Statement of the Commission on Human Rights urging the government to address alleged human rights violations committed locally and abroad

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights urging the government to address alleged human rights violations committed locally and abroad

Press Statement | 24 March 2018

The primary obligation to protect the rights of every Filipino here and abroad rests with the government and its agencies. The Commission on Human Rights, thus, takes note of the actions that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has taken in ensuring that the rights of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families are protected.

The Migrant Workers’ Act (RA 10022), to demonstrate, obligates the government to allow the deployment of OFWs only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected. Hence, the deployment ban in countries where the rights of our OFWs are in peril is a fulfilment of this obligation. It is an act to be expected from the government.

The role of the Commission then, as embodied in its mandate, is to advocate and monitor the government’s compliance to such laws and treaties that pertain to the protection of Filipino migrant workers’ rights.

The Commission’s inputs are, in fact, in DOLE’s 2014 report to the UN Committee on Migrant Workers. Our submissions have also been appreciated by the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and have formed part of its concluding observations and recommendation to the Philippine government.

To further intensify these measures, the Commission is set to establish a migrant workers’ rights observatory meant to gather information on the plight of OFWs towards addressing gaps and forwarding recommendations on how the government can better promote and protect the rights of Filipino workers abroad.

At the same time, we have worked on specific cases where the rights of our OFWs were allegedly violated. Just recently, the Commission, through its office in Region VI, has reached out to investigate the case of Joanna Demafelis and extend financial assistance to her family. The concerned regional office is also closely coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for any additional assistance they may serve.

In 2010, we have also appealed to grant Mary Jane Veloso clemency and asked the Indonesian government to assure her of fair trial. This is consistent with our continuing efforts to work on appeals for OFWs in detention and death row, in partnership with other National Human Rights Institutions in different countries and civil society organizations working on migrant workers’ rights.

The Commission has also taken part in the harmonized efforts of the Migrant Heritage Commission, the Philippine Embassy in the US, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs to apprehend the illegal recruiters of Filipino teachers who were trafficked in the US from 2003 to 2007.

Even before the deployment ban in Kuwait, we have worked with DOLE and its attached agency, POEA, on the deployment ban in Nigeria. We look forward to discussing the condition of our countrymen and women in Kuwait with concerned government agencies given the recent incidents.

For our OFWs in Qatar, we are working with the National Human Rights Committee, the national human rights institution of the State of Qatar, as we move towards finalizing an agreement to better protect our OFWs in their homeland. These are among the many efforts meant to further promote and protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers, as well as the families they left behind, through human rights diplomacy.

As such, looking out for the plight of our Filipino migrant workers forms part of the Commission’s broad mandate of ensuring that their rights are upheld, alongside other vulnerable and marginalized sectors. Even in the background, this sector remains to be one of our priorities, while working on more prominent issues, such as alleged human rights violations linked to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

We call on the government to similarly address threats to human rights both at the domestic and international fronts. Every Filipino and Filipina deserves the government’s equal protection wherever they may be—regardless if it is about alleged human rights violations linked to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs or those concerning the rights of migrant workers. It is, after all, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. ■