KASAMA Vol. 12 No. 4 / October–November–December 1998 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

From: Ellene Sana

70–1 Matahimik Street,
Teacher's Village,
Quezon City,

18 December 98

Dear Friends:

December 18 is the International Day of Solidarity with the Migrant Workers and the 8th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

To celebrate the occasion, participants in the regional Rights and Roots Campaign organized by Asian Migrant Centre, Unlad Kabayan, Kanlungan, and Kakammpi visited seven embassies (Belgium, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Spain) to make a personal appeal to support the ratification of the UN convention. We presented the embassies with a Christmas lantern, a Christmas card with a message to ratify the convention and a "Ratify The Convention" poster. My team visited the embassy of Indonesia and had a dialogue with Ambassador Abu Hartono.

In the afternoon, we converged at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and joined the families and children of migrant workers from Kakammpi communities in Paco, Dagat–dagatan, Marikina and Tondo and other representatives of local NGOs for the caroling–dialogue. An improvised stage and reception area was set up at the DFA building's main lobby for the caroling. The children of migrant workers from Kakammpi presented the Christmas lantern and Christmas card to Acting Foreign Secretary and head of the Office of the Legal Assistant for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OLAMWA), Leonides Caday. Then they performed several original–composition Christmas songs that express their longing for their loved ones and their parents, who are working overseas, to be home with them for Christmas.

In response, Secretary Caday re–affirmed the DFA’s commitment to the migrant workers and to support the campaign for the ratification of the UN convention. He also gave the caroller–children a small gift from the DFA.

As the caroling continued with the staff of OLAMWA and the office of DFA secretary Domingo Siazon joining us in the audience, a 6–member panel from the Rights & Roots group composed of Rex Varona of the Asian Migrant Centre, May–Ann Villalba of Unlad Kabayan, Marylou Alcid of Kanlungan, Ma. Fe Nicodemus of Kakammpi and two migrant worker representatives from Hongkong joined the DFA representatives for a dialogue in Mr Caday’s office.

After caroling the DFA staff, we went back outside, continued the program and waited for the panel to come out from the dialogue. At five thirty, they came out and reported the commitments and pledges agreed upon around the issues of protection for migrant workers and reintegration programs. We headed back for home just as the raindrops started to fall.

Here is the statement submitted to Secretary Caday.

Yuletide greetings to all of you from all of us in Kakammpi.

Ratify the UN Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families!

The Migrant Forum in Asia is a network of over 40 migrant support and advocacy groups based in South, Southeast, and East Asia.

Contact: Henry Lee, MFA Secretariat, c/- Asian Migrant Centre, 4 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Tel: 852-23120031 Fax: 852-29920111
Manila Tel/Fax: 632-4331292 phone before faxing

Statement on the Occasion of the 8th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

Today, we celebrate the 8th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The UN Convention marks an important milestone especially for migrant workers, as it consolidates into a single instrument all human rights applicable to migrant workers and their families.

We note with pride and deep appreciation that the Philippines is one of the first states that signed and ratified the Convention document. This is a significant victory for the millions of Filipinos working as migrants in various parts of the world. Yet, we are disheartened because until now, the UN Convention remains a mere paper document with only 10 countries ratifying the instrument out of the required 20 signatories to enforce the agreement.

It is for this reason that we appeal to the Philippine Government to take an active role and lead its own campaign for the ratification of the UN Convention. By doing so, it can earn for our country the admiration and respect of the international community. We further ask the Philippine government, particularly agencies concerned with overseas migration, to take a lead in the ratification campaign by showing a good example in championing the rights of its own migrant workers.

It is sad to note, however, that even our government falls short of its international commitments and its responsibilities as protectors of our rights and welfare. We, therefore, ask our government, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs, to look more closely into our situation and take appropriate measures to extend prompt and effective on site protection and assistance to all overseas Filipino workers.

Specifically, we ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to:

  1. ensure prompt, thorough and transparent investigation of all cases of abuses and adequate assistance to victims, particularly those involving mysterious deaths, sexual abuse, trafficking, detention and mental illness;
  2. forge bilateral relations with labor–receiving countries;
  3. institute a system of consultation especially for policies affecting Filipinos in specific countries;
  4. ensure the recruitment, training and deployment of personnel who are genuinely committed to uphold the rights and interests of overseas Filipinos and who are gender–sensitive;
  5. institute appropriate measures to reorient foreign service such that it would give primordial importance to overseas Filipinos.

We work as migrant workers in different parts of Asia. This Christmas, we come home to spend time with our families and loved ones. We took leave from our homecoming and spared precious days to come together and put our message across. We visited foreign embassies to urge them to take immediate action to ratify the UN Convention. Now, we call on our own government to lend some time to hear and respond to our appeal.

We have braved new worlds and endured the pain of separation from loved ones if only to keep and uplift our families. We have experienced humiliation, abuse, torture and slavery. Many among our ranks have returned home dead or badly bruised or psychologically impaired. We have contributed more than our share in propping up the local economy. Perhaps, it is not too much to ask for closer attention and better treatment.

Best Christmas greetings to one and all.


Convenors and Participants of the Rights and Roots Campaign:

KAKAMMPI (Kapisanan ng mga Kamag–anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.)
KANLUNGAN Center Foundation
UNLAD KABAYAN (Migrant Services Foundation, Inc.)

Internet web sites with more information:

Migrant Forum in Asia

World Council of Churches

Photos: on this page are reproduced with the permission and kind assistance of the MFA Secretariat.