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Politicos must clarify stand on OFW issues, says Bayan

28 March 2016


By The SUN staff

Politicians running in the coming Philippine general elections should make a clear stand on issues that affect OFWs and draw up concrete programs that will help them.
This was according to Bagong Alyansang Maka-bayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes who said in an interview with The Sun Radio on March 4 that it is the duty of the government to ensure that workers who are deployed abroad should not be victimized by greedy employment agencies.
“Tumatakbo man sa eleksiyon o hindi, mahahalagang isyu sa amin yung labor export policy ng mga nagdaang administrasyon, basically yung kakulangan ng trabaho sa ating sariling bansa kaya kailangang mangibang-bansa ang maraming mga Pilipino,” Reyes replied when asked what issues its allied candidates will push.
“Mahalaga rin pong isyu yung mga napakaraming bayarin  o yung mga hindi makatarungang bayarin na ipinapasa sa OFWs. These are very real and concrete issues,” he added.
Reyes also cited the big number of Filipino migrant workers still on Death Row, a concern that was highlighted by the case of former OFW Mary Jane Veloso, who faces a death sentence in Indonesia for allegedly trafficking 2.6 kilos of heroin into that country.
Veloso was already scheduled for execution at midnight of April 29 last year, but she received a last-minute reprieve from Indonesian President Widodo following an appeal by various sectors led by OFWs.
“I think these are valid issues, at lalo na ngayong may eleksiyon, dapat pag-usapan ng mga tumatakbo sa halalan at dapat maging malinaw ang stand nila – ano ang gagawin nila sa mga problemang ito na makakatulong sa mga kababayan nilang OFWs,” he said.
On the issue of employment agencies charging OFWs huge sums in the guise of training, processing, medical exam, and other fees long after the government abolished placement fees in 2006, Reyes said it is the government’s job to protect the workers against exploitation by the agencies.
He pointed out the importance of “kalampagin” (shake up) those in government to act, adding that the new president, whoever he would be, should be prodded by the workers to include their crucial issues in his agenda for the first 100 days.
“Hindi naman siguro kalabisan na humingi ng action from the new president within the first 100 days ng kanyang panunungkulan … lalo sa pag-aalis ng mga di-makatarungang bayarin at yung mga pagkontra sa pagpataw ng mga di-makatarungang bayarin,”  Reyes said.
On the question of where Bayan stands regarding the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China over some islands and reefs in the West Philippine Sea, Reyes denied allegations that the alliance was siding with Beijing.
“Iyon nga ang nakakatawa dahil sa social media yung mga alipores ng administrasyong Aquino iyon ang pinalalabas, ngunit alam naman ng Philippine media at alam din ng lahat ng sambayanang Pilipino na ang pinakamalaking protesta laban sa China sa pangangamkam nito sa ating mga dagat at isla ay pinamunuan ng Bayan noong June 12 ng nakaraang taon. Iyon po ang single biggest protest action na dinaluhan ng kung ilang libo sa harapan ng Chinese (embassy) sa Makati,” Reyes said.
He said Bayan had also been very consistent in denouncing China’s aggressive actions in the disputed waters, including the harrasment of Filipino fishermen in international waters, and deploying offensive weapons on the reclaimed islands.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes emphasizes a point in the interview with The SUN Associate Editor Vir Lumicao and Editor Daisy Catherine L. Mandap.
“We have criticized the illegal reclamation activities and the placement of weapon systems doon sa mga isla at inaalalayan din po namin ang mga mangingisda sa Zambales dahil hindi sila makapangisda doon sa Panatag Shoal dahil nga itinataboy sila ng mga China coast guard,” Reyes said.
Perhaps what makes Bayan different from other groups is that it has also harshly criticized the United States “because we don’t believe that the US is there to help us but to exploit our dispute with China to advance its own agenda, which, at the end of the day, is again disadvantageous to the Filipino people,” he said.
On the Philippine Left’s embracing the democratic process by fielding candidates in national elections, Reyes explained that Bayan is not pushing for armed struggle.
“Notwithstanding that perception, the Left has participated in the past party-list elections since 2001 at maraming natutunan ng ating mga iba’t ibang grupo,” the Bayan leader said.  The movement has been fielding its own candidates because it is necessary that the voice of the people is heard in that field, no matter how narrow it is. There are many limitations even in that arena, however, said Reyes.
He cited the unceremonious closing of a House session on Feb 3 when Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares tried to push a resolution seeking a congressional override of President Aquino’s veto of a bill hiking the Social Security System pension by Php2,000.
“Tumindig siya para isulong ang SSS pension hike kahit hindi siya sinuportahan ng mayorya at Kongreso noon, ipinaglaban niya ngunit noong patapos na ang session pinatayan siya ng mikropono at biglang nag-adjourn,” Reyes said. The resolution was not put to a vote, he said.
That shows what kind of arena the electoral struggle is, he said. “Papasok ka diyan na may magandang intensiyon para sa bayan pero makikita mo na napakakitid ng larangan na iyan at yaong mga nasa kapangyarihan, kapag hindi gusto ang sinasabi mo, papatayan ka ng mikropono.”

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