Filipino migrants’ vision of the future
On March 17, 1995, a Filipino female domestic worker was hanged to death by the Singaporean government. Her name, Flor Contemplacion.
Flor was one of the millions of Filipinos left with no choice but to work in a foreign land in order to provide a better life for their families back home. The Philippine government, under then President Fidel Ramos, was not able to provide the necessary defense during her trial. By the time the government took action, it was too late. Flor’s case spotlighted the plight of overseas Filipino workers left defenseless by government, thus protected only by their tears and prayers.
Twenty years later, things are largely unchanged. Even consular officials and labor attachés turn into predators that devour and exploit our OFWs. Under the current administration such abuses by government officials are brushed aside with mere administrative sanctions and reprimands.
We see Flor in every Filipino leaving the country in search of greener pastures; whose number, according to official estimates, has been increasing consistently for the past three decades and has reached a staggering 6,092 daily.
This phenomenon is the result of forced migration. Poverty and massive joblessness in the country push our people to look for jobs abroad. This is coupled with the government’s policy to export our labor thereby reducing people as mere commodities in the global market. When they get to their countries of destination, like Flor, they are forced into dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs. The toll of separation from their families also brings a host of problems especially to the youth and children. The current Aquino administration, like those that preceded it, treats migrants like the proverbial milking cow, relying on their remittances to hold up our national income figures and levying excessive fees on them at every stage even up to the final taxes as they leave the airport.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) joins the nation and grassroots migrant organizations in remembering Flor Contemplacion. We offer our prayers and meaningful actions as we remember her martyrdom and celebrate NCCP Migrant Sunday come March 22.
Migration today is all about the hope for a better future despite an uncaring government. For the NCCP, current migration is a result of the pervasive injustice in the country. The exodus of people to other countries is not without its origins in a structure that breeds oppression and deprivation.
Yet migrant workers also mirror hope despite the odds. Hope is encapsulated in the words of Prophet Micah, that “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:4). This vision sees a future where no families are torn apart in order to survive.
This is also the vision of our migrant sisters and brothers.
—REV. FR. REX R. B. REYES JR., general secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, firstname.lastname@example.org
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