July 22, 2013

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA,


Today, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Philippines delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), boasting about false progress of the national economy but, like in previous years, failing to address the true problems that continue to face Filipinos in the homeland as well as throughout the world. With the U.S. being the number one destination where Filipino migrants seek a means to survive, GABRIELA USA understands that migrants are paying to uphold the economy of the Philippines, even while the Aquino regime neglects and ignores their concerns and fails to protect their rights overseas. Over the last three years of Aquino’s term, the large majority of the people have witnessed a worsening crisis in employment (2.7 million), poverty (12.5 million) and hunger (2.5 million). “As of now, nearly 4,500 Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday for work. So long as Aquino’s administration continues to enforce policies and practices that benefit the country’s wealthiest 1% and transnational corporations, but fail to deliver basic needs and rights to land and resources to its people, Filipinos will continue to be forced to migrate abroad at an increasing rate. When they leave the Philippines to work abroad, they are left to fend for themselves with no protection from the Philippine government,” says Valerie Francisco, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

Dubbed by the Philippine government as ‘Bagong Bayani’ (Modern Day Heros in English), Filipino migrants are frequently victims of exploitation and abuse. Last week, four Filipinas along with a Kenyan woman in Orange County, California were found to be victims of human trafficking. Paid $200 a month, they were promised a salary of $1,600 to work as live-in domestic workers. Saudi Arabian princess Meshael Alayban, 42, may face up to 12 years in prison if convicted of trafficking the migrant women.

Desperate for work and living in fear, many migrants become victims of wage theft and poor working conditions abroad. “With Filipino migrants sending money back home reaching $21.39 billion in 2012, remittances are the top contributing source to the Philippine economy, and yet migrants are treated with no respect and no protections from its own government to hold receiving countries accountable for poor practices,” continues Francisco.  In California, GABRIELA USA has become a community partner of the California Domestic Workers Coalition in fighting to pass A.B. 241, the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. If passed, the bill would legalize basic worker protections, regardless of legal status, that domestic workers were historically excluded from, including overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers.

Furthermore, as debates continue regarding the U.S. Comprehensive Immigration Reform or the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”, aggressive border militarization, surveillance and criminalization of immigrants have been the focal point of the U.S. Senate-passed S.744 bill, rather than basic human rights for immigrants. Karla Gaerlan, a Filipina woman married to U.S. Army Specialist Thad Schmierer and mother of their baby son, was threatened to be deported on Father’s Day last month. After giving birth to their son, Karla suffered from severe postpartum depression and scratched Schmierer during a serious argument. Although they both agreed the scratches were light, Karla was arrested and detained at the local jail for 8 days under S-Comm or the “Secure” Communities program, after a domestic violence call by a concerned relative. Just days before Karla’s scheduled deportation, community organizations and individuals rallied at ICE to support Karla’s right to stay in the U.S. That same day, she was granted a reprieve and was able to remain with her family. “Migrants are forced to leave their homeland to find a decent living, and then find themselves in vulnerable situations when they are abroad. Programs like E-verify and S-comm criminalizes immigrants instead of protects them and their rights to stay united with their families. GABRIELA USA believes we must support our families to stay together!” says Tina Shauf, Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

“We hold Aquino and his administration responsible of the ever-worsening crisis in employment, poverty and hunger, which forces Filipinos to leave the country in high rates and which tearsfamilies apart everyday. GABRIELA USA is organizing for better conditions in the U.S., as well as for national democracy in our home country, and we are striving for the day Filipinos will be able to live in their homeland with their families, without worrying about having a job, putting food on the table and having basic necessities to survive,” says Shauf.

Charge the Aquino Regime for its crimes and deceit against the people!
Advance the strong force of women for livelihood and rights!
Stop Imperialist Exploitation & Modern Day Slavery of Migrant Workers!
Justice for Filipino Migrants and their families!