A Keynote Address to the 2nd General Assembly of International Migrants Alliance – Europe, San Martino Parish, Via Alfonso Lissi 11, 22110 Como, Italy, 7 December 2019 as Interim Coordinator of the Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines
A red salute to all the courageous diaspora who are gathered here today for the Second General Assembly of the International Migrants Alliance in Europe!
I am deeply honored and humbled upon receiving the official invitation that I should deliver a keynote address today. I was not expecting that I can have an opportunity to share my thoughts for these illustrious transformers of the oppressed societies in the world. Thus, I immediately express my gratitude to the organizers of this historic event.
To date, around 7,000 Filipinos are forced to leave the Philippines every day to find life, our country cannot provide. They go to countries where ambiguity awaits them but they bravely confront just to feed their families at home and hoping to provide for the other basic needs such as shelter, health and education for children. Several of them has to battle against the unfair policies of the host countries and the indifference of their employers which even resulted to loss of their own lives or imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Worsen by the fact of the Philippine embassies/consulate officials who favored the host countries and employers instead of serving the needs of their own people – their kababayans they ought to serve whose remittances paid them.
The labor export policy initiated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the idol of the current president Duterte, paved the way and flooded Filipino diaspora in the advanced and industrialized countries. This was and is the Philippine government’s worship to the imperialist policy of neo-liberal globalization that began in the 1970s which amassed huge profits by the bureaucrat capitalist cronies in the Southeast Asia like the Philippines.
The current situation in the Philippines, as in the past, has sustained and promoted long this phenomenon of migration. Many of those who left the country are coming from the provinces or rural areas. Children of poor farmers which now not only under attack by the anti-insurgency campaign of the government but also recently by the Rice Tarrification Law which is opening up for the unregulated rice imports making local rice products to be bought at a lower price that effectively renders perdition to the local rice producing farmers. This law is authored by the bureaucrat capitalists through Senator Cynthia Villar who is in the business of housing development. There were reports that farm lands are now converted into housing subdivisions projects and malls. I personally know of some individuals and families leaving or planning to leave the country fearing for their own lives because of the wanton killings brought about by Duterte’s anti-drug war and Martial Law in Mindanao and the de facto martial law felt in the Visayas and Luzon. Early on the records of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police themselves that 30,000 of the killings are classified as Deaths Under Investigation (DUI) while the more than 5,000 are those under police operations. On the other hand, the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has been creating havoc to the communities and societies by killing, abductions of innocent civilians and activists and those who are critical to the government’s anti-people policies. Recently, these include simultaneous raids with killings and illegal arrests of peasant communities in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and also the offices and houses of the legal progressive and militant organizations and their leaders. The red-tagging of political and partylist organizations including churches and even institutions and funders abroad especially those in the European countries.
Recently, the Social Weather Station has reported that there are 10 million jobless Filipinos. Though this is downplayed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello saying only 5 million, it is worrisome and a fact to be considered and given attention. It means that until now and in the near and longer future, we do not see a halt to this phenomenon of migration in the country. This is aside from the fact that human trafficking abroad, legal or illegal, is very vital to keep a relatively stable Philippine economy.
Trying to respond to this situation the churches, church related institutions and faith-based organizations in the Philippines and abroad have launched several actions, projects and ministries.
Very recently, the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) – Europe Chapter has had our first ever organizing assembly. The PCPR is a national, ecumenical, political organization of church people – believers of Christian teaching of justice and peace, freedom and liberty, human rights and human dignity, national democracy, love and God’ shalom – called and sent to uphold and promote the Christian teachings and are committed to bring good news to the poor and summoned to live in solidarity in the struggle to realize a fullness of life. , “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18a)
Particularly in our Church, the IFI (Iglesia Filipina Independiente), we are engaged with the Seafarers Ministry through Mission to Seafarers of the Church of England which we have a center in Manila with a program of taking care of the families of the seafarers. We are with the German Seamen’s Mission in Hamburg with my colleague serving as a seamen’s pastor. We also have a Filipino Migrants Ministry in Hong Kong with the Anglican Church of Hong Kong manned by an IFI-Filipino priest for a long time now. We already have three priests serving as Filipino Migrant Chaplains in the UK with one special ministry to a mixed nationalities of migrants and also one in Sweden. We also have organized communities of diaspora in United Arab Emirates and in Singapore. Last November 29, 2019 we have finalized the concept paper on the IFI Overseas Filipino Chaplaincy Ministry and the Ministry to Filipino-Migrants in Germany and Europe.
At this point, I will largely quote from the writings of Prof. Antonio Tujan in his paper, the Role of Diaspora in the Struggle for National and Social Liberation (in italics).
“Migrants, migrant workers, and refugees of all kinds are all part of diaspora — the exodus or mass relocation of peoples due to societal or/and natural causes. The individual who migrated automously is still part of a phenomenon of mass displacement. Whether the displacement is apparently voluntary or involuntary through commercial recruiters (such as manning agencies, placement services and other private trafficking businesses and ‘official trafficking policies’).
Conflicts and natural calamities are sudden events that produce refugees in a mass scale. But societal or/and natural conditions can also be slow-evolving, resulting in voluntary migration of individuals. All of this result in a diaspora – displacement and the creation of a mass of peoples or communities of the displaced.”
“The diaspora is another appellation for the compatriots who form an import part of national democratic struggle in semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries and other countries of the periphery. They are a motive force and become important contributors to the struggle in the semi- colonial homeland which are the weakest links of imperialism, and have the best opportunities to contribute to the eventual downfall of imperialism.”
“Diaspora movements of each homeland where possible can be developed in any host country. In diaspora or compatriot mass movement building we follow the mass line and adhere to the class line where we give principal attention to a) organizing the temporary contractual workers and undocumented workers than the immigrants, and b) workers with immigrant status rather than the highly paid professionals and business people among immigrants.”
“Besides organizing workers in associations of workers and into unions as appropriate and desirable, we also strengthen compatriot organizing and agitation as part of the national democratic struggle in the homeland. In this regard, workers associations are complemented by sectoral women’s organization composed mostly of migrant working women and sectoral youth organization with a strong contingent of students. Young migrant workers give more life to the migrant worker organization.”
Thus, the coming together of the diaspora/s from the so called third countries plays a significant role in the struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed peoples of the world. This is exemplified in this very day by the International Migrants Alliance (IMA-Europe) and is indeed very laudable.
Capitalism through the neoliberal economic policies it has been espousing will only make more and more migrations from the third countries to compose the slaves of diaspora – the migrants, refugees and displaced people, in the host countries. Ending this requires a broadest coalition united front among the diaspora organizations which is tactically making presence and pressures for individual and collective rights while in the host countries and also effectively and efficiently contributing to the national struggles of peoples of our countries of origin.
Long live the struggle of the diaspora/s and oppressed peoples of the world! Long live the International Migrants Alliance – Europe!
Long live International Solidarity!