Category Archives: Migrant Workers

Permanent deployment ban to Kuwait more harmful to OFWs

Despite its good intentions, imposing a permanent deployment ban in Kuwait can be more detrimental to Filipino migrant workers (OFWs), the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Mangagawa (SENTRO) said in a statement.

“We are grieving over the death of Jeanelyn Villavende, another name to a very long list of OFWs maltreated and killed by their abusive employers, yet we may be issuing a sentence of slow death to the families of other OFWs who have no other way of feeding their families, Josua Mata, SENTRO’s Secretary General said.

The labor organization explained that with the ban, would-be-OFWs will only resort to illegal means to enter the country, or those who are onsite will only stay illegally way beyond their contracts for fear of not able to return, which are more difficult to track and will further endanger their lives.

According to Mata, the government has to come up with sustainable mechanisms in imposing deployment bans, it has to find way to strike the balance between the OFWs’ protection and their right to travel.

In 2011 study, the government’s think tank, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, said that imposing deployment ban is not an end in itself, and that there is need to enhance our sense and assessment on policy citing the absence of concrete policies on OFWs’ economic and development role.

“Deployment ban had been issued time and again, but we all know that it just a knee-jerk reaction whenever the harsh reality of not having enough employment in the country slaps the government in its face,” Mata said.

In 2018 President Duterte made the same decision following reports that some workers in the Gulf state were maltreated by their employers and said he would ask other countries, including China, to accommodate OFWs.

“Eventually, the Philippine government rescinded the ban because it has no way of relocating thousands of employed OFWs in Kuwait to other countries,” Mata said, adding that the permanent solution is not a deployment ban in any other countries but developing the country’s agro-industry to absorb the Filipino labor force, and to give better wages and benefits to Filipino workers and professionals.

Filipino workers among the most at risk anywhere in the world – SENTRO

Despite assurances of protection from local and national laws, including international agreements, Filipino workers are living the most perilous time in their own country and in almost all other countries they are working as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said over the weekend.

In its annual global report released last week, the International Trade Union Confederation has placed the Philippines and the majority of countries where OFWs are eking their living, under category five, which is a rating for the worst countries in the world to work in.

The report said that, “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.”

“What is notable in this report is that the Philippines is included in a long list of countries whose current regimes do not actively respect workers’ rights. Hence, despite the existence of national law and being signatories to international laws on labor, the workers’ safety and protection of their rights are not guaranteed,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro.

According to Mata, these include Bahrain, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates which are all major destinations for OFWs, “which means Filipino workers are really screwed up in and outside of their country.”

“The problem is, our own government do have the moral ascendancy to demand rights for our workers abroad when the Philippine government itself can’t protect its own citizens,” Mata explained. “It can’t even guarantee the fundamental rights of its own workers in its home country,” Mata added.

Another notable aspect of the report is that it included the Philippines as one of the top 10 worst countries in the world for the workers, saying “in a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines faced threats and intimidation.”

SENTRO suffered the first trade union killing under the administration of Mr. Duterte when Lando Abangan, a trade union and community organizer, was gunned down in Naga, Cebu, last 17 September 2016. Several other trade union and peasant leaders have been killed since then.

The greatest challenge Filipino workers are facing explained Mata, “is the destruction of the collective bargaining capacities of unions through violent reprisals against workers union-building capacities and the weakening of the labor movement in general by not regularizing the workers thus preventing the workers from joining labor movement.”

So long as trade union killings remain unresolved, so long as employers can abuse contractualization, the violent repression of workers’ rights in the country will continue with impunity.

“Mr. Duterte should now realize the folly of listening to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) when he issued EO 51. Rather than realize his campaign promise to end contractualization, the issuance only further legitimized the problem,” Mata said. “This will ensure that the Philippines will maintain next year its notorious distinction as one of the top ten worst countries for workers to work in,” Mata also added.

Mr. Duterte, your misogynistic behavior endangers our women OFWs – SENTRO

Mr. Duterte, your misogynistic behavior endangers our women OFWs – SENTRO

Photo courtesy of google

Instead of manipulating women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to show his ‘care’ to them, the president should work to improve the protection of OFWs in various destinations overseas and institute workable programs for the returning OFWs.

“For one, Mr. Duterte can expand bilateral agreements to other receiving countries similar to the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Kuwait,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro).

The action of the president, who recently kissed a female OFW in South Korea, endangers our women OFWs abroad. It sends the wrong signal to the male populations of receiving countries that such things are “normal” for us Filipinos. This would only make our women OFWs more vulnerable to sexual harassment, considering that many Filipino women migrant workers are already being victimized now, Mata said.

“We would like to remind Mr. Duterte that his sexual innuendoes to female OFWs really expresses his low regard to womanhood and may endanger further the personal security of the considerable sector of Philippine society that helped catapult him into power,” the labor leader also said.

Aside from MOUs for protecting OFWs in other countries, the government should work on a viable Reintegration Program, a genuine reintegration program that takes into consideration the multi-faceted problems OFWs are facing, the reasons in the first place why they decided to find work abroad, Mata also said.

In March, BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. announced that cash remittances, or remittances formally channeled through banks, totaled $2.379 billion in January 2018, representing 9.7% year-on-year growth from January 2017.

Remittances from land-based workers at $1.9 billion and sea-based ones at $500 million also increased by 8.4% and 15.3%, respectively.

According to Mata, with this huge amount coming from Filipino migrant workers which keep the economy afloat, the least the government could do is to fund a sustainable reintegration program.

For years, SENTRO has been organizing Filipino migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. It is now working in Macau and Singapore as well.

Sentro’s statement on issues of domestic workers in Kuwait

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) shares the jubilation of hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for the recent positive development in the diplomatic row between the Kuwaiti and the Philippine governments.

As part of the resolution, the Kuwaiti government announced last 9 May 2018 that the concerns of all migrant domestic workers will henceforth be handled by the Labor Department. In other words, migrant domestic workers will now be considered as workers!

This is a major victory for more than half a million migrant domestic workers in Kuwaiti, including Filipinos. It is the culmination of years of work by SANDIGAN, together with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“We are very pleased with the Kuwaiti government’s decision,” Mary Ann Abunda, head of SANDIGAN, said. “We could not have done it without the help of the KTUF,” she added.

SANDIGAN, a Filipino migrant rights advocacy group in Kuwait, was one of the first to raise the red flag of alarm when a group of media-attention-hungry Philippine officials staged a ‘heroic’ rescue operation for several OFWs. Rather than promote the protection of OFWs, their brazenness actually endangered the lives of OFWs in Kuwait.

SENTRO commends all the OFWs who had petitioned both the Philippine and the Kuwaiti governments to resolve the issue at the earnest, and kudos to the individuals from both parties who work silently to resolve the case, far from the media limelight.

SENTRO also commends the Kuwait government for its part in the solution and the tacit admittance that it needs the skills, intelligence, and caring hands of the OFWs.

“The decision of the Kuwaiti government is definitely a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done, Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, said.

SENTRO urges the Kuwaiti government to abolish the dreaded ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to abuse.

At the same time, SENTRO is calling on the Philippine government to intensify the effort of securing memorandum of agreements with other countries, particularly in the Middle East, to protect the rights and welfare Filipino migrant workers.

This is essentially the responsibility and reason for being of the various Philippine consular and diplomatic offices scattered all over the planet—to protect their own citizens, and not to conspire with foreign and local agencies and individuals for monetary and other purposes.

Finally, SENTRO urges the government to develop an industrial policy that would ensure regular and decent work for all in the country and institute a re-integration program. Then and only then can we make migration as real choice for our workers.

Sentro formally endorses Leni, Walden, Akbayan after MOA signing


MORE than a week after declaring its support during the International Women’s Day rallies, Sentro formally endorsed vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo, independent senatorial aspirant Walden Bello and the Akbayan party-list following the recent signing of their respective memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with the national labor center.

Signed last March 19 during separate meetings on the sidelines of the Sentro 4th General Council confab in Quezon City, the MOA binds the parties upon signing to “jointly and steadfastly promote and pursue (Sentro’s) labor and other social advocacies,” which were enumerated in the documents.


Included here are the general labor and social agenda drafted by Sentro, each with still specific items, such as promoting secure and quality jobs as well as “green” jobs; living wage; social protection and services; strengthening trade union, political and human rights; refiling of certain significant bills that were blocked or rejected or set aside in the past Congresses; and filing other proposed laws and policies that will truly benefit the basic sectors, and ensure national sovereignty and territorial integrity.


More comprehensive and updated Sentro priority legislative and executive agenda were presented to Akbayan, such as on various international and national issues affecting the working people; asset reforms; sustainable employment; living wage, social wage and restructuring the wage determination system; strengthening trade union rights; Labor Code reforms; issues of specific groups of workers; working women’s priority agenda; socialized housing; and institutionalizing workers’ representation.

Some of the top proposed laws that the endorsed candidates will support in the legislative and executive branches of the government are the pending or blocked bills on Security of Tenure (SOT), Freedom of Information (FOI), Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Maternity Protection, and Anti-Discrimination.

Meanwhile, although Robredo has agreed to champion Sentro’s labor agenda, there is still an ongoing discussion with her on other important issues and concerns, like Sentro’s vehement opposition to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged between the Philippine and US governments.

Each MOA was “individualized” in its introductory paragraphs to cite the achievements and track record of each candidate in the pursuit of the rights and welfare of the people, particularly the workers and other basic sectors, and – since all of them are either current or former legislators – for advancing other “other progressive and nationalist” causes “inside and outside the halls of Congress.”

Botched ‘balikbayan’ box policy: Lina’s folly, Aquino’s saving face


Manila Bulletin Photo

THE COLLECTIVE and swift vigilance and wrath of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), their families and the civil society have forced President Aquino to backtrack yesterday on his implicit support of his customs chief’s plan to arbitrarily check “balikbayan” boxes, which are considered as “integral part of the family relationship” among those working and living abroad and their loved ones left in the country.

“Thanks, but no thanks to P-Noy; his about-face was merely to save his face, to avoid further backlash against his government and his anointed ones in next year’s elections. Because before he yielded to public clamor versus the balikbayan box policy, he actually encouraged this idiotic plan,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, said.

Mata added that “the morons who thought of that plan have apparently ignored the huge sacrifices and contributions of the millions of OFWs, the multibillion-peso smuggling of illicit or highly taxable items as well as the dumping of hazardous wastes from other countries that thrive and persist under the very noses of corrupt customs personnel, and the availability of nonintrusive inspection methods that could detect contraband goods without the need to pry open the humble balikbayan boxes sent by the OFWs to their families here.”

After widespread protests, including in the social media and from lawmakers, Malacañang belatedly ordered Alberto Lina, Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner, to stop his much-maligned idea – that in fact harasses the OFWs, not the big-time smugglers, criminals and terrorists – and to instead conduct noninvasive large-sized X-ray and K-9 examinations of all containers of OFW boxes.

Physical scrutiny of a specific balikbayan box will be allowed only if the X-ray or K-9 inspection found “derogatory findings,” but strict protocols will be followed, including the presence of a representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or an OFW association, and CCTV (closed circuit television) units will be placed to monitor the inspection areas to deter pilferage or theft, bribery and vandalism.

Earlier, Lina – the former BOC head during the Arroyo regime, and appointed by Aquino last April – announced that balikbayan boxes, which typically contain the usual household wares and gifts, would be subjected to random inspections to prevent the entry of illegal materials or to assess the contents for duties and value-added taxes.

Carry On Admin Hans! Your Way is the Right Way!

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

An Affirmation of Support to POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfill its mandate to protect our OFWs through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies

We, migrant workers, CSOs, trade unions and migrants rights advocates, in the country and overseas, reiterate our firm support to Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfil its mandate to uphold and protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies and deployment of our OFWs.

We recall how we advocated for 12 long years for the repeal of the deregulation provisions of RA8042, namely Sections 29 and 30 if only to emphasize the important role of POEA as a regulatory body that will ensure protection for our migrant workers at the point of recruitment and deployment. The Philippine Congress heeded our call and enacted RA 9422 amending RA 8042 in January 2007.

RA 9422 effectively strengthens the regulatory functions of the POEA. Section 1 of RA9422 states that the POEA “shall regulate private sector participation in the recruitment and overseas placement of workers by setting up a licensing and registration system. It shall formulate and implement, in coordination with appropriate entities concerned, when necessary, a system for promoting and monitoring the overseas employment of Filipino workers, taking into consideration their welfare and the domestic manpower requirements.”


POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac

POEA, under the able leadership of Administrator Cacdac, fulfills its mandate to the letter, with due diligence but also with respect to due process, with the end in view of ensuring protection and promotion of the rights of Filipino migrant workers, particularly the more vulnerable amongst them –the migrant domestic workers and other low-skilled workers.

Some of the positive developments in the POEA under his watch include the following:

  • OFW-friendly front line service personnel that includes Admin Hans himself taking his turn to sit at the POEA information desk on the ground floor and in one of the counters at the Balik Manggagawa Division of the POEA.
  • Simplifying documentation processes and securing OECs for OFWs by setting up online systems
  • Fast and real-time verification of status of recruitment agencies through the POEA website
  • Indefatigable efforts to forge MOAs with LGUs for collective efforts to undertake pre-departure information and education campaigns at the community level, prioritizing communities far from city centers;
  • Enhanced visibility of POEA to the public through effective media engagements
  • Ensuring the consultative platforms with stakeholders are working like the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Councils and various bilateral forums as well; making readily available and accessible the POEA directorate no less for purposes of dialogue and consultations;
  • Conversely, making himself accessible and personally available to OFWs and families through social media and twitter
  • Reviewing POEA Rules and Regulations for overseas employment to make it more relevant to the needs of the times and how best to serve the interests of the OFWs and families
  • Promoting ethical recruitment and now re-opening debates on the Private Recruitment Agency Convention, ILO Convention 181, with the slant to ratification of the Convention
  • Implementing and monitoring more effectively POEA rules and regulations on private sector recruitment activities
  • Engaging more actively and effectively, with other agencies of government, in the campaign against illegal recruitment and in combatting human trafficking
  • Ensuring faster resolution of administrative cases at the POEA with firm resolve and meting out appropriate sanctions and penalties against erring recruiters and other violations
  • More visibility in carrying out on-the-spot inspections of recruitment offices and crackdowns against unscrupulous agencies
  • Improved facilities at the POEA from the elevators to the toilets, and general welcoming attitude and atmosphere at the POEA
  • Successfully chairing the ILO Committee that deliberated on the provisions of the landmark ILO Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers that sets the universally-accepted minimum standards of protection for all domestic workers–local and overseas– and is now recognized as work

Very seldom that we see such example of a public servant as Admin Hans with all sincerity and passion to serve the people. Very rare that we witness a selfless public servant who does not mind being the target of unscrupulous elements simply because he is doing the right thing.

His efforts may not be enough to shake up the system. Maybe even his days at the POEA are numbered until the end of President P-Noy’s term, but to see him doing what he should and must do to ensure protection to OFWs and their families, that for us, is enough.

Carry on Admin Hans!
You are on the right track. The POEA way, under your watch, is the Right Way!


26 individuals including 3 government officials; 20 migrant organizations, 11 women and other organizations, 10 trade unions, federations and internationals from 11 countries

Walden F. Bello, former chair of House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs
Angelina Ludovice-Katoh, Congress Representative, Akbayan Party List
Imelda Nicolas, Cabinet Secretary/ Chairperson, Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Atty. Raymond DC Mendoza, Congress Representative, TUCP Party List
Leah Pacquiz, Congress Representative, Ang NARS Party List
Center for Migrant Advocacy
Ateneo De Manila Political Science Department Working Group on Migration
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK)
Migrant Forum in Asia
Patnubay Online- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Hail, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Jizan, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Kuwait
Patnubay Online – Qatar
Patnubay Online – United Arab Emirates
Patnubay Online – Manila, Philippines
Apostleship of the Sea Manila
Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiatives, Inc (Atikha)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
World March of Women Pilipinas
Building and Woodworkers International (BWI)
PS Link
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
VisMin Active Migrants Association Hong Kong
Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Center
WomanHealth Philippines
Akbayan Citizens Action Party
Samaritana Transformation Ministries
Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF)
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Alliance of Progressive Labor Hong Kong
Domestic Workers Union Hong Kong
Deo Volente Hong Kong
United Workers for Mutual Advancement and Development (UniMAD) Malaysia
Women’s Crisis Center (WCC)
Women and Gender Institute (WAGI)
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
Pagtinabangay Foundation
WomanHealth Philippines Leyte
Business and Professional Women Ormoc
Coalition for Ormoc Women
Textile Clothing Footwear Ormoc
Filipino Migrants In Nigeria
Public Services International (PSI)
Marlon Quesada, migrants rights advocate
Eunice Eunice Barbara Novio, Thailand
Mike Bolos, Jr., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ronnie Abeto, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
Joseph Henry Espiritu, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Rex Varona, Migrants rights advocate
Carlo Vargas, Migrants rights’ advocate
Sabrina Gacad, Migrants rights’ advocate
Mariquit Kit Melgar, Migrants rights’ advocate
Josua Mata, Secretary General, Sentro
Lolita Farmer, OAM Global Filipinos Australia
Edwin Bustillos, Representative, National Anti Poverty Commission Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sector
Terence AG Osorio, Migrants rights advocate
Alex Veloso Bello, President, OFW Congress Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ellaine Fuentes, Migrants Rights Advocate
Eden See, Migrants Rights Advocate
Maria Elizabeth Embry, Migrants Rights Advocate, Alaska
Benjamin Nadado, Migrants Rights Advocate, Nigeria
Ronald Concha, Chair, Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Joanne Barriga Quintana, Migrants Rights Advocate
Leila Rispens-Noel, WIMLER Foundation Philippines
Norman Dondi Grecia, Migrants Rights Advocate

[See complete list of signatories on CMA facebook page

Stop Violence Against Domestic Workers! Respect Migrant Workers’ Rights!


To mark today’s International Migrants Day, almost a hundred Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong belonging to the Progressive Labor Union (PLU-SENTRO-IDWF) trooped to the consulates of various migrant sending countries and the Hong Kong Central Government Offices.

Joining the Filipino trade unionists in picketing the consulates of the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal, as well as the HKCGO, were members of the Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR), Federation of Asian Domestic Workers’ Unions (FADWU) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

“For far too long, migrant workers, particularly migrant domestic workers, continue to toil under slave-like conditions,” Sheila Estrada, chairperson of PLU, said, urging for “enough of violence, enough of discrimination, it is high time for migrant workers everywhere to be respected as workers, as human beings.”

Around 3 percent or 320,000 of the Hong Kong population is composed of foreign domestic workers, in which 50 percent are from the Philippines, 47 percent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The rally highlighted the call for all countries to ratify and fully implement Convention No. 189 (Decent Work for Domestic Workers) of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

In addition, the PLU called on the Philippine government to live up to its promise of ensuring that migration would truly be just one – not the primary – of the many employment options of the Filipinos.

“President Aquino is at the homestretch of his 6-year term, and yet we haven’t seen any policy change that would ensure full employment in the Philippines,” Estrada said.

“Instead of jobs creation, what we see is the continuing destruction of decent and regular jobs, where various forms of precarious work becoming more prevalent, even among public sector workers,” she added.

The PLU said that as long as there is no full and decent employment in the Philippines and its much-vaunted economic growth continues to fail to generate the much-needed quality jobs, millions of Filipinos would be forced to seek the proverbial greener pastures abroad.

PLU is an affiliate of the domestic workers’ union under the HKCTU as well as the global union International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). On the other hand, PLU’s mother organization in the Philippines is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

Mode 4 and the Labor Rights of Migrant Workers

Migrant workers should be protected by labor laws of the host countries and must not be included in TISA or any free trade agreement. They are employees, not independent service-suppliers.

  1. Introduction

Mode 4 provisions under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)[1], under the services chapters of free trade agreements[2], including the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)[3], typically involve the movement of natural persons such as investors, intra-corporate transferees (managers, specialists, technical persons) and highly technical personnel such as those with expertise law, accounting, taxation, management consulting, engineering, computer, advertising, research and development services, translation services, higher education, architecture, and research and development, and the like.

One easily infers from the above enumeration that either these natural persons are trying to look for investment opportunities, or are providing highly-specialized, time-bound services. In neither case is any of them considered an employee. Hence, those deployed under Mode 4 who provide services by way of a contract for service do not expect any protection under the labor laws of the host country, and their contracts are instead governed by default contract laws.


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