10/22/2008 | 05:14 PM
– An alliance of migrant workers’ groups on Wednesday asked Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr to resign from his post for allegedly neglecting Filipino workers who are languishing in jails abroad.
In a rally in front of the DFA head office in Manila, about 100 protesters from the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) said Conejos has lost his credibility as head of the department’s office of migrant workers affairs.
“His palpable neglect of government responsibility towards overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is tantamount to a crime,” said Garry Martinez, spokesman of Migrante International, one of the members of IAMR.
Martinez cited the case of beheaded OFW Venancio Ladion, alias Jennifer Bidoya, as a result of the alleged irresponsibility of the department regarding migrant cases.
Ladion, 27, was executed in Saudi Arabia last week for the murder of a Saudi national in 2005.
DFA officials claimed the government has done everything possible, including President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appeal for clemency to the King of Saudi Arabia, to spare Ladion’s life.
But the victim’s family rejected offers of diya or blood money payment and insisted on retribution.
The Philippine consul general in Jeddah, Ezzedin Tago, earlier said the family of the victim refused to pardon Ladion, who was found guilty by the courts of biting the victim’s penis before stabbing him on the neck and strangling him with an electrical cord.
But Connie Regalado, secretary-general of IMA, said it’s not just Ladion’s case where the DFA personnel under Conejos have been negligent.
“There are around 30 cases of OFWs on death row, almost a million cases of undocumented migrant workers, and about 5,000 migrants in jail waiting to be assisted by the DFA,” she said.
“Amid all their inadequacy to respond to migrants’ cases and amid the proven bankruptcy of its labor export policy, the DFA and Malacañang still have the gall to showcase the Philippines as a model at the GFMD,” Regalado said.
The GMFD is the Global Migrants Forum and Development (GFMD) being hosted by the Philippines at the end of the month in Manila, with Conejos as one of the key officials.
“Just like the Arroyo government, the organizers of the GFMD are drooling over the huge remittances of migrant workers, at the expense of our further commodification, and in violation of our rights and welfare,” she said.
Martinez added: “Clearly, the gall of Conejos to even talk about migrants and their protection knows no bounds,” he said. – Mark J. Ubalde and D’Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV
A migrant workers’ group has demanded for the resignation of the head of the migrant workers affairs office of the the Department of Foreign Affairs for allegedly abandoning Filipino workers facing charges overseas.
On Wednesday, Migrante International, an alliance of migrant workers’ groups, said that DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos should step down.
In a demonstration, Migrante accused Conejos of lying in the case of Jenifer Bedoya, an OFW beheaded in Saudi Arabia for murder.
Contrary to Conejos’s statements, Migrante said Bedoya did not receive any legal assistance during his trial.
“Kasinungalingan ang sinabi nilang bibigyan kami ng tulong. Nangako sila sa akin pero pinabayaan nila ang kaso ng anak ko,” said Jenifer’s father, Geremias Bedoya.
In a statement, Migrante accused the DFA of lying to the Bedoya family about the real status of the case and gave them false promises after it asked the family not to reveal the case to the media.
“The family was later outraged to find out that Jenifer did not receive legal assistance, and was only provided an interpreter and not a lawyer in the early stages of the trial,” Migrante said.
The relatives of three other OFWs on death row in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan also joined the protest.
They are appealing to government to exhaust all efforts to save their relative from execution.
Brothers Edison and Rolando Gonzales were sentenced to death in Jeddah for allegedly killing a fellow OFW while Cecilia Alcaraz was sentenced to die by firing squad in Taiwan for allegedly killing a Taiwanese citizen.
Migrants’ grassroots organizations under the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) support the demand for Conejos to resign.
“There are around 30 cases of OFWs on death row, almost a million cases of undocumented migrant workers, and about 5,000 migrants in jail waiting to be assisted by the DFA. Amid all their inadequacy to respond to migrants’ cases and amid the proven bankruptcy of its labor export policy, the DFA and Malacañang still have the gall to showcase the Philippines as a model at the GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development),” said IMA Secretary General Connie Bragas-Regalado.
IMA organized the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) which will gather migrants and migrants’ organizations around the world in Manila this October to oppose the GFMD. The Philippine government will be hosting the 2nd GFMD also this month. With a report from ANC