March 16, 2012
Contact: Jun Cruz NAFCON Public Info Officer
Banish the Snakes from the Philippines
Commemorating Flor Contemplacion on Saint Patrick’s Day
On March 17th, many Filipinos will wear green for Saint Patrick’s Day. The day is named after Saint Patrick who is accounted to have banished the snakes from Ireland. Although the story is a myth, and in fact snakes have never existed in post-glacial Ireland, metaphorically speaking, there are many snakes that exist today in the Philippines that must be banished.
On the same day as Saint Patrick’s Day, Filipinos remember the anniversary of the wrongful and unjust execution of Filipino migrant worker Flor Contemplacion. Flor was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in Singapore despite a wide array of evidence pointing to her innocence as well as mass appeals throughout the world asking for clemency. All pleas were denied and on March 17th, 1995 Flor was executed.
The day before Flor’s execution, she expressed that she had already prepared herself for death after all efforts to save her life had been denied. She thanked Filipinos for trying to save her but preferred to end not only her own agony but that of all who supported her as well.
Yet, even close to two decades after her execution, Flor’s story continues to touch many because it is intimately connected to the over four thousand Filipinos who leave the Philippines every day and the over eleven million who have already left. Filipinos continue to leave, with little to no choice, to feed their families because the government has failed for decades to develop a sustainable economy and instead relies on what is called a Labor Export Program (LEP) to hold the country afloat.
Despite the dark reality of facing low wages, horrid working conditions, little protection for human rights, exploitation, harassment, threats, illegal arrests, imprisonment, criminalization, and deportation, like Flor, Filipinos make the sacrifice that at times costs even their life due to lack of decent employment in the Philippines.
It is because of this situation that on Saint Patrick’s Day and the anniversary of Flor Contemplacion’s execution, Filipinos must remember we have our own snakes to banish from the Philippines.
It is important to know and remember that our country is in fact very rich with a vast array of natural resources. The primary reason for the Philippines pervasive poverty is all the “snakes” in government. For too long they have pushed the LEP and failed to implement genuine land reform as well as develop a national industry to harness our nation’s wealth. Throughout the decades the snakes have instead sold our nation’s wealth, including its people, to the elite of other countries and foreign multi-national corporations, pocketing the profits and cheating the Filipino people.
The irony of the situation is that while the estimated 23 billion dollars in 2012 remittances holds the Philippine economy afloat during an economic crisis, the current President Aquino uses the same crisis as basis to increases taxes on OFWs while reducing funds available for basic services and protection. Yet, it is certain that in tougher economic times the conditions that Filipino migrants face will only worsen and their need for support will increase.
So on the day where the unwritten memo says wear green or get pinched, and people all over have Irish coffee in the morning and a tall one at night, Filipinos should also remember that we have work left to do together.
Currently, the Aquino regime has no policy to end the LEP. Consequently, he has no plan to carry out genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization. His plan is to continue to rely on OFWs to hold up the country’s economy while still decreasing the governments support for them.
So it is imperative that Filipinos throughout the world continue advocating for the Philippine government to end the LEP, to focus on developing a sustainable economy, and to increase support for Filipino migrant workers. We must affirm that not only our remittances matter but so does our voice. This is especially true for Filipinos in the United States since our remittances make up fifty percent of all the money sent back to the homeland.
Of equal importance, we cannot only rely on the Philippine government to protect the many Filipino migrants in the U.S. and throughout the world – their record before and after Flor’s execution in this respect is failing. Everyday Filipinos must unite and work together to defend the rights and welfare of our kababayan until people power eventually can banish the snakes from the Philippines. ###
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