Teddy Casiño

Stay home. Be quiet. We’re on it. Just wait. Help will come. Trust us. Do as you’re told or else.

These, in a nutshell, were the key messages pounded on the public by President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials in the 3 weeks that the entire Luzon and other parts of the country have been on lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But each message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Many people have been going out, speaking out, challenging government’s response to the crisis and overcoming the limits set by the lockdown. This is certainly not a bad thing.

The outrage over the government’s late and tepid response to the COVID-19 threat started in late January, following Duterte’s initial refusal to impose a travel ban from China despite mounting evidence that travelers were spreading the virus outside Wuhan. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told senators that the travel ban was a “very tricky and difficult issue” due to diplomatic and political repercussions. As late as January 24, tourists from Wuhan were still arriving in droves in Boracay.

Duterte’s stubborn deference to China was roundly criticized in mainstream and social media. The public outrage gave rise to the hashtag #OustDuterte which trended on Twitter on Janurary 31, the same day government finally imposed the travel ban.

Later on, again kowtowing to China, Duterte imposed a travel ban on Taiwan despite its low incidence of infection and absence of local transmission. The public uproar initiated by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Taiwan’s threat to retaliate forced Duterte to rescind his illogical order.

Downplaying the threat

After the travel ban fiasco, Duterte and his officials spent the next 3 weeks giving assurances that government was on top of the situation and that the country’s health system was well prepared for the pandemic. On February 4, Duque announced that Duterte had “approved in principle” P2.25 billion for personal protective equipment (PPEs) for 5,000 health workers. He also claimed on February 29 that the country had enough testing facilities to accommodate the expected surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We are prepared to handle this public health emergency in case the worst scenario happens,” Duterte told media on February 10, threatening to slap the virus and calling it “gago.”

It was obvious that the threat of a local outbreak was being belittled by no less than the President. At one point, he even ridiculed the safety protocols issued by the Department of Health (DOH), insisting on shaking hands and holding public meetings.

 

Cabinet sings same tune

The President’s attitude rubbed off on his officials.

On February 18, more than two weeks after the first reported Covid-19 case in the country, tourism secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat announced the government’s plan to promote tourism despite public concern over the disease. “It’s safe to come to our country. No local transmission (of Covid-19) and the hotels and restaurants are ready,” she declared in a vain hope to spur local tourism and bring in guests from South Korea, the US, Australia, Japan and Europe.

Two days later, she also announced the holding of a nationwide mall sale from March 1-31 – dubbed the 2020 Philippine Shopping Festival – to promote the country as a “fun, unique and affordable shopping destination.”

As late as March 9, despite the DOH’s declaration of a Code Red Sub-Level 1 alert and Duterte’s declaration of a public health emergency due to confirmed cases of local transmission, the President was still in a state of denial, announcing plans to visit Boracay with Romulo to encourage local tourism.

In contrast to Duterte’s nonchalance and in spite of Duque’s assurances that the DOH was ready and equipped to handle the threat, many health experts and professionals, policy makers, health workers organizations and concerned citizens persistently aired their doubts about the health system’s readiness to address the pandemic.

Of particular concern was the minimal testing and contact tracing being done, the shortage of face masks and other PPEs for health workers, the lack of quarantine and treatment facilities, including trained personnel. Critics noted the P147.4 million reduction in the DOH’s budget for disease surveillance as well as the P6 billion cut in its Health Systems Strengthening Program. Many demanded an immediate rechanneling of funds and resources to upgrade public hospitals and even baranggay health facilties for the expected local outbreak. The many issues and concerns raised by government critics forced the public to take a hard look at government’s response to the health crisis. It forced a healthy debate that extended into the corridors of power. But all we got were more assurances that everything was being addressed.

Lockdown, emergency powers

The March 12 announcement of a lockdown confirmed our worst fears about government’s unpreparedness and lack of a comprehensive plan to address COVID-19.

The first meeting of the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) chaired by Duque was held on January 28, more than 20 days after China confirmed the corona virus outbreak. But for the next 4 weeks, the body overseeing the government’s comprehensive response to Covid-19 focused its attention on travel restrictions and quarantine protocols for foreign travelers and returning Filipinos, leaving all health matters to the DOH.

Unfortunately, just like Duterte, the DOH itself appeared to have underestimated the threat. On Febrary 28, Duque even announced that the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) in the country was decreasing, with those found negative of COVID-19 on the rise.

The DOH reported having no new cases for two consecutive weeks, earning a citation from the World Health Organization (WHO). Duque later admitted to Congress that he should have declared a public health emergency much earlier than the President’s March 8 declaration.

By this time, the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases was rising steeply by the day. Hospitals were reaching full capacity. Apparently the low number of confirmed cases in the country was due to the low number of tests being done and the negligible effort at tracing possible COVID-19 carriers. As a result, the DOH could not determine the actual extent of community infection. And even if it did, there were no quarantine centers to accommodate suspected carriers of the virus.

In a desperate move to contain the virus’ spread, Duterte adopted the IATF’s recommendation to subject the entire Metro Manila area to a lockdown by March 15. This caused widespread panic buying, a mass exodus from Metro Manila, massive traffic jams and throngs of stranded commuters trying to get in the next day, defeating the quarantine’s objective.

Finally, on March 16, Duterte expanded the lockdown to the entire Luzon Island, creating new and bigger problems on top of existing ones.

The lockdown measures aimed to impose strict social distancing protocols and limits on the movement of persons. But it was utterly lacking in health measures and steps to mitigate the lockdown’s impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods.

For two weeks, no one could give a straight answer on how many PPEs would be acquired by government, when, and how they would be distributed. No one could explain why VIPs were being tested yet ordinary PUIs were not. Nobody knew the protocols and mechanisms for putting up quarantine centers. And it seemed local government units (LGUs) were being left on their own to address the people’s health needs as well as the economic needs of those dislocated by the lockdown.

Worse, Duterte was asking for a draconian emergency powers law that was unnecessary and did not categorically address the many gaps in his government’s response to the crisis. With the lockdown in place, people took to social media to air their objections and suggestions.

The hashtags #NoToEmergencyPowers and #DuterteResign trended highly on Twitter in the run-up to Congress’ Mar. 24 special session to act on the measure.

Fortunately, Congress was listening. It struck down the unconstitutional provisions of the draft bill and tempered some draconian features. The Senate in particular put in clear and definite measures regarding the budget and the various health and socio-economic measures to address the crisis.

From dissent to concrete action

By the time Duterte imposed the lockdown on Luzon, groups and individuals critical of the government’s response took to social media not only to pressure the government to act on their demands but to organize networks to meet those needs without government help. Criticism and protest had turned into concrete action, whether by the critics or the objects of their criticism.

Powerful hashtags like #MassTestingNowPH, #NoToVIPTesting and #ProtectFrontliners captured the demands of a disgruntled public, resulting in changes in the way government has responded to Covid-19.

Likewise, hashtags like #TanongNgTaongBayan and #NasaanAngAyuda captured the demands for urgency and transparency with regards to government’s response to the people’s health and socio-economic needs, providing much needed pressure for government to act. The sense of protest and outrage over government inaction and incompetence has spurred ordinary citizens to use social media to creatively fill the gaps in providing food, transportation and PPEs to health workers; giving relief packs to poor families and vulnerable communities; and even raising bail for those arrested during the lockdown.

As always, social media’s backlash to Duterte’s fascist moves was immediate and fierce. A few minutes after Duterte’s April 2 rant where he ordered the police and baranggay tanods to shoot quarantine violators if they felt threatened, the hashtag #OustDuterteNow trended, gathering almost half a million tweets until the wee hours of the morning.

The next day, the President was compelled to clarify his pronouncements.

What all this indicates is that in the time of Covid-19, dissent is not only healthy. Given government’s bungling, militarist response to the crisis, it is our dissent that will save us. – Rappler.com

Demand Just Treatment for Grand Princess Workers Stranded on Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ship

We hold Princess Cruises responsible for the death of a Filipino crew member of the Grand Princess ship who died from COVID-19 on April 1 in a hospital in San Francisco, CA. Like other crew members and passengers, this worker was denied adequate access to full testing, humane treatment, and safe quarantine, all which might have prevented this catastrophe.

Hundreds of mostly foreign-born workers remain stranded on the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess ship since it journeyed back to the San Francisco Bay Area and docked in Oakland, CA on March 9, 2020, after an outbreak of COVID-19 infections was confirmed. Although passengers and crew members were evacuated when the ship docked, over 600 workers remained on board when it pushed back out from port and remained in the SF Bay. This was despite the fact that, by March 21, seventeen percent of all the passengers who were tested for coronavirus returned positive results.

Princess Cruises’ management of the coronavirus outbreak has been a clear and egregious violation of its responsibility as an employer to protect its workers, and it acted counter to public health best practices and scientific guidelines. Read more about the failure of Princess Cruises’ failure to protect workers.

Help amplify the voices of these workers who are demanding COVID-19 testing & treatment, repatriation to their home countries, compensation for lost wages, and transparency from Princess Cruises by signing this petition and sharing it with your networks.

Our demands:

Princess Cruises has thus far resisted all calls for transparency regarding any measures it has supposedly taken to guarantee crew members’ safety, and, because of this lack of transparency, we cannot be sure that workers are safe from harm amidst the current pandemic. Workers continue to face a high risk of exposure and infection until they are disembarked and provided testing, medical care, and safe quarantine. We demand that Princess Cruises take the necessary immediate action to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of its workers on all of its ships, including:

  1. Disembarking, testing, and humanely treating all workers. All workers must be tested, and not just screened for symptoms; and that testing must be paid for by Princess Cruises. Those who test positive must be given proper treatment and documentation of the treatment, and those who test negative must be provided the documentation proving negative test status.
  2. Providing all workers with comprehensive medical and mental health services Workers should be provided access to a social worker and full psychiatric and medical evaluations and treatment to address their mental and physical health concerns upon disembarking, especially after being quarantined on a contaminated ship with limited to no contact with their families, their union representation, and the outside world throughout this traumatic experience.
  3. Providing safe housing accommodations. Disturbingly, the San Francisco Port Commission has indicated that workers may continue to be housed on the ship. We believe that all workers (non-essential and essential) should be removed from the ship, per WHO guidelines, and provided temporary housing in a local hotel, paid for by Princess Cruises, throughout the duration of their quarantine and their process of returning to their home countries, until they reach their own homes safely and completely healthy.  
  4. Compensating workers for lost wages for their full contracted term, ensuring financial and job security. According to their Collective Bargaining Agreement, seafarers are entitled to additional compensation specified in the event of an unexpected termination of their voyage or contract. Princess Cruises needs to honor all its commitments to its workers whose contracted work will be terminated prematurely by this public health crisis. Beyond that, Princess Cruises should provide hazard pay for work conducted while on board infected ships, and any and all additional compensation needed to restore the workers’ being “fit to work.” Princess Cruises should not discriminate in the rehiring and recontracting of these workers when the industry restores its cruise operations.
  5. Covering all costs attendant to repatriating workers to their countries of origin. After providing testing and humane treatment, Princess Cruises must work with the workers’ home countries to repatriate the workers, and cover the cost, as expeditiously as possible.
  6. Decommissioning the ship and having it disinfected by professionals with proper protection and equipment in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.
  7. Transparency on its management of the COVID-19 outbreak. Princess Cruises must divulge its process of testing workers, answer to why workers were kept on the ship despite official recommendations to disembark all people on cruise ships, and, share its supposed outbreak management plan, with confirmation from workers that outbreak management training was provided, and a sanitation certificate.

In solidarity,

Migrante NorCal

ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action)

NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns)

PAWIS (People’s Association for Workers and Immigrants)

FCC (Filipino Community Center)

ABSF (Anakbayan SF)

Filipinx Health Initiative SF

League of Filipino Students – SFSU

Equality Labs

PAWIS and MIGRANTE USA Host Successful Workers Town Hall

PAWIS and MIGRANTE USA Hosts Successful Workers Town Hall

The Workers Town Hall hosted by PAWIS and Migrante USA last April 5, 2020 was attended by 56 individuals and workers coming from different industries. A caregiver, two nurses, a seafarer, a postal worker and representatives from the Day Worker Center of Mountain View and Fight for Fifteen gave powerful testimonies of how COVID19 adversely impacted the workers.

The common issue identified by the workers that they are commonly facing is the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), whether the worker is a nurse, a caregiver, a postal worker or a McDonalds worker. Also, particular for the low wage earners, they decry the neglect of the federal and state governments to provide supplemental benefits for the undocumented workers who cannot apply for Unemployment Insurance.

Nap Pempena, Chairperson of Migrante USA also gave a presentation of the conditions of the overseas Filipino workers in the time of COVID19. He highlighted the disappointing response of the Philippine government in helping and assisting the crew members of the Grand Princess cruise ship and the Filipino workers with J1 visas who suddenly found themselves out of work because of the pandemic.

RCFE Caregivers of Sunnyvale Statement

In the midst of this pandemic, we, the RCFE caregivers of Sunnyvale, CA, join the whole world in its advocacy for a safe and healthy environment through quarantine and social distancing.  Our ageing clients – your parents, grandparents and other elderly family members – though in their twilight years, deserve as much chance to survive this pandemic as all of us.  However, their vulnerability puts them at high risk.  Help us, their caregivers, to raise the stakes for them. 

STAY HOME.          STOP THE SPREAD.      SAVE LIVES.

Undocumented Workers Advocacy Letter

Workers Town Hall

Join us on zoom for a town hall to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on our community

Police arrest hungry protesters in Quezon City

Source: Kodao Productions

Twenty-one protesting and hungry Quezon City residents were arrested Tuesday morning, April 1, the incident earning swift condemnation from the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).

Residents of Sitio San Roque, Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa, reportedly members of the group Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa) held a protest action along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue and were violently dispersed by the Quezon City Police Department.

Although not affliated with their group, Kadamay said the SaMaNa protesters were calling for food and social services amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) lockdown imposed on the whole Luzon island by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Kadamay said the protesters have yet to be given food and other aid promised by the government in imposing the lockdown since March 15.

In a DZRH report, the arresting officers were heard to have repeatedly accused the protesters of being “hard-headed” for refusing to stay indoors.

Kadamay however clarified the residents’ protest action was a spontaneous demonstration “rooted in the growing discontent, hunger and frustration at the lack of aid from government.”

The urban poor group urged that instead of responding with violence and arrests, the government should solve grave deficiencies in handling the crisis it says affect the poor as the most vulnerable sector in the country.

“Instead of listening to pleas about the lack of services, the poor are being subjected to violence and arrest. We should instead ask, why is there no help being given to the poor?” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said.

Arellano said such protest actions are bound to happen if the government insists on a militarist response to the pandemic instead of focusing on social services.

She stressed that it is the primary task of the national government to address the urgent need for food, sanitation, medical services and other basic needs during the pandemic, adding that the Duterte administration continues to pass on the burden to many ill equipped local government units while avoiding outlining a concrete plan apart from the lockdown.

Kadamay said it will do everything it can to help in the negotiations for the release of the arrested.

The group also revealed it is operating community kitchens and relief operations in several poor communities in and outside Metro Manila, adding however that these activities are limited in scope.

Kadamay said it remains the responsibility of the government to address the needs of the people during the emergency. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Quarantined crew from California ship demands for more tests, health workers

 

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — The Filipino crew members who were rescued from a coronavirus-hit cruise in California raised several concerns as their 14-day quarantine in Tarlac nears its end. This includes a need to conduct more COVID-19 tests and to deploy more health workers to their facilities.

The crew sent a letter to the government on Friday, urging that all of its members be tested for COVID-19 before their scheduled return to their families on March 29.

“If the politicians and their families are able to avail of testing, then we, who were exposed continuously to COVID-19 for a long time, need and deserve the testing even more,” the letter stated.

The letter was addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Department of Health and Magsaysay Maritime Corporation at Princess Cruises.

“While in quarantine, only our temperature is being checked, and testing remains random and unsystematic,” the crew complained.

Over 400 Filipinos, most of whom are crew members, arrived in the country on March 16 from the MV Grand Princess, which was docked off the coast of California after a passenger onboard a previous trip died due to COVID-19.

The evacuees have since been on quarantine in the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City.

“It’s also essential to send more of our hardworking frontline health workers to care for us here,” the letter also said.

The crew also expressed concern how they will return to their respective provinces given the Luzon-wide quarantine.

“At this time we do not know where we will go after the quarantine,” they wrote. “There should be a clear plan so that we can go back home to our families.”

The evacuees also appealed for financial and livelihood assistance as well as help for those who were left behind in the ship.

COVID-19 News and Updates (Santa Clara County)

COVID-19 Tracking

Santa Clara County has posted a dashboard so that we can get current information about the number of cases and so we can see if our efforts are successful to flatten the curve:

Santa Clara County COVID-19 Workers Resources

PAWIS Hosts First Virtual Know Your Rights Training

On March 26, 2020, PAWIS held its first Know Your Rights Webinar on the topics of Unemployment Insurance (UI), State Disability Insurance (SDI), Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Paid Sick Leave. The webinar was presented by Ruth Silver Taube, a professor of Santa Clara University and the supervising attorney of the worker’s rights clinic of the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Center. Thirty One (31) individuals from different organizations and alliances attended the webinar.

“Kailangan nating ipalaganap and ganitong webinar para sa mga manggagawa at migrante. Importante na malaman natin ang ating mga karapatan at ano ang dapat gagawin sa panahon ngayon ng COVID-19” (We need to propogate this kind of webinar for the workers and immigrants. It is important for us to know your rights and the steps to take in this time of COVID-19) — Tess Brillante, PAWIS Vice Chair

PAWIS Joins the Fair Workplace Collaborative (FWC) of Santa Clara County’s Office of Labor Standard and Enforcement (OLSE)

The OLSE of Santa Clara County launched its Labor Standards Outreach and Education Initiative in September 2019. The initiative is a robust public engagement campaign throughout Santa Clara County with the mission to inform workers and business of their rights and responsibilities as well as deliver support and individualized services to those seeing assistance to resolve potential claims or existing judgements. OLSE contracts with the member organizations of the Fiar Workplace Collaborative to provide this outreach and education. The services include (10 OLSE Attorney Staffed Advice Line; (2) Workers’ Rights Trainings and Clinics; (3) Business Outreach and Education; and (4) individualized services for workers and businesses.

The formation of the FWC is to assist the OLSE in its mission to extend workers protections across the County, increase the effectiveness of existing County and local protections, and help Santa Clara County be a national leader in addressing labor abuses is of critical importance to advancing the economic and social well-being of the County as a whole. According to national studies the average low-wage worker lose approximately $2,643–or 15% of their earnings — each year because of wage theft because of wage theft. The majority of these wages were stolen by failing to pay minimum wage or overtime, failing to provide breaks, and requiring unpaid, off-the-clock work.

The FWC is comprised of Working Partnerships-USA, Step Forward Foundation, PAWIS, Day Worker Center of Mountain View, Vietnamese American Round table, Enterprise Foundation/Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center and the Latino Business Council of Silicon Valley

“Kalusugan! Hindi Diktadura!” Participate in the Days of Action [April 1-3]

The Malaya National Secretariat, recognizes that these are extremely unprecedented times, and that the solution through this global health crisis is in the collective efforts. However, when governments seek to profit and neglect the health of the public, it is imperative for the public to defend its health from neglect. It is in this spirit that Malaya Movement calls for three days of action to begin on April 1st. “Kalusugan, Hindi Diktadura” (Health, Not Dictatorship) launches this week on the first of April to directly address the neglect of the Duterte administration in addressing the Covid-19 health crisis and to battle the continued repression and curtailment of human rights in the Philippines.

There will be three opportunities to participate and engage in the days of action:

April 1st

——————–

5-6pm PST / 7-8pm CST / 8-9pm EST

Webinar

Malaya Movement to host webinar alongside other national alliances and organizations to discuss Duterte’s neglect of the Covid-19 crisis, and to discover how we can harness our collective strength to respond. We will also be launching our Kalusugan! Hindi Diktadura! Petition campaign.

Register here: bit.ly/malayaforum2020

April 2nd

——————–

5-6pm PST / 7-8pm CST / 8-9pm EST

Social Media Rally

Invigorate mass publicity and raise awareness through Facebook and Twitter social media platforms. We are asking people to use the hashtags:

#DuterteVirus

#DuterteResign

April 3rd

——————–

(Schedule to follow)

Mass Phone-in Action

Express our concerns about Duterte’s neglect in the face of Covid-19 and the urgent needs of overseas Filipinos that need to be addressed by the Philippine government. Further schedule and script to follow soon!

Please join us in spreading the word of “Kalusugan, Hindi Diktadura”, by joining and sharing the Facebook page at the following link: Kalusugan, Hindi Diktadura

As we all continue to observe the public health protocols in our home, let’s keep energized to continue the fight against neglect, fascism, and dictatorship by harnessing the collective power of the people even during these challenging times! See you at the launch on April 1st!

Mabuhay!

Malaya National Secretariat

Duterte’s Dictatorship Aggravates Public Health Crisis – Malaya Movement’s Statement on Duterte regime’s response of COVID 19

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Reference: Yves Nibungco, National Coordinator, malayamovement@gmail.com

Malaya Movement joins the Filipino people and the global community in battling the deadly virus COVID-19, also known as the Novel Coronavirus. We call on our members, allies and supporters to extend their utmost solidarity and assistance to all peoples affected by this public health crisis, and to keep a keen eye on the Philippines, most especially poor and working class Filipinos. 

With the rise of positive cases of COVID-19, it is both heartbreaking and enraging to watch the hellish conditions imposed upon the Filipino people, especially the urban poor, workers, and the frontliners. The Filipino people are facing a double tragedy: the ravages of the coronavirus coupled with the tyranny and incompetence of the Duterte regime. 

Duterte’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus pandemic

Time and again, Duterte puts his puppetry to foreign powers above the welfare and interest of the Filipino people. Duterte deliberately chose to appease the interests of foreign powers, particularly China, and ignored clamors for an immediate travel ban increasing the risk and spread of COVID-19 to the general population. 

Capitalizing on the genuine fear and panic from the population, Duterte resorted to a militaristic approach in handling the pandemic. With the lockdown of Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon, he has imposed policies that only exacerbate the public health crisis without any coherent and comprehensive plan. For example, military checkpoints created enormous crowds of people travelling by foot or motorcycle, and the shutdown of public transportation stranded essential workers, including healthcare frontliners who were unable to get to hospitals. Cases of abuse at checkpoints by police and soldiers are emerging. In recent reports, checkpoint police had threatened to shoot those found not to comply with local lockdown orders, locking some in dog cages and left out in the harsh sun. These punitive and cruel examples have characterized the Duterte administration’s response to public health challenges as seen in the past years of his administration’s notorious Drug War.

Uncontented with just the lockdown, Duterte and his rubber stamp senate and congress took advantage of the COVID crisis to give him “special powers” through Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan We Heal as One Act.” It gives Duterte powers to direct operations of private hospitals and public transportation, regulate the distribution of power, fuel, energy, and water, and realign funding. These powers also include penalizing individuals and groups who will be spreading “fake news,” as well as a broad mandate to undertake “other measures as may be necessary” to respond to the pandemic. Such policies are prone to abuse, deepen unequal distribution of resources tipped toward the wealthy and powerful, and are designed to silence the growing protests and vocalized criticisms and discontent among the people as a result of Duterte’s sheer incompetence. The Malaya Movement condemns this shameless maneuver towards a full blown dictatorship and failure to address the true needs of the people. 

We denounce Duterte’s continuing reign of terror. As the people are struggling against COVID-19, the Duterte government and its armed minions continue to commit human rights violations with the arrest of human rights activist Teresita Naul, 60, Lanao del Norte last March 15 and the assassination of peasant activist Marlon Maldos, 25, from Bohol last March 17. These violent attacks on youth and the elderly human rights defenders reveal the sustained bloodlust of the Duterte regime even amidst a global pandemic plaguing the nation.

People’s Demands to Duterte 

It is clear that the Filipino people have nothing more to expect from the Duterte regime other than more suffering amidst this pandemic. Like in previous crises, the Filipino people have to rely on our own collective effort to save ourselves. In light of that, The Malaya Movement encourages our members, allies and supporters to support our front line workers and other community efforts. The Malaya Movement supports the 7 point demand of the Citizens Urgent Response to end COVID-19 (Cure COVID) as well as other cause oriented groups:

  1. Enact medical solutions instead of military actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  2. Assign more doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers to communities instead of deploying police and military.
  3. Immediately allocate a significant portion of the government’s budget to the COVID-19 crisis for prevention, monitoring, testing and treatment, and to hire additional frontline health workers, instead of allocating more funds for tourism or support for large businesses.
  4. Perform community-level steps including: free and mass COVID-19 testing and urgent treatment of those who contract the virus,information drives related to COVID-19; distribution of free face masks, alcohol, sanitizers and vitamins C and B12; mass disinfection of schools, markets, neighborhoods and common people; 
  5. Ensure safe and healthy workplaces. Ensure job security and benefits for those who cannot go to work. Ensure accessible transportation services from home to work and back.
  6. For Maynilad and Manila Water to resolve their failed and unreliable water services. 24/7 water supply in the homes must be ensured for hand washing. 
  7. Support local scientists and health workers. Fund and fast track the production of test kits created by the University of the Philippines. 

Lastly, if the past three years is not yet enough, the past three months alone further validates our position that the Filipino people’s suffering will only increase so long as Duterte remains in power. With the longstanding, real needs of the Filipino people for better economic opportunities, and land for the vast masses of peasant farmers to till, and this most recent public health crisis of Covid-19, Duterte’s leadership has proven not fit for purpose. Instead of continuing to power grab and employ a dictatorial and totalitarian style of leadership, he might better serve the Philippines by stepping down and resigning. 

Tens of thousands of people have already been murdered by the Duterte regime, and his militaristic and anti-people response to COVID-19 will no doubt add more deaths to his legacy. The Malaya Movement calls on Duterte to resign so that more lives can be spared. His deadly reign cannot continue. Join the Malaya Movement in calling for Duterte’s resignation. Heed the people’s demands for medical response to the COVID-19 crisis, and arm the health professionals with medical equipment, not the military! 

Labor Unions, Port Workers, Filipino Advocates Rally Together In Support of 500+ Filipino Grand Princess Cruise Ship Workers Amidst Covid-19 Scare

Contact: Terry Valen, terrencevalen@yahoo.com, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns

                Nap Pempeña, info@migranteusa.org, Migrante USA

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Migrante Northern California and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) joined several Bay Area based labor unions and workers advocates for a press conference raising concern about the treatment and well-being of the more than 500 Filipino seafarers aboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship, as well as the thousands of passengers who were at risk of exposure to a Covid-19 outbreak on the ship. The Grand Princess Cruise Ship, which was anchored 10 miles off the coast of SF was finally allowed to dock at the Port of Oakland on March 9 and remained there until Sunday, March 15. 

Health experts already decried the example of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, where so many more passengers and workers were infected than needed to be, by quarantining them on a contaminated ship kept off the Japanese coast. 700 people tested positive for Covid-19 on the Diamond Princess, 80 of whom were Filipino crew members, and 6 people died from their exposure. 

While measures to disembark passengers were immediately attended to, the foreign workers of the cruise were kept aboard the ship. “Workers were being treated with less concern and dignity than the passengers who were disembarked first. There’s a need for transparency, cooperation, and government action for humanitarian relief and the health and safety of everyone – the passengers, the foreign workers, the port workers, and the surrounding community,”  said Terry Valen, President of NAFCON and Executive Director of the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco. 

Shortly after the press conference on Saturday afternoon, the Filipino workers were disembarked, screened, and repatriated back to the Philippines. “We’re relieved that the workers were able to finally leave the ship and go home,” said Nap Pempeña of Migrante-USA. “ The workers should receive appropriate and comprehensive medical and mental health services upon their return to the Philippines, and they should receive fair compensation and appropriate protection from lost wages based on their contract and their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if applicable. With more ships expected to be infected and to dock all over the world, the Philippine government must be ready to receive and support repatriating Filipino seafarers.” 

There are close to half a million Filipino seafarers on cargo ships, cruise ships, fishing and other vessels on the seas at any given time, making up to a third of all crew members on maritime vessels. Forced to work abroad due to unemployment, dismal wages and crushing poverty in the Philippines, Filipino workers experience exploitation, harassment, discrimination and hazardous working conditions aboard. The contractual and seasonal nature of their work exacerbates their hardship as shipping companies, recruitment agencies and government agencies sometimes evade liability when seafarers’ rights are violated. 

The case of the Grand Princess Cruise Ship highlights the challenges faced by Filipinos and other seafarers in general and exacerbated by inadequate response to the Covid-19 health crisis. With the service workers on land and offshore crucial to the healthcare system and to the upkeep of commercial establishments, travel and tourism industry as well as other workplaces, their vulnerability to contracting the disease increases due to their nature of work requiring physical presence and constant contact with other people. 

As the crisis worsens and deals negative impacts on various industries, workers will need not just access to healthcare, but also economic support to sustain themselves and their families.

A Message to Filipino Workers in the U.S. from Migrante USA

Covid-19 is spreading across the US. California and New York, which have large concentrations of Filipino works, are seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases. According to DOLE, there are now 6 overseas Filipino workers in the U.S. that have tested positive. There were 538 crew members and passengers from the virus-hit Grand Princess cruise ship who recently disembarked in Oakland, CA. 

Migrante USA calls on Filipino workers in the U.S. to stay vigilant not just with respect to health and well-being but also their rights as workers, unionized or not, documented or undocumented. 

1. Know the correct information and relevant information about Covid-19.

As the disease caused by Covid-19 rapidly spreads, it is important to know official warnings and advice from authorities especially from doctors and health professionals. Ensure that you consume verified information and don’t be deceived by “fake news”.

Pay attention to advisories and directions from the government (local, city or state) on proper washing of hands, social distancing, and other information and directions for precautions to safeguard health.  

2. Join collective efforts to safeguard the health of yourself, your family and the community. 

Migrante USA amplifies the call to safeguard health. Know the proper measures to avoid Covid-19 such as proper hand-washing, self-quarantine when symptoms occur, social distancing and other safety measures as prescribed by professionals and medical experts. Urgently see consultation with a doctor when symptoms arise (especially fever, cough and difficulty in breathing).

Take note that the most vulnerable are those 50 years old and above and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, compromised immune systems and hypertension.

Know the terms and conditions of your medical insurance. If you don’t have any, learn how you can get free or affordable Covid-19 testing in your city. Do not ignore perceived symptoms.

Feel free to contact a Migrante USA member organization nearest you to get information on how to get medical attention or for referrals to non-profit organizations who may be able to help with medical insurance matters. 

3. Know and fight for workers’ rights!

Majority of Filipinos in the US are workers and comprise a large workforce in the service industry. Although there are professionals that are able to “work from home” a vast majority of workers do not have this option. Many Filipinos’ livelihood are affected by cases of “lock down” or the call to “quarantine” where they may not leave their house to go to work. 

Make sure that you know the terms and conditions of your sick leave and other matters regarding taking leave from work in case you are unable to work due to Covid-19.

If you have any questions regarding workers’ rights, feel free to contact a Migrante USA member organization nearest you for referrals to labor attorneys. 

4. Stand for the rights of Filipino People!

Migrante USA unites with the call of  progressive organizations in the Philippines to implement the following: Free and widespread testing for COVID-19, proactive and free health services, additional deployment of health workers, protection for workers and the poor, and provision of supplies or resources. Fight against anti-people lockdown and fight the budget cut in public services!!

Migrante USA also unites with the call of Migrante International for embassies and consulates to be active in offering health services for migrants (acquiring testing kits and distributing supplies) and to ensure compensation and support for affected migrants. 

5. Stand up against discrimination and racism.

Because COVID-19 originated in China, this does not mean we should blame Chinese people. Many Filipinos in different countries are vicitims of harassment blaming provinces and discrimination against Asians including Filipinos. 

6. Unite with workers across the world 

In the midst of this crisis caused by COVID-19, poverty and other social problems become more prominent and it is workers who are the most impacted. Many workers are unable to engage in social distancing or working from home because of their work conditions in manufacturing and service industry jobs that require them to interact with people. They also have no way to move through the city without using often crowded mass transportation. Most of all, because of depressed wages, lack of job security, and rollback in benefits, workers have nothing to eat and feed their families if they do not go to work. Because of the intense privatization of healthcare, it is hard for workers to access health services. 

Capitalists have been laying off workers left and right and cutting hours without compensation to avoid hurting their profits. This can be seen in mass lay-offs such as in Philippine Airlines (300 workers laid off). Many contracted Migrant Filipinos have had their contracts cancelled without compensation for themselves or their families. 

Many overseas Filipino workers are gravely affected by COVID-19 (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, etc.). We need to unite, cooperate, and exchange accurate information on how to ensure the rights and well-being of migrant workers or OFWs. There is no one to help Filipino workers but Filipino workers themselves. 

At a time of intensifying economic crisis,  now exacerbated by the grave human health threat posed by COVID-19, working class unity is essential to ensure stability to fight and struggle for the right to live, work with security and the right to health services.

Dare to struggle! Don’t be afraid!

Filipino Workers unite!

Long live the working class! 

*Philippine Department of Labor and Employment 

References:

Panawagan ng Migrante USA sa mga Pilipinong Manggagawa sa U.S.

Lumalaganap ngayon ang Covid-19 sa Estados Unidos. Ang California at New York na may malaking konsentrasyon ng mga manggagawang Pilipino ay may tumataas na bilang ng mga biktima ng Covid-19. Ayon sa DOLE*, may 6 na OFW na sa U.S. ang may sakit. May 538 tripulante at pasahero ng tinamaang barko na Grand Princess cruise ship ang kamakailang nag-disembark sa Oakland, CA. 

Ang Migrante USA ay nananawagan sa lahat ng manggagawang Pilipino sa Estados Unidos na manatiling mapagbantay (vigilant) hindi lamang sa kalusugan kundi pati sa ating mga karapatan bilang manggagawa, kasapi man sa unyon o hindi, dokumentado man o hindi.

1. Alamin ang tama at mahalagang impormasyon hinggil sa COVID-19.

Sa panahon na lumalaganap ang nakahahawang sakit na dulot ng Covid-19, mahalaga na alamin ang mga opisyal na babala at payo mula sa kinauukulan lalu na mula sa mga ekspertong doktor at propesyunal pangkalusugan. Tiyakin na tama ang mga impormasyon at huwag magpalinlang sa mga “fake news”. 

Dinggin ang panawagan at babala mula sa kinauukulang ahensya ng gobyerno (local, city or state) tulad ng tamang paghuhugas ng kamay, pag-iwas sa paglabas o pakikisalamuha sa maraming tao bilang paraan ng pag-iwas sa sakit, at iba pang impormasyon at mga direksyon ukol sa pag-iingat pangkalusugan.

2. Makilahok sa sama-samang pangangalaga ng kalusugan ng sarili, pamilya at komunidad.

Kaisa ang Migrante USA sa malawak na panawagan hinggil sa pangangalaga sa kalusugan.  Alamin ang mga matuwid na hakbang upang maka-iwas sa Covid-19 tulad ng tamang paraan ng paghuhugas ng kamay, pag- “self-quarantine” pag may sintomas, pag-iwas sa mataong lugar at iba pang hakbang sa pag-iingat ayon sa direksyon ng mga propesyunal at ekspertong medikal. Maagap na magpa-konsulta sa doktor kung may nararamdamang sakit (lalu na ang lagnat, ubo at karamdaman sa paghinga). 

Tandaan na pinaka-bulnerable ang sinumang edad 50 pataas at may mga “pre-existing conditions” tulad ng diabetes, sakit sa puso (cardio-vascular), sakit sa baga (respiratory), kanser, “compromised immune system”, at alta-presyon (hypertension/high blood). 

Alamin ang mga patakaran at itinakda ng inyong medical insurance. At kung wala kayong medical insurance ay alamin kung paano ito magagawan ng paraan. Alamin kung saan at paano makakakuha ng libre o murang testing sa Covid-19 sa inyong mga lunsod. Huwag isa-walang bahala kung mayroong nararamdamang sakit.

Maaaring lumapit sa pinaka malapit na organisasyon ng Migrante USA upang makakuha ng impormasyon hinggil sa pagkuha ng atensyong medikal o di kaya ay mai-refer kayo sa mga non-profit organizations na maaaring makatulong hinggil sa usapin ng medical insurance. 

3. Alamin at ipaglaban ang mga karapatan bilang manggagawa. 

Mayorya ng Pilipino sa Estados Unidos ay mga manggagawa na kalakhan ay nagtatrabaho sa service industry. Bagama’t may mga propesyunal na maaaring makapag-“work from home”, kalakhan ng mga manggagawa ay walang ganitong option. Maraming bilang ng mga Pilipino ang maaapektuhan ang kabuhayan kung sakaling magkaroon ng “lockdown” o sapilitang “quarantine” kung saan ay hindi na pwedeng umalis ng bahay upang pumasok sa trabaho. 

Tiyakin na alam ninyo ang mga patakaran at kundisyon hinggil sa inyong “sick leave” at iba pang bagay hinggil sa pagliban sa trabaho kung sakaling hindi kayo makakapasok dulot ng COVID-19.

Kung may iba kayong katanungan hinggil sa inyong mga karapatan bilang manggagawa, lumapit sa pinaka-malapit na kasaping organisasyon ng Migrante USA para sa katanungan at/o referral sa labor attorney. 

4. Manindigan para sa karapatan ng mamamayang Pilipino! Nakikiisa ang Migrante USA sa panawagan ng mga progresibong organisasyon sa Pilipinas na ipatupad ang mga sumusunod: Libre at malawakang testing sa Covid-19, maagap at libreng serbisyong pangkalusugan, dagdag na deployment ng health workers, proteksyon sa mga manggagawa at mahihirap, at dagdag na supply o rekurso. Labanan ang kontra mamamayang lockdown at kaltas sa badyet para serbisyong pampubliko!

Nakikiisa din ang Migrante USA sa panawagan ng Migrante International para sa mga embahada at konsulado na maging aktibo sa pag-alalay sa pagbibigay ng serbisyong pangkalusugan sa mga migrante (pag-acquire ng testing kits at pamamahagi ng supply) at pagtiyak ng maagap na compensation at suporta sa mga apektadong migrante.

5. Manindigan laban sa diskriminasyon at racism.

Dahil ang Covid-19 ay unang kumalat sa China, hindi nangangahulugan na dapat sisihin ang mga Chinese. Maraming Pilipino sa ibang bansa ang biktima ng karahasan dulot ng paninisi at diskriminasyon laban sa mga Asian kasama na ang mga Pilipino. 

6. Makiisa sa mga manggagawa sa buong daigdig. Sa gitna ng krisis na dulot ng COVID-19, lumilitaw lalo ang kahirapan at iba pang suliraning panlipunan at ang mga manggagawa ang tinatamaan nang husto. Maraming manggagawa ang hindi kakayaning makipag-“social distancing” at mag-“work from home” dahil sa kondisyon ng kanilang trabaho sa manupaktura at serbisyo kung saan kailangan nila makisalamuha sa mga tao. Gayundin, wala silang ibang paraan upang gumalaw sa syudad kung hindi gagamit ng madalas masikip na mass transportation. Higit sa lahat, dahil sa pagbaba ng sahod, kawalan ng job security at pagbawi sa mga benepisyo, ang mga manggagawa ay walang kakainin at ipapakain sa pamilya kung hindi sila makakapagtrabaho. Dahil sa matinding pribatisasyon ng serbisyong pangkalusugan, hirap ang mga manggagawa na abutin ang mga serbisyong pangkalusugan.

Walang pag-aalinlangan ang mga kapitalistang sisantehin ang mga manggagawa o bawasan ang oras nang walang compensation upang iwasan ang pagbulusok ng kanilang tubo. Makikita ito sa mass lay-offs tulad ng sa Philippine Airlines (300 workers). Maraming kontrata ng mga migranteng Pilipino ang nakansela na nang walang compensation para sa kanila at mga pamilya nila.

Maraming manggagawang Pilipino sa ibang bansa ang higit na apektado ng Covid-19 (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, atbp.). Kailangan tayong magkaisa, magtulungan at mag palitan ng tamang impormasyon kung paano matitiyak ang kagalingan at karapatan bilang mga migranteng manggagawa o OFWs. Walang ibang magtutulungan kundi tayong mga Pilipinong manggagawa din. 

Sa panahon na umiigting din ang krisis pang-ekonomiya at ngayo’y nadagdagan pa ng matinding banta sa kalusugan ng tao na dulot ng COVID-19, mahalaga ang pagkakaisa ng uring manggagawa upang matiyak ang paninindigan, pakikipaglaban at pakikibaka para sa karapatang mabuhay, magtrabaho nang may seguridad at karapatan sa serbisyong pangkalusugan.

Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!

Manggagawang Pilipino Magkaisa!

Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa!

References:

 

 

 

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