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‘How many were not filmed?’: Calls to end police brutality renewed after cop killed mother and son in Tarlac

By Catalina Ricci S. Madarang – December 21, 2020, Philstar.com/Interaksyon

Calls to end police brutality dominated conversations online on Monday after a cop was caught in a viral video killing an unarmed mother and son in Paniqui, Tarlac.

Police officer later identified as Senior Master Sergeant  Jonel Nuezca on Sunday shot 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son, Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, over an altercation regarding the latter’s use of “boga,” an improvised noisemaker used during the holidays in the Philippines.

Nuezca, who was reportedly assigned to the Parañaque City Crime laboratory, surrendered at the Rosales Pangasinan Municipal Police Station an hour after the incident.

He also turned over his PNP-issued 9mm semi-auto pistol that was used in the crime.

In an interview with GMA News’ “Unang Balita,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Noriel Rombaoa, chief of the Paniqui Police, said that the suspect went to the victims’ houses to confront them.

“Pumunta yung police sa bahay ng biktima at nagkaroon ng pagtatalo, naungkat ang matagal na nilang alitan sa right-of-way,” he said.

Nuezca refused to say anything except he regrets shooting the two victims, Rombaoa added. He also stated that the former will face a double murder complaint from the local police.

Data from Police Regional Office III chief Police Brigadier General Val de Leon showed that Nuezca had faced grave misconduct or homicide cases in May and December last year. However, these cases were dismissed due to lack of substantial evidence.

Nuezca had faced grave misconduct (homicide) cases in May and December 2019. Both, however, were dismissed due to lack of substantial evidence.

Stop the killings

Several hashtags and the phrase “My father is a policeman”
dominated the top five spots on Twitter Philippines’ trending list on Monday as concerned Filipinos and human rights advocates called to end police brutality in the Philippines.

The phrase was uttered by the daughter of Nuezca during the altercation between the victims and her policeman father, seconds before the Gregorios were shot dead.

Nuezca’s daughter also received backlash online for this remark. Twitter user @lakwatsarah, said that the daughter might have been raised to believe that her father is above the law.

“She was probably raised to believe he can shoot anyone who messes with them. He shot them. He made that choice. The daughter is a victim of his parenting,” she said.

Aside from this phrase, the hashtags in the local Twitter’s top trending list as of writing are:

  1. #StopTheKillingsPH with over 670,000 tweets
  2. #JusticeforSonyaGregoria with over 360,000 tweets
  3. #EndPoliceBrutality with over 286,000 tweets
  4. #Pulisangterorista with over 191,000 tweets

The calls for justice for Sonya and Frank Gregorio were also launched on Facebook.

Progressive groups such as the League of Filipino Students and Gabriela Youth issued separate statements that denounced Nuezca’s brutal act and other cases of abuse and killings in the Philippines.

‘How many were not filmed?’

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that the shooting incident in Paniqui is an “isolated incident.” He also said that “the sin of Nuezca is not the sin of the entire Philippine National Police.”

“This is an unfortunate but isolated incident. While there are unfortunate incidents like this, the vast majority of our PNP personnel perform their sworn duties everyday with honor and integrity to protect and serve the people,” Año said.

Writers Emiliana Kampilan or “Dead Balagtas” and Alfonso Manalastas, however, noted the possible deaths at the hands of the police and the military that were not caught on camera.

Bar 2019 topnotcher Kenneth Manuel echoed the similar view and questioned if there were more underreported victims.

“Minsan mapapaisip ka na lang, ilan na kaya nakitil nito pero hindi lang naibalita? Mas mapapaisip ka, ilan kaya sa kanila ang kayang pumatay ng ganito?” Manuel wrote.

Several concerned Filipinos also questioned this possibility, while citing that drug suspects were killed before because they allegedly fought back or “nanlaban” but there were no videos to prove them.

Detained Sen. Leila De Lima in 2018 called out the government and former presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo for using the “nanlaban” narrative.

“I cannot allow Panelo to continue to poison the public’s mind with the Duterte administration’s oft-repeated but flawed proposition that the increasing number of deaths due to the crackdown on drugs was because suspected drug offenders have all resisted police arrest with violence,” she said in December 2018.

Meanwhile, others lamented the Christmas bonuses police officers received despite the reported brutality.

“Tapos mas mataas ang bonus ng mga pulis kaysa health workers?” he said.

Not the first time

Data from World Population Review showed that in 2020, the Philippines ranked third among the countries with the highest cases of police killings wherein 3,451 people were killed or a rate of 322 victims per 10 million people.

In a September report from US-based Human Rights Watch, citing government data, the PNP killed 50% more people between April and July of this year despite the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

HRW noted that this figure is only for deaths in police anti-drug operations.

Last June, the rising cases of police abuse in the Philippines which happened before and during the pandemic were juxtaposed to the killings perpetrated by the police in the United States.

The death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis triggered a nationwide campaign for equal rights for all people of color.

RELATED: ‘I can’t breathe!,’ ‘Tama na po’: Police brutality in US, Philippines juxtaposed

Duterte’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ remarks

Some Filipinos blamed such rogue activities among PNP members on President Rodrigo Duterte’s continuous “shoot-to-kill” remarks since he took office in 2016.

In a televised address aired last December 16, Duterte denied ordering the police to “shoot to kill” civilians.

“May mga pulis na talagang may ano sa — diretso salvage ganoon. Wala akong inutos na ganoon. Remember, in all of my utterances, ang galit ko ‘yan when I say, ‘Do not destroy my country, the Republic of the Philippines, who elected me as President. Do not destroy our sons and daughters because I will kill you.’ Sabi ko — hindi ko sinabi, ‘They impede, they will kill you.’ The military will… I said, ‘I will kill you,’” the said.

“Pero sabi ko, ito, ‘Go out and destroy the apparatus.’ Iyan. Pagka nagkabarilan diyan in destroying the apparatus, goodbye ka. Kaya sabi ko, ‘Ako, I take full responsibility for my order.’ ‘But remember,’ I said, ‘enforce the law in accordance with what you have learned then self-defense.’ Defense of ano ‘yan. Stranger kung kasama mo. In law it’s called a stranger, maski kilala mo. Defense of relative,” he also said.

‘Walk the talk’

Amid the outrage on Nuezca’s brutal act both Paniqui Police chief Rombaoa and PNP chief Police General Major Debold Sinas reminded their colleagues to observe “maximum tolerance.”

“Sa mga kasamahan po natin sa pulisya, dapat self-control kasi nga maximum tolerance tayo, tayo ang may armas. Kung merong umaagrabiyado sa atin merong right forum po riyan, pwede nating kasuhan, not to the point na gagamitin natin ang baril natin,” Rombaoa was quoted as saying.“Lagi nating tandaan ang ating sinumpaang tungkulin bilang tagapagpatupad ng batas. We should walk the talk in the PNP,” Sinas said. #

‘Aswang’ Documentary Review: Do Not Dare Look Away

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 23: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) Two women cry in grief after armed assailants in a motorcycle shot their loved one in a main thoroughfare on July 23, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The victim was an alleged drug peddler a claim disputed by his wife and maintained her husband is nothing more than a pedicab driver plying his trade when he was shot in front of her. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a war on crime and drugs after winning the presidential elections on May 9, 2016. President Duterte has recently been living up to his nickname, 'The Punisher', as Philippine police have been conducting night time drug raids on almost a daily basis. With reports of at least 300 drug related deaths since the start of July, Human rights groups and the Catholic church have objected to the use of brutal force by the Police. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

July 20, 2020/

By L.S. Mendizabal

Kodao Productions

Pumarito ka. Bahala ka, kukunin ka ng aswang diyan! (Come here, or else the aswang will get you!)” is a threat often directed at Filipino children by their mothers. In fact, you can’t be Filipino without having heard it at least once in your life. For as early as in childhood, we are taught to fear creatures we’ve only seen in nightmares triggered by bedtime stories told by our Lolas.

In Philippine folklore, an “aswang” is a shape-shifting monster that roams in the night to prey on people or animals for survival. They may take a human form during the day. The concept of “monster” was first introduced to us in the 16th century by the Spanish to demonize animist shamans, known as “babaylan” and “asog,” in order to persuade Filipino natives to abandon their “anitos” (nature, ancestor spirits) and convert to Roman Catholicism—a colonizing tactic that proved to be effective from Luzon to Northern Mindanao.

In the early 1950s, seeing that Filipinos continued to be superstitious, the Central Intelligence Agency weaponized folklore against the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), an army of mostly local peasants who opposed US intervention in the country following our victory over the Japanese in World War II. The CIA trained the Philippine Army to butcher and puncture holes in the dead bodies of kidnapped Huk fighters to make them look like they were bitten and killed by an aswang. They would then pile these carcasses on the roadside where the townspeople could see them, spreading fear and terror in the countryside. Soon enough, people stopped sympathizing with and giving support to the Huks, frightened that the aswang might get them, too.

Fast forward to a post-Duterte Philippines wherein the sight of splayed corpses has become as common as of the huddled living bodies of beggars in the streets. Under the harsh, flickering streetlights, it’s difficult to tell the dead and the living apart. This is one of many disturbing images you may encounter in Alyx Ayn Arumpac’s Aswang. The documentary, which premiered online and streamed for free for a limited period last weekend, chronicles the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign on illegal drugs. “Oplan Tokhang” authorized the Philippine National Police to conduct a door-to-door manhunt of drug dealers and/or users. According to human rights groups, Tokhang has killed an estimated 30,000 Filipinos, most of whom were suspected small-time drug offenders without any actual charges filed against them. A pattern emerged of eerily identical police reports across cases: They were killed in a “neutralization” because they fought back (“nanlaban”) with a gun, which was the same rusty .38 caliber pistol repeatedly found along with packets of methamphetamine (“shabu”) near the bloodied corpses. When children and innocent people died during operations, PNP would call them “collateral damage.” Encouraged by Duterte himself, there were also vigilante killings too many to count. Some were gunned down by unidentified riding-in-tandem suspects, while some ended up as dead bodies wrapped in duct tape, maimed or accessorized with a piece of cardboard bearing the words, “Pusher ako, huwag tularan” (I’m a drug pusher, do not emulate). Almost all the dead casualties shared one thing in common: they were poor. Virtually no large-scale drug lord suffered the same fate they did.

And for a while, it was somehow tempting to call it “fate.” Filipinos were being desensitized to the sheer number of drug-related extrajudicial killings (a thousand a month, according to the film). “Nanlaban” jokes and memes circulated on Facebook and news of slain Tokhang victims were no longer news as their names and faces were reduced to figures in a death toll that saw no end.

As much as Aswang captures the real horrors and gore of the drug war, so has it shown effectively the abnormal “sense of normal” in the slums of Manila as residents deal with Tokhang on the daily. Fearing for their lives has become part of their routine along with making sure they have something to eat or slippers on their feet. This biting everyday reality is highlighted by Arumpac’s storytelling unlike that of any documentary I’ve ever seen. Outlined by poetic narration with an ominous tone that sounds like a legitimately hair-raising ghost story, Aswang transports the audience, whether they like it or not, from previously seeing Tokhang exclusively on the news to the actual scenes of the crime and funerals through the eyes of four main individuals: a nightcrawler photojournalist and dear family friend, Ciriaco Santiago III (“Brother Jun” to many), a funeral parlor operator, a street kid and an unnamed woman.

Along with other nightcrawlers, Bro. Jun waits for calls or texts alerting them of Tokhang killings all over Manila’s nooks and crannies. What sets him apart from the others, perhaps motivated by his mission as Redemptorist Brother, is that he speaks to the families of the murdered victims to not only obtain information but to comfort them. In fact, Bro. Jun rarely speaks throughout the film. Most of the time, he’s just listening, his brows furrowed with visible concern and empathy. It’s as if the bereaved are confessing to him not their own transgressions but those committed against them by the state. One particular scene that really struck me is when he consoles a middle-aged man whose brother was just killed not far from his house. “Kay Duterte ako pero mali ang ginawa nila sa kapatid ko” (I am for Duterte but what they did to my brother was wrong), he says to Bro. Jun in between sobs. Meanwhile, a mother tells the story of how her teenage son went out with friends and never came home. His corpse later surfaced in a mortuary. “Just because Duterte gave [cops] the right to kill, some of them take advantage because they know there won’t be consequences,” she angrily says in Filipino before wailing in pain while showing Bro. Jun photos of her son smiling in selfies and then laying pale and lifeless at the morgue.

The Eusebio Funeral Services is a setting in the film that becomes as familiar as the blood-soaked alleys of the city. Its operator is an old man who gives the impression of being seasoned in his profession. And yet, nothing has prepared him for the burden of accommodating at least five cadavers every night when he was used to only one to two a week. When asked where all the unclaimed bodies go, he casually answers, “mass burial.” We later find out at the local cemetery that “mass burial” is the stacking of corpses in tiny niches they designated for the nameless and kinless. Children pause in their games as they look on at this crude interment, after which a man seals the niche with hollow blocks and wet cement, ready to be smashed open again for the next occupant/s. At night, the same cemetery transforms into a shelter for the homeless whose blanketed bodies resemble those covered in cloth at Eusebio Funeral Services.

Tama na po, may exam pa ako bukas” (Please stop, I still have an exam tomorrow). 17-year-old high school student, Kian Delo Santos, pleaded for his life with these words before police shot him dead in a dark alley near his home. The documentary takes us to this very alley without the foreknowledge that the corpse we see on the screen is in fact Kian’s. At his wake, we meet Jomari, a little boy who looks not older than seven but talks like a grown man. He fondly recalls Kian as a kind friend, short of saying that there was no way he could’ve been involved in drugs. Jomari should know, his parents are both in jail for using and peddling drugs. At a very young age, he knows that the cops are the enemy and that he must run at the first sign of them. Coupled with this wisdom and prematurely heightened sense of self-preservation is Jomari’s innocence, glimpses of which we see when he’s thrilled to try on new clothes and when he plays with his friends. Children in the slums are innocent but not naïve. They play with wild abandon but their exchanges are riddled with expletives, drugs and violence. They even reenact a Tokhang scene where the cops beat up and shoot a victim.

Towards the end of the film, a woman whose face is hidden and identity kept private gives a brief interview where, like the children drawing monsters only they could see in horror movies, she sketches a prison cell she was held in behind a bookshelf. Her interview alternates with shots of the actual secret jail that was uncovered by the press in a police station in Tondo in 2017. “Naghuhugas lang po ako ng pinggan n’ung kinuha nila ‘ko!” (I was just washing the dishes when they took me!), screams one woman the very second the bookshelf is slid open like a door. Camera lights reveal the hidden cell to be no wider than a corridor with no window, light or ventilation. More than ten people are inside. They later tell the media that they were abducted and have been detained for a week without cases filed against them, let alone a police blotter. They slept in their own shit and urine, were tortured and electrocuted by the cops, and told that they’d only be released if they paid the PNP money ranging from 10 000 to 100 000 pesos. Instead of being freed that day, their papers are processed for their transfer to different jails.

Aswang is almost surreal in its depiction of social realities. It is spellbinding yet deeply disturbing in both content and form. Its extremely violent visuals and hopelessly bleak scenes are eclipsed by its more delicate moments: Bro. Jun praying quietly by his lonesome after a night of pursuing trails of blood, Jomari clapping his hands in joyful glee as he becomes the owner of a new pair of slippers, an old woman playing with her pet dog in an urban poor community, a huge rally where protesters demand justice for all the victims of EJKs and human rights violations, meaning that they were not forgotten. It’s also interesting to note that while the film covers events in a span of two years, the recounting of these incidents is not chronological as seen in Bro. Jun’s changing haircuts and in Jomari’s unchanging outfit from when he gets new slippers to when he’s found after months of going missing. Without naming people, places and even dates, with Arumpacletting the poor do most of the heavy lifting bysimply telling their stories on state terrorism and impunity in their own language, Aswang succeeds in demonstrating how Duterte’s war on drugs is, in reality, a genocide of the poor, elevating the film beyond numb reportage meant to merely inform the public to being a testament to the people’s struggle. The scattered sequence, riveting images, sinister music and writing that borrows elements from folklore and the horror genre make Aswang feel more like a dream than a documentary—a nightmare, to be precise. And then, a rude awakening. The film compels us to replay and review Oplan Tokhang by bringing the audience to a place of such intimate and troubling closeness with the dead and the living they had left behind.

Its unfiltered rawness makes Aswang a challenging yet crucial watch. Blogger and company CEO, Cecile Zamora, wrote on her Instagram stories that she only checked Aswang out since it was trending but that she gave up 23 minutes in because it depressed her, declaring the documentary “not worth her mental health” and discouraging her 52,000 followers from watching it, too. Naturally, her tone-deaf statements went viral on Twitter and in response to the backlash, she posted a photo of a Tokhang victim’s family with a caption that said she bought them a meal and gave them money as if this should exempt her from criticism and earn her an ally cookie, instead.

 Aswang is definitely not a film about privileged Filipinos like Zamora—who owns designer handbags and lives in a luxurious Ed Calma home—but this doesn’t make the documentary any less relevant or necessary for them to watch. Zamora missed the point entirely: Aswang is supposed to make her and the rest of us feel upset! It nails the purpose of art in comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable. It establishes that the only aswang that exists is not a precolonial shaman or a shape-shifting monster, but fear itself—the fear that dwells within us that is currently aggravated and used by a fascist state to force us into quiet submission and apathy towards the most marginalized sectors of society.

Before the credits roll, the film verbalizes its call to action in the midst of the ongoing slaughter of the poor and psychological warfare by the Duterte regime:

“Kapag sinabi nilang may aswang, ang gusto talaga nilang sabihin ay, ‘Matakot ka.’ Itong lungsod na napiling tambakan ng katawan ay lalamunin ka, tulad ng kung paano nilalamon ng takot ang tatag. Pero meron pa ring hindi natatakot at nagagawang harapin ang halimaw. Dito nagsisimula.” (When they say there’s a monster, what they really want to say is “be afraid.” This city, chosen to be the dumpsite of the dead, will devour you as fear devours courage. But there are still those who are not afraid and are able to look the monster in the eye. This is where it begins).

During these times, when an unjust congressional vote recently shut down arguably the country’s largest multimedia network in an effort to stifle press freedom and when the Anti-Terrorism Law is now in effect, Aswang should be made more accessible to the masses because it truly is a must-see for every Filipino, and by “must-see,” I mean, “Don’t you dare look away.” #

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Buan, L. (2020). “UN Report: Documents suggest PH Police Planted Guns in Drug War Ops”. Rappler. Retrieved from https://rappler.com/nation/united-nations-report-documents-suggest-philippine-police-planted-guns-drug-war-operations

Ichimura, A., & Severino, A. (2019). “How the CIA Used the Aswang to Win a War in the Philippines”. Esquire. Retrieved from https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/cia-aswang-war-a00304-a2416-20191019-lfrm

Lim, B. C. (2015). “Queer Aswang Transmedia: Folklore as Camp”. Kritika Kultura, 24. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3mj1k076

Tan, L. (2017). “Duterte Encourages Vigilante Killings, Tolerates Police Modus – Human Rights Watch”. CNN Philippines. Retrieved from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/03/02/Duterte-PNP-war-on-drugs-Human-Rights-Watch.html

The Philippines’ Dangerous Dependence on the Exploitation of its People

Author Teo S. Marasigan Illustrator Townsunder, newnaratif.com

While it started labour export as a stop-gap measure, the Philippine government now aggressively exports Filipinos. Labour migration has helped address the short-term needs of migrant families and the economy, and has benefitted migrant-receiving countries, local elites and the government, but also poses serious long-term problems to migrants, Filipinos, and the country.

“This is my promise to you and God and to those working abroad, this will be the last. The next generation of Filipinos will work in the Philippines.”

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte declared those words in a speech before Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Japan on October 25, 2016, promising an end to the phenomenon of Filipinos having to go abroad to find work. His government, however, showed no signs of aiming to achieve this. On the contrary, it aggressively made it easier to go abroad: in its first 100 days, it created a “one-stop shop” for prospective OFWs’ applications, sped up overseas employment applications processing, initiated efforts to extend the validity of Philippine passports from five to ten years, and enabled online seafarer registration (Hapal, 2016).

Most importantly, while campaigning for the presidency, Duterte promised to create a separate government department for OFWs (Ranada, 2016). In recent months, the newly-formed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has hit the ground running. The agency, created by Duterte in December 2021 and currently headed by a new secretary appointed in June 2022 by newly-elected president Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., has been busy promoting labour export, not the return of OFWs to the country (Tadios 2022a, 2022b, 2022c and Antonio 2022). Indeed, despite some presidents’ rhetoric recognising the Philippines’ export of its people as a situation that must be changed, the Philippine government has grown ever more aggressive in sending its citizens abroad to work. 

In sum, while the export of workers provides immediate benefits to families of migrant workers, in the long term, it also causes serious problems for the workers, their families, and the country’s development. Nevertheless, the Philippine state continues to promote labour export. The reason is that it provides short-term benefits to the Philippine economy and, more importantly, boosts the profits of foreign and local elite interests. Much like the popular street drug shabu (crystal meth) or other stimulant drugs, labour export gives the Philippines short-term stimulation but creates a dangerous dependency, slowly destroying the country.

In migration studies, as in many areas of the social sciences, there is a debate about the relative importance of individual agency vs structure in explaining phenomena. While there are ways of bringing these poles together, this explainer will focus on structures, particularly the political, economic, and policy forces responsible for the OFW phenomenon. In a subsequent explainer, New Naratif will focus on human agency and individual experiences with migration.  

Who are the OFWs?

The Overseas Filipino Workers phenomenon has become so institutionalised that the government has a formal name for it. To understand the problem, we first need to understand who the OFWs are. Although the initialism “OFW” sometimes refers to all Filipinos outside of the Philippines, the government makes a technical distinction between Overseas Filipinos (OFs, defined as those outside the country at any given time) and OFWs. OFWs are technically Filipinos who, within the past 12 months, have been engaged in an activity for which they are remunerated in a country where they are not a resident. OFWs also include Filipinos working aboard vessels (except government-owned ships used for military or commercial purposes), offshore installations, or in the high seas.

Out-migration figures from the Philippines are some of the highest worldwide, comparable to that of other “diasporas” calculated in 2020.

Another way to understand OFWs is to understand who are not OFWs: “permanent migrants” whose stay abroad is not dependent on employment, including legal permanent immigrants, permanent residents, naturalised citizens, and dual citizens. “Irregular migrants” refers to people who lack proper documentation, valid residence or working permits, or are overstaying in a foreign country (CFO, 2014, p. 22). 

OFWs fall into a third category, “temporary migrants”, those dependent on foreign employment and expected to return to the country after the end of their contracts. This category includes OFWs, students, trainees, businessmen, and their dependents.  

Accounting for these categories, there were 10.2 million OFs in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, of whom 4.2 million were temporary migrants in 2020. 4.8 million were permanent, and 1.2 million were irregular. (CFO, n.d.). Out of the 4.2 million, there were 1.77 million OFWs in April to September 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, already half a million fewer than the previous year. Almost 60% are women, and 40% as men (PSA 2022). 

Most were employed in the so-called “elementary occupations” defined by the International Labour Organisation (2004) as performing “simple and routine tasks which mainly require the use of hand-held tools and often some physical effort.” In other words, jobs like domestic and construction workers, though not nurses, which is another stereotypical OFW job. 

83.6% of OFWs were employed in Asia, 6.7% in Europe, 5.2% in the Americas, and 3.4% in Australia (PSA & UPPI, 2019). The figure does not include a quarter of a million Filipino seafarers, who incidentally constitute a full quarter of the world’s total seafarers (Gonzalez, 2018).

Out-migration figures from the Philippines are some of the highest worldwide, comparable to that of other “diasporas” calculated in 2020: India (18 million), Mexico and Russia (11 million each), China (10 million), and Syria (8 million) (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2020). Comparing these figures with these countries’ populations in 2020 would yield even starker results: only war-torn Syria (45.7%) is higher than the Philippines (9.3%), followed by Mexico (8.5%), Russia (7.5%), China (6.9%), and India (1.3%) (Worldometers, n.d.). 

The first national survey on migration in the Philippines in 2018 showed that 6.5% of the population aged 15 years and above had international migration experience that lasted for more than three months, significantly higher than the international average of 3.5% (Tabuga, Baño & Vargas, 2020, p. 7). Regional economic differences have resulted in the general division of Southeast Asia into labour-exporting and labour-importing countries—and the numbers of Philippine migrants widely outstrip those of its ASEAN neighbours. In 2007, populous Indonesia had 2.7 million migrant workers in Southeast Asia, second only to the Philippines’ 4.8 million migrant workers in the region in 2006 (Çıngır, 2022), despite Indonesia having over 2.6 times the population.

Follow the Money

One cannot talk about OFWs and their huge numbers without discussing remittances, which have been important for keeping the Philippine economy afloat and highlights the significance, economic and otherwise, of this phenomenon. In 2018, before the Covid-19 pandemic, remittances to the Philippines increased by 3.1% from the previous year, reaching USD 33.8 billion. This made the Philippines the fourth biggest remittance recipient country, following India (USD 78.6 billion), China (USD 67.4 billion), and Mexico (USD 35.7 billion). Comparing these figures with these countries’ populations in 2018 would show the level of dependence on these remittances: Philippines (USD 315.89), Mexico (USD 272.94), India (57.32 USD) and China (48.36 USD) (Population Reference Bureau, 2018). 

The amount constitutes 10.2% of the country’s gross domestic product or GDP (World Bank Group & KNOMAD, 2019, p. 15). The percentage is higher than the global average of 0.8% that year (World Bank, n. d.) and even higher than Foreign Direct Investment flows to the country, which averaged 1.3% of GDP in 2000-2013 (Llanto, 2018).

The main sources of remittances were Asia (65%), North America (21%) and Europe (8%) (PSA & UPPI, 2019, p. 137). These remittances, generally sent through money transfer operators and banks and informal channels, are mostly used to purchase food and other basic necessities for families of migrant Filipinos. 

Most OFWs report that they have saved at least sufficient resources to meet their families’ basic needs upon returning home permanently. In the national migration survey, 48% of respondents reported receiving international remittances, and most of these are directed to those perceived to be in need: “older cohorts, widowed or separated, unemployed, rural residents, and those living in the economically more deprived regions” (PSA & UPPI, 2019, p. 137). In other words, almost half of all Filipinos received remittances, and most of those who did were overwhelmingly among the poorer and more needy members of society—itself a statement about social welfare in the country.

Indeed, it is safe to say that the Philippines’ main export now is its people. Overseas migration has had a significant effect on the Philippines. At the macro level, overseas remittances are credited for GDP growth in recent years and energising the economy. Overseas migration has changed the country’s class structure, with families receiving sustained remittances entering the country’s middle class (Aguilar, 2014). 

Many observers would easily agree with the observation that “no other phenomenon has paved the way for such deep and pervasive changes within the Philippine economic and social landscape” (Bello et al., 2014, p. 131). Despite these, however, overseas migration’s positive effects on migrants’ families and the economy are short-term, and its impact on the country’s development remains questionable, to say the least.

Indeed, it is safe to say that the Philippines’ main export now is its people.

Economic Mismanagement and the Creation of the OFW Phenomenon

It is important to ask: how did this important phenomenon start? Since the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines (1521-1898), Filipinos have been migrating abroad to find work. Under American colonisation (1898-1945) and continuing American neo-colonial influence afterwards, Filipinos initially went to the USA by the thousands to work in farms and canneries (Asis, 2017). This was due to push factors (poverty and unemployment in the Philippines) and pull factors (labour needs in more developed countries and labour rights making it harder to exploit citizens, thus reducing capitalist profitability).

The present-day OFW phenomenon traces its roots to the early 1970s when facing growing foreign debt, high unemployment, and balance of payment problems, the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., desperate for foreign hard currency, sent Filipinos to work in the Middle East.

The accrual of foreign debt is the most significant aspect of this process. Throughout his first term, Marcos Sr. fuelled growth through massive public spending funded by foreign loans. He also sought to undermine the economic power and political influence of the Philippines’ traditional elite. One strategy, common to autocrats everywhere, was to make “behest loans” to selected businessmen who were personally loyal to him, to fund large national development projects—the beginnings of “crony capitalism” in the Philippines, which would also fuel the growth of inequality (Magno, 1998).

In 1969, in a bid to become the first Philippine president to be elected to a second term, Marcos initiated a programme of rapid modernisation funded through massive deficits and foreign loans (Balbosa, 1992). In the run-up to the 1970 election, he launched US$50 million worth of infrastructure projects to create an impression of progress for the electorate. This campaign spending spree was so massive that it caused a balance of payments crisis, so the government ran to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help. 

Never one to waste a crisis, the IMF’s debt rescheduling plan forced open the Philippine economy to numerous neoliberal and neocolonial macroeconomic interventions. These included a shift away from the Philippines’ economic strategy of import-substitution industrialisation towards export-oriented industrialisation and the floating and devaluing of the Philippine Peso. This resulted in high inflation that, combined with rising unemployment, public corruption, and alleged election cheating, led to massive demonstrations and protests (Magno, 1998; Diola, 2017). Marcos’ harsh response further radicalised the public, stoking public anger and leading to him proclaiming martial law in 1972 (Anastacio & Abinales, 2022).

The first OFWs were construction workers and engineers in the petrodollar-rich Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, which were then enjoying a construction boom. Most histories of the OFW phenomenon say that the move was at first seen as a stop-gap, short-term measure by the dictatorship. It did not take long, however, before the government realised the significance of this measure in providing a source of much-needed dollar remittances and a pressure release valve for unemployment and social tensions (Asis, 2006; Tigno, 2004; Aguilar, 2004; Rodriguez, 2010).

The Labour Code of 1974 mandated one government agency, which later, in 1982, became part of the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA), to “promote the overseas employment of Filipino workers through a comprehensive market promotion and development program.” At the same time, the Code paid lip service to seek “overseas employment in excess of domestic needs.” In other words, from the very beginning, it was recognised that jobs should be created for Filipinos at home first. 

However, the seductiveness of easy foreign remittances combined with domestic economic mismanagement would soon send successive governments to take the easy path of labour export. This removal of hindrances to foreign employers’ access to cheap labour was one of the early neoliberal policies implemented by the Philippine government (Africa, 2022).

Elsewhere, migrant remittances would outstrip foreign direct investments in poor countries by the 1990s, but because of crises, this occurred in the Philippines as early as the 1970s (Ball, 1997). Marcos continued to pile up foreign debt: Philippine external debt was at US$4.1 billion in 1975, doubled to US$8.2 billion in 1977, and ballooned to US$24.4 billion by 1982. 

The end of the petrodollar glut and global economic downturns tightened credit. It raised interest rates, forcing the government to resort to short-term loans with higher interest rates to service its debts and import goods. The Philippines’ debt went up to more than 200% of exports from 1978 to 1991, so more than half the value of the country’s exports went to debt servicing rather than imports (Guido and de los Reyes, 2017). 

Marcos’ cronies, who had been selected primarily because of their loyalty to Marcos rather than any proven business acumen, severely mismanaged their monopolies, forcing the government to bail them out. These businessmen, including Marcos’ immediate family, also plundered the country’s wealth, stashing funds from government projects in overseas bank accounts in Switzerland, the USA, and the Netherlands Antilles, among others.

By 1982, faced with another economic crisis, Marcos was already forcing OFWs to send 50% to 70% of their earnings to the country through a presidential decree (Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants 2015). In short, to service all the foreign debt Marcos had racked up, he was desperately selling the last natural commodity he had under his control—Filipinos—and taxing their income at sky-high levels.

While the 1986 “People Power” uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship ushered in some level of political change, it did not bring about fundamental economic change. It paved the way for sections of the elite boxed out by Martial Law to return to power (Anderson, 1988). At the same time, with massive foreign debt to pay off, the Philippines had to preserve neoliberal policies and ramp up their implementation to keep foreign capital happy. The basic economic policies that the Marcos regime put in place were continued by governments that succeeded it (Guido & de los Reyes, 2017).

In the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, the Philippines registered the lowest economic growth in Southeast Asia, and its neighbours overtook it in manufacturing. This fundamental lack of industrial and agricultural development continues to this day, creating a remittance-driven economy and characterised by a big service sector, high unemployment and underemployment, and mass poverty and gross inequality. Labour export and the Business Process Outsourcing sector (aka the “call centre industry”) are the only bright spots in the economy (Ofreneo, 2015).

While initially employed as a stop-gap measure, the labour export strategy’s effectiveness at creating immediate economic benefits to the crisis-wracked economy encouraged the Marcos dictatorship and succeeding governments to sustain it. Instead of job-generating policies, the Philippines has become reliant on labour export to provide jobs, thus cementing it as a long-term policy—seemingly the antithesis of the developmental state model that had been vigorously pursued elsewhere. 

As such, the Philippines is today dangerously reliant on remittances. By the late 1990s, global migrant remittances had exceeded portfolio investments and official development assistance and approximated the level of foreign direct investment (Yang, 2011). This not only encouraged governments to pursue labour export but has also led “international organisations in charge of neoliberal policy,” such as the IMF, to support a development agenda that “assumes migration can become a tool for development in countries with high emigration rates” (Wise & Covarrubias, 2012, p. 99). 

Thus the Philippines has become a model, used as an example for neoliberal international organisations such as the IMF and World Bank to push for labour export and exploitation from other underdeveloped countries. In the following section, we explain how labour export was sustained.

How is the OFW Phenomenon Sustained?

A major change occurred in OFW deployment in the early 1990s—the “feminisation of migrant labour.” Women working in the service sector started outnumbering men working in the construction sector. Out of the deployed, newly-hired, and land-based OFWs in 1992, 50% were females, increasing “to 58% in 1995, 64% in 1999 and 72% in 2001” (De Guzman, 2003). This can be seen as a turning point in which the government could have chosen a policy shift on labour migration, especially amidst prominent cases of abuse faced by Filipinas abroad that stirred national public uproar: Maricris Sioson in Japan (1991), Flor Contemplacion in Singapore (1995), and Sarah Balabagan in the United Arab Emirates (1995). Stories similar to theirs will be covered in the next explainer.

All presidents after Marcos, in fact, glorified OFWs. Cory Aquino called them “bagong bayani” or “new heroes” and declared December the month of overseas Filipinos.

In a sense, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 is a response to this turning point, in which the government declared that “the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development.” However, its business-as-usual attitude showed the de facto policy of continuing labour export. Instead of changing course, the Philippine government heightened exporting workers, addicted to the policy’s positive but short-term benefits. Such a declaration is at odds with prior and succeeding government actions and statements.

Thus, the OFW phenomenon was sustained, buttressed by the role of the Philippine state, which set in place “Asia’s oldest and most well-developed labour-export mechanisms.” In other words, the Philippines is no longer sending workers abroad on an ad-hoc basis or in response to needs elsewhere. Workers are treated as a commodity, and the government actively promotes and sells labour like any other export, institutionalising and regulating their sale. The government also has been sending delegations to various countries to advise them on developing their capacity for labour export (Ball, 1997, p. 1604), thus effectively contributing to labour export by the Global South. The Philippines has been hailed by some international institutions as “the best model for duplication”. 

While the POEA has existed since 1982, governments succeeding the Marcos dictatorship heightened its use. It played an important role in fostering private sector labour recruitment, marketing Filipino workers internationally, generation of foreign exchange through worker export, and orienting domestic skills development increasingly for overseas labour markets. Its orientation also includes “safeguarding worker welfare and strict maintenance of industry standards of conduct” (Ball, 1997, p. 1618). 

It is nothing if not entrepreneurial: sending missions to both major and potential migrant-receiving countries to secure contracts for OFWs, delivering promotional materials to target countries, and monitoring economic developments in countries to find new markets for Filipino labour. The POEA has a branch in Jeddah performing these functions, particularly in the Middle East (Ball, 1997). The POEA and other government bodies dealing with OFWs have now been centralised to the newly-created DMW.

Migration scholar Robyn Rodriguez (2010) enumerates the ways that the Philippine state promotes labour migration: embassies and consular offices monitor demands for migrant labour in different countries; the government tailors education and training programmes suited to these demands; and the government advertises OFWs to foreign employers and negotiates with foreign governments, sometimes drawing on gender and racial stereotypes in the process. Through the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Law of 2003 and its rhetoric, the Philippine state has also redefined citizenship as working abroad while remaining loyal to the country (i.e., by sending remittances).

All presidents after Marcos, in fact, glorified OFWs. Cory Aquino called them “bagong bayani” or “new heroes” and declared December the month of overseas Filipinos. Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada held “heroes’ welcome” ceremonies for returning or visiting OFWs. In 2001, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo set a one million target for OFW deployment for the following years (de Guzman, 2003). The trend continued despite public outrage over the situation of Angelo dela Cruz in Iraq (2004) and Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia (2015). Because of the country’s dependence on OFW employment and remittances, even the global financial and economic crisis of 2007-2009 saw an increase in OFW deployment (Bello et al., 2014). Noynoy Aquino promised to create jobs at home and make migration more of choice rather than a decision forced on OFWs, but the number of OFWs continued to increase even under his watch.

The Philippines has been called an “anti-development state”, that is, “a weak state that was constantly captured by upper-class interests” and different from the “developmental State” in other Asian countries (Bello, Docena, de Guzman, Malig, 2004, p. 3). In other words, a country where the elites actively prevent the development and social mobility by preserving their interests. Perhaps more precisely, the Philippines today may be called a “labour brokerage State”, employing a neoliberal strategy that consists of institutional and discursive practices for systematically sending citizens abroad for “profit”, negotiating access to this resource with migrant-receiving countries (Rodriguez 2010, p. x). The challenge here is that this is not just bound up in the country’s legal and political frameworks but has become deeply encoded in the country’s cultures.

What are the Effects of Labour Export?

Despite the Philippine government’s promotion of labour export, the phenomenon has had significant distortionary effects on the Philippines’ society and economy. These include:

1. Individual de-skilling and national “brain drain”

International Filipino migrants are generally better-educated and have better employment prospects before leaving the country compared to the rest of the population. Around 81.2% of employed OFs have completed at least a secondary-level education. Among those 15 years old and above, 56.3% at least finished their secondary education, higher than the national average of 30% (Tabuga, Baiño & Vargas, 2021). Connected to this fact is how 51% of OFWs also had jobs in the Philippines, and among those already abroad, 45% were employed before moving to their next country (Tabuga, Baiño & Vargas, 2021). 

OFWs’ educational and work attainments contrast sharply with the “elementary occupations” in which they are employed, especially in their first jobs abroad. Doctors become nurses; teachers become domestic workers; college graduates become construction workers. As such, overseas work often results in de-skilling (Pertierra, 1994). At the national level, concerns have been raised that the “invisible hand has not been able to solve” problems in the “supply of [skilled and technical] manpower” in the country (Gonzalez, 1992, p. 30). In other words, skills, knowledge and labour that could be utilised for the country’s development are going out of the country.

2. Questionable impacts on development

Aside from debt payments,OFWs’ remittances are mostly spent meeting their families’ needs for food, education, and healthcare—in short, what a decent job and government services should provide citizens with. This has fuelled an economy that is “consumption-driven”, with household consumption accounting for 70% of the GDP, and “service-oriented”, with the service sector contributing a majority share and employing many Filipinos (Batalla, 2018, pp. 217-220). However, “sales, real estate, and consumption” have “limited forward or backward linkages that could catalyse growth [i.e., jobs] in other sectors of the economy” (Bello et al., 2014, p. 148). Furthermore, the service sector is known to be a leader in low-paying and precarious jobs with short-term contracts (Department of Labor and Employment, 2017).

Returning to remittances, these boost foreign exchange reserves required for imports, generate employment by increasing demand, and raise savings and government tax collection at the expense of the development of crucial industrial production and agriculture sectors (International Organization for Migration and Scalabrini Migration Center 2013, pp. 118-119). Half a century after the start of the labour export policy, the main reason for the migration of Filipinos—the lack of domestic employment opportunities—continues. The vast majority of OFWs cite gaining employment, changing jobs, or relocating for jobs as reasons for leaving the country (PSA & UPPI, 2019). The labour export policy traps Filipinos, and the Philippines economy as a whole, in underdevelopment and subservient neocolonialism.

In the long term, what does this do to the psyche of a country and a people?

3. Distorted education priorities

Labour export has been encouraged by and has, in turn, reinforced previous trends in the country’s education system in a vicious cycle, reshaping education in the country. Even before labour export, domestic education generally failed in “fostering or promoting engaged, participatory notions of citizenship that might lead to searching social or political critique”, and thus expectations of the state are correspondingly “minimised” (Maca, 2018, p. 13). 

At the same time, global labour demands result in education being consciously reshaped to support out-migration by producing skilled and semi-skilled labour for overseas work (Aguilar, 2014, p. 3). A clear illustration comes from nursing education (see below). In order to nurture the country’s “strong comparative advantage in semi-skilled activities”, in which many OFWs are engaged (Clarete, Esguerra and Hill, 2018, p. 11), many English-language subjects are included in the curriculum. Contrary to the government’s stated policy of promoting the national language, English is used as the medium of instruction. Technical-vocational education, now offered to junior and senior high school students, trains students for overseas work and, perhaps predictably, the crucial call centre industry (Villamil, 2018, p. 173).

In this context, progressives and nationalists describe Philippine education as “colonial,” serving the interests of global powers and other foreign countries and employers. This has often meant college education reduces history, social science, and culture subjects and increases those related to science, technology, and engineering (Lumbera, 2007). Education also devalues local knowledge and raises students’ dissatisfaction with local conditions, while the provision of knowledge of outside communities and raised expectations in life suggest the inescapability of migrating outside of the community—all anchored in “colonial roots, including the powerful symbols of democracy, education, and modernity implanted by the Americans” (Pertierra, 1994, pp. 61-63). Thus, “[s]tudents are systematically being prepared to participate in the global arena as highly-trained, English-speaking, cheap and docile labour force catering to the demands of the international market in line with the neoliberal project” (del Rosario-Malonzo, 2007, p. 94). 

4. Aspects of culture

Migration studies have also noted culture’s role in supporting out-migration, which reinforces various aspects of Philippine culture. One such aspect is the desire to support families. It takes on an expansive definition including “siblings, in-laws, uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren” (Gutierrez, 2013, p. 3; Gonzalez, 2018, p. 202), strengthened by close familial and friendship ties that provide support networks for migration (Pertierra, 1994, p. 75). 

Another aspect is Filipinos’ deep religiosity, stemming from Spanish colonialism that is also related to various traits: “respectful English communication skills, responsible, cheerful disposition, industriousness, ability to blend in and be a team player, creative abilities, being easily trained or taught, as well as can-do and never-say-never attitudes” (Gonzalez, 2018, pp. 203-204). The low status given to manual work, alleviated only by higher wages which in turn can only be provided by overseas work, also plays a role (Pertierra, 1994, p. 78). With the entrenchment of labour migration, migrants’ stories circulate in communities, which talk about self-transformation, “autonomy, self-confidence, maturity, responsibility, cosmopolitanism, and consumerism”—in short, the ideal neoliberal traits!— attained by working overseas (Aguilar 2014, pp. 153-159, 168).

The last two, in particular, are insidious. Filipinos are being trained into an attitude of finding a way or “pakikipagsapalaran (destiny-playing or adventure) and pagbabakasakali (chance-taking)” (Tadiar, 2004, p. 244) in a framework of subservience and inferiority. The education system teaches them that their country is in bad shape, that they are suited for jobs abroad, and that the only way to a better life for them and their country is to leave and be exploited by foreigners. Socially, there are those who deal with the trauma of exploitation and suffering in narratives of triumph and self-sufficiency, glorifying their subservience and exploitation. In the long term, what does this do to the psyche of a country and a people?

Who Benefits from Labour Export?

It is not merely the policy of individual presidents that determines the sustenance of the OFW phenomenon. Filipino presidents, like any other, are subject to a wide range of structural, institutional, and entrenched interest groups which resist policy change. After 50 years of labour export, myriad groups benefit directly and indirectly from the status quo.

Recruitment agencies. The Philippine government encourages labour migration with the help of the private sector, primarily recruitment agencies. Since 1975, but becoming especially prominent from the early 1990s onwards, successive governments carried out the “privatisation of migration” by involving private recruitment entities that charged prospective OFWs fees. Increased OFW deployment through the years could only mean increased profits. 

In 2014, there were 862 licensed recruitment agencies nationwide, each deploying hundreds or thousands of OFWs per year (Tigno, 2014). While the Migrant Worker Act states that recruitment agencies can only charge the equivalent of one month’s salary, this stipulation is often not observed. One report estimated that recruitment fees ranged from USD 1,000 to USD 5,000 and may increase depending on various factors, thus indebting OFWs and their families (Santos, 2016). 

With this form of privatisation, “recruitment operational problems” such as “illegal recruitment, human smuggling, and human trafficking” have emerged and subverted the government’s ostensible rights-based approach to labour migration in favour of an openly neoliberal, market-driven, and profit-oriented approach under the framework of the state’s paternalistic-instrumentalist outlook (Tigno, 2014, p. 25). Unsurprisingly, exploitation and abuse are normalised when profits are prioritised over human rights.

Banks and money transfer companies. In 2018, overseas Filipinos transferred an average of P26,000 in cash, mainly through money transfer operators (72%) and banks (26%) (PSA & UPPI, 2019, p. 142). These transfers make up the bulk of remittances to the country – USD 30.133 billion in 2019, USD 29.903 billion in 2020 (a drop because of the pandemic), and USD 31.418 billion in 2021 (the highest in history) (Noble, 2022). 

Discussing pre- and post-Covid-19 data, the World Bank and KNOMAD have observed that remittance fee rates to the Philippines are generally below 5% and average at 2.7%, some of the lowest in the Asia-Pacific region (World Bank Group & KNOMAD, 2019 and 2021), but the massive volume of transactions offsets these when it comes to corporate profits. The beneficiaries are the biggest international money transfer operators in the world (Western Union, Moneygram), banks in the Philippines (Banco de Oro and Bank of the Philippine Islands, owned by the Sy and the Ayala families, respectively, some of the richest in the country), and local money transfer operators (Cebuana, Palawan), as well as GCash (part of Globe Telecommunications, also owned by the Ayalas) (Bello et al., 2014).

OFW-receiving countries. OFW- and migrant-receiving countries benefit from migration by accessing cheap labour, unskilled and professional. Even within Southeast Asia, a significant gulf exists between labour-exporting and labour-importing countries. 

Migrant workers receive lower wages and have fewer rights than citizens, and receiving countries spend nothing on the “formation or social reproduction costs”, such as education and training, of migrants (Wise & Covarrubias, 2012, p. 106). As non-citizens, migrants are provided less education, healthcare, and other social services (Bello et al., 2014). One recent news report states that Canada’s health system has been pushed “to the brink” as local nurses have been “driven away” by “unsafe working conditions, wage dissatisfaction and burnout” (Santos, 2022). The solution: hiring Filipino nurses, whose frontline position during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted their important role in many Western health systems.

Domestic labour, the invisible support for  “reproductive work—i.e., the work needed to sustain the productive labour force”—is effectively outsourced through the international division of reproductive labour. Women with class and racial privileges can shift their responsibilities to poorer Filipinas—“living off the labour of a repressed underclass”, in the words of renowned chef Anthony Bourdain in a recently-viral video referring to Singaporeans, but applicable to many OFW-receiving countries as well. Here, “global capitalism, patriarchy, and racial inequalities are structural forces that jointly determine the subject-positions of migrant Filipina domestic workers in globalisation” (Parreñas, 2015, pp. 29-30).

The biggest businesses in the Philippines. OFW remittances have sustained the country’s largest service economy, from which the wealthiest Filipino families disproportionately profit. The biggest corporations in the country “are now primarily engaged in the construction, energy and power generation, education and healthcare, retail, real estate, utilities, BPO (especially through IT centre creation), gaming and tourism, and financial services sectors” (Tuaño & Cruz, 2019, p. 307). It is no accident that most of these are the same economic sectors, including airlines and malls, that are said to directly benefit from OFW remittances (Aguilar, 2014; Bello et al., 2014). 

Remittances have also “partly financed the housing construction boom” in the country for the past years (Llanto, 2018, p. 366), with the discourses surrounding the real estate boom portraying propertied OFWs and overseas Filipinos as having realised the so-called “Filipino dream” (Ortega, 2016). Various “start-ups of microenterprises and micro businesses in the informal sector” and every business in the country have also tried to cater to this demographic (Llanto, 2018, p. 366).

Ultimately, the Philippine government is the biggest benefactorof labour export. Marcos Sr. once stated that the country exports its “political and economic tensions” (quoted in Ball 1997, p. 1616). The existence of the OFWs is due to the Marcos dictatorship’s failure and successive governments’ failure to reform and improve the domestic economy.

While OFW’s efforts to help their communities by sending funds for construction and various programmes are well-intentioned, these are indirectly political in that they obscure the government’s failures in this regard.

With little government effort, labour migration benefits the government by (1) ensuring employment abroad for a significant section of Filipinos and (2) bringing remittances to the domestic economy, providing many families’ basic needs and soothing potential discontent and anger. It enables the government to collect huge taxes and boast about economic growth while lessening the pressure to generate decent domestic employment. It, therefore, contributes to the government’s economic and political survival, and which government would be brave enough to reform this practice? While OFW’s efforts to help their communities by sending funds for construction and various programmes are well-intentioned, these are indirectly political in that they obscure the government’s failures in this regard.

The profits and benefits recruitment agencies, banks and money transfer companies, OFW-receiving countries, the biggest businesses in the Philippines and the Philippine government itself receive from labour export do not erase the phenomenon’s detrimental effects on migrant Filipinos and their families and the Philippines.

Conclusion: Thinking About Labour Migration and Development

The Philippines today has become dangerously dependent on the exploitation of its people by foreign and local capital, leading to the further distortion of its society into subservient economic and cultural dependence. The national migration survey bears this out: Filipinos were almost unanimous about migrating abroad to find a job. This shows how far the glorification of the exploitation of OFWs has wormed its way into Filipino culture, where migration has become deeply ingrained into people’s behaviours, and values associated with migration have become part of the community’s values (Massey et al., 1993, p. 452; Asis, 2006). Migrating abroad has become so commonsensical that the Philippine state—the main culprit and beneficiary—may not figure in the equation for most Filipinos looking for jobs and overseas work.

Can we say that Filipino labour migration is voluntary, with so many forces practically shoving them out of the country?

In this context, it is useful to reconsider two concepts in popular thinking on migration. First is forced migration, “an involuntary movement on the part of people who are literally expelled from their places of origin in an attempt to find subsistence opportunities in their country or abroad,” as well as of people “who cannot find employment by their skills or capacities in their home country” (Wise & Covarrubias, 2012, p. 104). This connects with Filipinos’ reasons for wanting to leave the country while opening up discussions about involuntary migration. Can we say that Filipino labour migration is voluntary, with so many forces practically shoving them out of the country?

The second is a state responsibility. The popular view, arguably promoted by the state, is that Filipinos cannot simply rely on their government. The logic is as follows: economic problems are pressing, the state is incapable, and Filipinos are resilient, so they should solve their problems, including by going abroad. This logic overlooks the fact that there are problems pertaining to the country’s development and well-being that only the state can solve. 

The reason for the existence of a state is to address these issues, and if the state cannot address them, the people running the state need to accept responsibility rather than wash their hands of it. To address this issue, we must assign the state an acceptable degree of responsibility and demand that it implements policies that will create decent jobs in the Philippines, with the recognition of broader structural and systemic factors.

The great and still growing importance of remittances to various economies and the world highlights the significance of labour migration. While Bangladesh, for example, seems to be following in the Philippines’ footsteps, Mexico has reversed trends. After 40 years of increasing outward migration, since the late 1990s, net migration has steadily fallen. While the reasons are complex, the fall in outward migration correlates with steady economic growth. More importantly, it shows that reversing these processes is possible. 

These national and global developments show the need to look at the Philippines’ experience with labour migration more critically—against the grain of dominant voices in the migration and development conversation that holds this experience up as a model. The Philippines, from this perspective, is more of a cautionary tale than a success story. 

Decolonising the Philippines’ Economy

We can support measures and struggles upholding the various rights of OFWs, even as we recognise that these only address the symptoms of the problem. We can also support measures and struggles that seek to change the root causes of labour migration.

  1. (Since OFWs are everywhere, every call for improving migrants’ working and living conditions anywhere would most likely be to their benefit. The easiest step and bare minimum step is supporting calls for living and fair wages, minimum rest days, and non-discrimination, among others.
  2. Support migrant workers’ efforts to form organisations at the grassroots level to lay claim to their rights, bearing in mind that in some contexts, even citizens are denied such freedoms. While the national migration survey states that a small minority of OFWs belong to organisations, there are efforts among OFWs in most migrant-receiving countries in this direction.
  3. Supporting calls directed by OFWs to the Philippine government. These include creating decent jobs at home, providing immediate support, removing government exactions, and expanding the range of services provided by embassies and consulates.
  4. Filipinos, talk to your friends and family. Ask yourself what working abroad does for your country and your people. What country do you want? How can you collectively change it?
  5. Demand that your government take responsibility. Send this article to politicians. Tell them about the damage the labour export policy does to the nation and the people. Support calls for an end to the labour export policy in favour of increased domestic economic growth and job creation. We recognise that this is difficult to achieve However, it is only by generating genuine agricultural and industrial development to create decent jobs at home and provide for the basic needs of Filipinos that a significant solution can emerge.

Teo S. Marasigan

Teo S. Marasigan is a Filipino activist and researcher. He is the author of Na Kung Saan (In Which), a collection of essays, published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2018.


Townsunder is an up-and-coming illustrator and graphic artist. Their works focus on visual narratives, backgrounds and fantasy concepts. Support them on their socials @townsunder (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram) and contact them at [email protected]

No Way Out for the USA

By Jeff Thomas

“Gold is the money of kings… debt is the money of slaves.”Norm Franz

November 22, 2022: Information Clearing House On the surface, it would appear that the US is in the catbird seat: Since Bretton Woods in 1944, the US has been able to dictate the economy to its trading partners and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world. Those countries that got on board the Bretton Woods Choo-Choo would be the world’s leaders in commerce, and the rest would take second shrift.

This was possible because, at the end of the war, the US had been supplying the allies with most of their armaments and materiel and had insisted on being paid in gold. By 1944, they held the great majority of the world’s gold and had the most productive manufacturing facilities. They were in a position to call all the shots, and the countries that subsequently made up the First World went along for the ride.

But by the 1970s, the US went off the gold standard and was paying for imports with US Treasuries. This was seen to be a boon at the time, as the Treasuries could be created from thin air, and the demands by the US became boundless. The US became the biggest house on the block, but it was, in fact, a house of cards, which was only as good as the currency it was built upon – not true money but debt.

To paraphrase Norm Franz, “Gold is the money of kings… debt is the money of slaves.”

The US was, from 1971 on, in the business of enslaving its partners. Along the way, it became more economical to outsource manufacturing, and, over the ensuing decades, the production of most goods came from countries other than the US.

But a wrinkle occurred in recent decades: some of the overseas suppliers of goods, and in particular, energy were now building up their ability for world trade to the point that the US itself was no longer essential. Indeed, better business could often be created between countries without going through the US, and the US was becoming an obstacle to the economic advancement of other nations.

In recent decades, China and Russia have emerged as the most essential providers of goods and energy, respectively, precisely at the time that the US had planned to establish globalism – dominance over the entire world by the US, with the backup support of the other First World countries, most notably, Europe.

As long as the other First World countries continued to endorse American diktat to the world, US hegemony would not only continue but expand.

But then, Russia threw a rather major wrench into the works: the Nord Steam pipeline already supplied much of the natural gas to Europe, allowing it to heat its homes and run its factories. With the addition of Nord Stream II, a tipping point was reached: the great majority of Europe’s essential energy, which it was unable to produce itself, could be gotten from Russia and at a price that no other supplier could match.

What’s often overlooked in the discussion of the importance of Nord Stream II is that, from the first day that the tap was to be turned on to supply Europe, US hegemony would end. Although the US had succeeded in dominating European policy over the last half-century, that situation had now reversed. In a choice between pleasing the US and pleasing the eastern suppliers of goods and energy, Europe’s default position would now be with Asia, not the US.

In this one seemingly minor change in supply, the hegemony of the US would cease. And, more troublingly, US power had been a house of cards for decades. It was no longer a manufacturing titan; in fact, it now produced little besides debt. It had once used its manufacturing capacity to bully its trading partners, but now this power had become a mere remnant.

In recent decades, the US has been operating on its past laurels and the assumption that it was the big boy on the block and must be obeyed, no matter how unreasonable its demands were.

When US federal and corporate leaders realised their dilemma, they understood that they had only one last-ditch option: war.

Historically, this is always the last play of a dying empire: when you’re about to lose everything, a major war must be created as a distraction to buy time.

A small war is only a temporary respite. A major war serves to upset the world as a whole. If the world can be turned upside down, perhaps there’s a chance that the dying empire can actually survive with some of its power intact.

If not, the empire goes the way of the dodo. It slips away into insignificance or even extinction.

And this is where the US now finds itself. The shift to the Asian century is well underway. Quietly, one nation after another is shifting its trade and its deference to the Asian leaders. Those countries like Saudi Arabia, that can make dramatic shifts and do so safely, will be bolder in their shift. Less powerful countries will be a bit more subtle, tiptoeing away from their former master. And that, too, is now underway.

But again, the key ally of the US – the one without which it could not be an empire – has been Europe.

The EU is already on the ropes; it was a misconceived experiment from the start and has now begun to splinter. Although no major breakup has begun, the rot is already beyond any possible salvage, and the dictates of Brussels are encountering refusals by some member countries.

With the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines, it has become quietly apparent in Germany and other EU countries that they will be facing extreme hardships as a result. They can no longer back out of their support for the US push to create warfare in Ukraine. Additionally, they face the US attempt to draw all the NATO countries into war with Russia – a suicidal prospect for Europe.

The US, in its desperation to escalate the war, has begun to suggest that a “limited nuclear war” might be advisable, but Europe understands that a limited nuclear war is akin to being “a little bit pregnant.”

Europe would not survive such a war.

And so, Germany has begun the pull away from the US. President Olaf Scholz has personally gone to Beijing to broker peace. In doing so, he also makes a clear statement: Germany is acknowledging that it is moving over to a new master.

To be sure, the US will not take this lightly.

There will be collective nail-biting in the First World countries as the average man wonders and worries whether the US will do the sane thing and back away from warfare. What the average man does not understand is that, whilst this may be the best choice for the average man and the world in general, it would be the end for those who rule the US. The US would slide inexorably into a lesser state, or even fragment, leaving the US elite with no empire to rule.

This, above all, cannot be tolerated. And, so, it’s important to understand that, to the rulers of the US empire, this is an all-or-nothing game.

And to be clear, it’s a game that cannot be won. The US no longer produces much; it no longer has a meaningful balance of trade; it’s the most indebted nation in world history; it’s broke, and it can no longer win a protracted war.

And, to reiterate, the US has no other option at this point. It has destroyed all its other options and has no way out of its dilemma – its modern-day Thucydides Trap. As such, it will not go quietly. Much like a cornered rat, it will make a last attempt to take down as many others as it can on its way out.

That should give us pause. Those who wish to avoid becoming collateral damage as the behemoth falls would be advised to extricate themselves, economically and even geographically, from the dying empire.

Views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.  in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ Visit Puts the Philippines in a Tight Spot With China

Chad de Guzman, Tue, November 22, 2022, Time Magazine

Vice President Kamala Harris departs Puerto Princesa, as she leaves the Philippines on her way to Japan, Nov. 22, 2022. Credit – Haiyun Jiang—AFP/Pool via Getty Images

American leaders have made numerous visits to the Philippines, a long-standing military ally in Southeast Asia. But Vice President Kamala Harris’ stop on Tuesday in the country’s archipelagic province of Palawan represents something new. She is the first U.S. official to go there, in what observers say is meant more as a message to China than one to the Philippines.

Read More: What Kamala Harris Brings to the White House

Harris toured a coast guard vessel and spoke to Philippine officials in Palawan to underscore America’s values and hopes for the region: “respect for sovereignty and international integrity, unimpeded lawful commerce, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation.”

The Vice President’s visit, along with talks in Manila on Monday about increased joint defense projects, leaves the Philippines in a precarious position—straddling the line between the interests of its colonizer-turned-ally in the U.S. and its largest trade partner in China. Across the region, countries have been put in a similar tight spot, increasingly forced to choose a side where they might prefer to stay above the fray in the competition for global influence between the U.S. and China.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Philippines President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. at Malacanang Palace in Manila on Nov. 21, 2022.<span class="copyright">Haiyun Jiang—Pool/Getty Images</span>
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at Malacanang Palace in Manila on Nov. 21, 2022.Haiyun Jiang—Pool/Getty Images

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was elected president of the Philippines in May, said in July that, like many of his regional counterparts, he would pursue “a friend to all, an enemy to none” foreign policy. But this aim has become more untenable as differences between the world’s two superpowers grow over issues concerning human rights, economic policy, and the rule of law.

Read More: The West Will Work With the Philippines’ Next President, Even If He Is a Dictator’s Son

It’s no coincidence Harris visited Palawan. Just off its west coast is the South China Sea: a waterway that has become a regional flashpoint after Beijing lay claim to virtually all of it and its encompassing islands, citing historic maps. China is not the only claimant—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan have also staked claims to overlapping maritime territories. But China has bolstered its presence in recent years, building artificial islands from the sea’s obscure reefs and sandbars and arming them with missile systems. A U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, invalidated most of China’s sweeping claims in 2016, but Beijing ignores the ruling and continues to militarize the region.

Read More: Just Where Exactly Did China Get the South China Sea Nine-Dash Line From?

Local tensions in the South China Sea eased some after the Philippines, which lodged the complaint against China to The Hague, under former President Rodrigo Duterte did not enforce the tribunal’s ruling. Duterte was keen on pivoting the Philippines away from its deference to the U.S.. As Duterte was reluctant to hold Beijing to account to smooth diplomatic relations, Chinese incursions in the contested waterway increased.

Since Marcos Jr. succeeded Duterte, he has sought to restore the Philippines’ relationship with the U.S., whose military still actively challenges China’s claims in the South China Sea. At the same time, Marcos Jr. insists that Harris’ visit will not strain Manila-Beijing ties. “I don’t think it will cause problems,” he told Philippine reporters last week. But Lucio Pitlo, a research fellow from Manila-based think tank Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, says China will definitely be keeping an eye on the visit and will “surely express serious concern about” the U.S.’s increasing military footprint in the country.

Resetting the relationship with the U.S.

Several key treaties over past decades form the bedrock of the partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines. A 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty states that both nations will provide support to each other in the event of an external attack. This has been reaffirmed by a 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement and a 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, allowing the U.S. military to access bases in the Southeast Asian nation and store defense equipment there. The two militaries also regularly hold joint exercises.

By virtue of its geography, the Philippines has strategic value for the U.S. in its competition with China. Besides having the South China Sea to its west, the major island of Luzon—which contains the country’s capital Manila—is only 360 km south of Taiwan.

Read More: The U.S. Risks Catastrophe If It Doesn’t Clarify Its Taiwan Strategy

Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the global policy think tank RAND Corporation, says the reinvigorated U.S.-Philippines alliance under Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has “real security implications for China in the South China Sea.”

Gregory Poling, director of the Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Philippines will find it “very difficult to stay neutral” if conflict arises in Taiwan and the U.S. becomes involved. Some 150,000 Filipinos residing in Taiwan would be at risk, and the Philippines may “deal with a refugee crisis along with other externalities,” he adds.

In a September interview with Japanese outlet Nikkei Asia, the Philippine envoy to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez—a cousin of Marcos Jr.—said Manila would let Washington use its bases in the event of a Taiwan conflict, “if it’s important for us, for our own security.” It’s a tonal shift from when Duterte, who wanted to boot U.S. forces out of the archipelago, was in charge. In a 2016 trip to Beijing, Duterte proclaimed that it was “time to say goodbye to Washington.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speak to each other during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, on Aug. 30, 2019.<span class="copyright">How Hwee Young—Pool/Getty Images</span>
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speak to each other during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, on Aug. 30, 2019.How Hwee Young—Pool/Getty Images

Read More: Beijing’s Adroit Diplomacy Is Isolating the U.S. in Asia

But while Marcos Jr. has taken a different tack than his predecessor, he is cautious not to alienate China as he pursues revamping ties with Washington. He met with China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, last week shortly before Harris’ visit, promising an improvement of the Manila-Beijing relations.

Marcos wants to avoid a repeat of the past. After a Philippine vessel squared off with Chinese boats within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone back in 2012, China imposed trade barriers on bananas from the Philippines. Banana exports to China fell by around 27% to 473,000 metric tons in 2012 from 650,000 tons the year prior. The fruit is one of the country’s major agriculture exports, and its growers believed the dispute was to blame for their economic losses.

Treading a fine line with China

China’s foreign ministry issued a statement after the meeting in Bangkok last week saying it must work together with the Philippines against “bullying” in the South China Sea—something Beijing and Washington each accuse the other of doing with their military movements in the region. Marcos Jr., for his part, clarified that his foreign policy doctrine has always been to engage with all parties, especially concerning the maritime dispute. “Let’s not allow anyone to dictate what we should do,” he told reporters last week.

In a briefing in Palawan, Harris reiterated America’s support for the 2016 ruling from The Hague on the South China Sea dispute, adding that the U.S. “will continue to rally our allies and partners against unlawful and irresponsible behavior” in the region. Washington also promised to give Manila $7.5 million worth of assistance to its maritime law enforcement agencies.

Beijing has yet to react to Harris’ statement, although its response is expected to be much more muted than the response to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August. The Philippines is not disputed territory. The day before Harris’ trip, China’s foreign ministry said it is not against the U.S. interacting with other states in the region—but it should be for “peace and stability and not damaging to other countries’ interests.”

Read More: Pelosi Leaves Taiwan With the Island—and World—in a More Precarious Position

Richard Heydarian, a Manila-based political scientist and senior lecturer of international affairs at the University of the Philippines, says Philippine-China ties won’t break down over the South China Sea territorial row. But it’s Washington’s increasing military investments on the archipelago that Beijing will be wary of, particularly when it comes to potential future conflict over Taiwan. “Both the South China Sea and the Taiwan crisis are nudging the United States and Philippines to fortify their alliances,” he says.

To reap the benefits of amicable relations with both China and the U.S., as the Philippines and many of its counterparts across Southeast Asia seek to do, says Anna Malindog-Uy, a geopolitical analyst at the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute in Manila, the Philippines must “prevent at all costs the possibility of becoming a pawn of any superpower to encircle another superpower.”

Marcos party boots former ES Vic Rodriguez over ‘disloyalty’, appointments

Xave Gregorio – Philstar.com

November 22, 2022 | 5:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — Disgruntled over several appointments to government allegedly made through the intervention of former Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, the fringe party chaired by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expelled the erstwhile top Malacañang official who resigned in September.

Rodriguez announced his resignation as executive secretary after being dragged into controversy. He said he would take on the role of the president’s chief of staff — a post that did not exist at the time — but said in October that he was out of the Marcos administration.  

Partido Federal ng Pilipinas kicked out Rodriguez earlier this month as member and executive vice president due to him being an “incompetent and notoriously undesirable public servant,” his supposed betrayal of the party and of Marcos’ trust and confidence, “abandonment, disloyalty and many other acts inimical to the party.”

“PFP’s ties with respondent must be cut off immediately like a gangrene to prevent his further poisoning of the PFP body politic. [Rodriguez] must perforce be expelled from the party straightaway for its own good,” the party’s executive committee said in a resolution dated November 11 but published in full by News5 on Tuesday.

Rodriguez’ expulsion from PFP stemmed from a complaint from party officials in the Bangsamoro region alleging that the “highly questionable” appointment of Christopher Pastarana as Philippine Ports Authority general manager was traced to the former executive secretary.

The complaint — which heavily relied on blogs by broadcaster Anthony Taberna and hyperpartisan social media personality RJ Nieto, or more popularly known as Thinking Pinoy — claimed that Pastrana is one of the owners of Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corp. which supposedly owes P132 million to the Department of Transportation.

No appointments for party members?

But the party’s executive committee took offense over more appointments, particularly as “no PFP member … was ever appointed” to any government position.

“There had been reports both among PFP members and non-members that [Rodriguez] treated with extreme discrimination and blocked all applications for appointment that PFP members submitted to his office,” the executive committee said in its 11-page resolution.

The panel said it was able to confirm these reports and added that “PFP members helplessly observed, mostly in silence and submission” as other people who were supposedly less qualified, corrupt or were supporters of former Vice President Leni Robredo got appointed instead of them.

“[Rodriguez,] as the Executive Vice President of the PFP was supposed to be our champion in the appointments process … Unfortunately, [he] put the PFP down,” the committee said.

“In truth, [Rodriguez] became PFP’s tormentor. Our names did not make the president’s ‘short list’ thanks to [him.] He is like a bad dream to PFP, and to others of us even a nightmare,” it added.

Aside from not getting its share of appointments, the party also took issue with the various controversies Rodriguez figured in, including his order vacating several positions in the executive department, his creation of a new office following his resignation as executive secretary and the botched importation of sugar without Marcos’ approval.

“[Rodriguez] started his tenure in government as Lancelot (the greatest Knight in King Arthur’s Round Table), accumulated vast powers and transfigured into Lucifer (the fallen angel of God) in less than three months,” the panel said.

The party was also rubbed the wrong way when its top leaders were supposedly not invited to Marcos’ first State of the Nation Address, while hyperpartisan vlogger Maharlika was.

“After assuming office as Executive Secretary, no communication to the PFP ever came from [Rodriguez,]” the committee said. “After he secured his holy grail, the position and high title of Executive Secretary or ‘Little President,’ now treated the party like a leper.”

‘PFP has self-respect’

Top officials of PFP, including Marcos, are part of the executive committee that ousted Rodriguez. The president did not take part in the process but also did not object, the panel said.

Replacing Rodriguez as PFP’s executive vice president is Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, who until his appointment to the position served as the party’s national treasurer. Antonio Marfori replaces Lagdameo as national treasurer.

Supporters of former President Rodrigo Duterte advocating for a shift to a federal form of government formed PFP in 2018.

In the 2022 elections, it nominated Marcos as its standard-bearer who then became its chairperson. 

PFP entered into an alliance with Lakas – Christian Muslim Democrats, Hugpong ng Pagbabago and Partido ng Masang Pilipino to support Marcos and his running mate, then Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

READ: Political clans form coalition to support Bongbong-Sara tandem

Despite having Marcos as its chairperson, PFP is still relatively small compared to other parties as it only has two members elected to Congress. The president’s party historically sees a surge in membership in the run-up to polls and soon after election victory.

In its resolution ousting Rodriguez, the party acknowledged its small size, saying: “The PFP … is bigger than any one member, no matter how important or exalted he feels he is. The PFP, no matter how small or unknown it is, has self-respect.”

ANYARE?: Uncovering the secrets of confidential, intel funds


November 22, 2022 | 4:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — We have a secret to tell you.

Did you know that there is around P9.28 billion in the proposed 2023 budget that we would never know how it would be spent?

That is because they are confidential and intelligence funds — lump sum allocations to civilian and security agencies for sensitive operations like surveillance and intelligence gathering.

What exactly are these funds? And how did they become so huge?

Join Xave Gregorio as he explains what confidential and intelligence funds are and what could be done about them, together with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and budget expert Zy-Za Suzara.

Marcos’ last will did not state that his wealth would be used for nat’l programs

Nov 22, 2022, Rappler.com

The late dictator’s last will and testament does not provide for the use of his wealth for programs and national infrastructure projects for the Filipino people

The claim: Former president Ferdinand E. Marcos’ last will and testament stipulated that his wealth would be used to fund programs and national infrastructure projects for Filipinos.

The video, posted by YouTube channel Kaalam PH, claims that the late dictator’s will states that his wealth would be used for livelihood programs, scholarship programs, healthcare programs, disability/retirement/pension programs, national infrastructure programs, agriculture programs, mining programs, and industrial and other economic matters. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The video with the claim was posted by a channel with 904,000 subscribers. The video has 4,900 likes, 117,000 views, and 368 comments as of writing. 

What the will states: Marcos’ Last Will and Testament, which was signed on June 23, 1988, did not state that his wealth would go to any of the aforementioned programs. In fact, his will stated that all of his estate “of every nature and kind,” would be bequeathed to his wife and four children. One-half of his estate would be bequeathed to his wife Imelda, while the other half would go to his children.

Fact checks by VERA Files and Rappler have stated that Marcos’ wealth would not be distributed to Filipinos. The “will” that is being read in the video, which makes mention of funds that will be distributed for different programs and projects, has been debunked by VERA Files as being a fake version of Marcos’ will. – Katarina Ruflo/Rappler.com

After 5 years, court convicts cop for torture of teens Carl Arnaiz, De Guzman

Nov 23, 2022, Jairo Bolledo

MANILA, Philippines – A Caloocan court has convicted Patrolman Jefrey Perez for torture and planting of evidence in relation to the cases of drug war victims Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.

“WHEREFORE, premises considered the accused, PO1 JEFREY S. PEREZ is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for all the crimes charged against him,” Caloocan City Regional Trial Court Branch 122 Presiding Judge Rodrigo Pascua Jr. said in a 36-page decision dated November 10.

In the Arnaiz case, the court meted the following sentences to Perez:

  • Violation of sections 4 and 14 of Republic Act No. 9745 or Anti-Torture Act of 2009: Penalty of six months of arresto mayor as minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional medium as maximum
  • Planting of evidence under section 29 of Republic Act No. 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002: Penalty of two terms of life imprisonment, in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office
  • Planting of evidence under section 38 of Republic Act No. 10591 or Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act: Penalty of reclusion perpetua

In the De Guzman case, the court meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua to Perez for violation of sections 4 and 14 of the Anti-Torture act, in relation to section 5(a) of Republic Act No. 8369 or Family Courts Act of 1997.

The Caloocan court also ordered the cop to pay the Arnaiz and De Guzman families P1 million each for moral damages, and another P1 million each for exemplary damages. The rate of 6% per annum is also imposed on the monetary reward from the decision’s date until fully paid.

“Moreover, pursuant to Section 18 of Republic Act No. 9745, the victim’s heirs, are likewise entitled to claim for compensation as provided under Republic Act No. 7309 for an amount to be determine by the government agency concerned,” the court added.

The other accused, Patrolman Rocky Arquilita died of suspected hepatitis in 2019, while in jail. The court issued the warrant of arrest against Perez and Arqulita.

Since Arquilita died during the trial, the cases against him were dismissible, the court said: “At the outset, the death of PO1 Arquilita during the pendency of the trial renders dismissible the criminal cases against him.”

The decision

In explaining the decision, the court said they relied on the accounts of witness Arnold Perlada and other circumstantial evidence from the prosecution. The court said Perlada’s narrations proved that the crimes were committed by the accused. 

“The Court holds that the foregoing narrations lead to a reasonable hypothesis that the evidence of physical torture sustained by the victims, were perpetrated by no other persons than the accused in this case,” the decision read. 

On the torture of Arnaiz, the court said although the witness said he did not see the accused punching or hitting Arnaiz, torture was still present because the torture is usually done in a concealed location. 

“As pointed out by the prosecution, torture is perpetrated under clandestine conditions, and is done away from the public eye. Considering that the accused are Caloocan police and were in fact on board the Caloocan police mobile patrol car, by no stretch of imagination could they have taken custody of the herein victims, elsewhere,” the court said.

The court said the cops committed the crime of planting illegal drugs and ammunition to make it appear that there was a shootout with Arnaiz.

“The circumstances above-mentioned appreciated in its totality constitute an unbroken chain that impel this Court to arrive into a fair and reasonable conclusion that herein accused committed the crime of planting of evidence to incriminate Carl in the violation of RA 9165, and the planting of firearm with ammunitions near the body of Carl, to make it appear that he engaged in a shootout during a hot pursuit operation, in an attempt to cover up the intended killing,” the decision said.

Even though Arquilita had died, the charges against Perez remained because of the presence of conspiracy. According to the court, the idea of conspiracy was there when the two cops committed the crimes.

“Clearly, the foregoing acts of the accused are indicative of unity of criminal design, joint purpose, concerted action, and concurrence of sentiments as in conspiracy,” the court said.

Teen deaths in Duterte’s drug war

Arnaiz was killed in what the Philippine National Police (PNP) initially claimed as a shoout supposedly started by the 19-year-old. Police claimed that cops were trying to arrest him for supposedly robbing a cab driver on August 18, and that the teen supposedly fired first. They also alleged that they found drugs on him.

The Public Attorneys Office’s autopsy painted a different picture: Arnaiz was handcuffed, beaten up, and then killed. The taxi driver who allegedly got robbed by Arnaiz also later said that he was forced to provide a false affidavit against Arnaiz.

A PNP Internal Affairs Service investigation into the controversial case corroborated the PAO findings, that the two Caloocan cops “intentionally killed” Arnaiz.

The 14-year-old De Guzman, who has last seen with Arnaiz in Cainta, Rizal, was found dead over 100 kilometers away, in a creek in Barangay San Roque, Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, weeks after Arnaiz’s death. De Guzman had 30 stab wounds.

The Arnaiz and De Guzman murder cases are still pending before a Navotas court.

This is the latest conviction of high-profile cases in the bloody drug war, after the Kian delos Santos case. In 2018, a Caloocan court convicted three cops for Delos Santos’ killing. – Rappler.com

Atom Araullo and mom Carol share their activism journeys in first joint interview


Published February 9, 2021

Award-winning journalist Atom Araullo has always been a proud son of Dr. Carol Pagaduan Araullo, an activist who fought against the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos.


The two share similar backgrounds as graduates of the University of the Philippines, and they both eventually became student activists during their time in Diliman.

In their first-ever joint interview as mother and son, Atom and Carol told Noel Ferrer of “Level Up Exclusive” on Radyo Katipunan their similar but separate journeys into activism.

“People keep asking me how [was] it like growing up in a quote-unquote activist household,” Atom said. “I wouldn’t even consider our household an activist household, I guess, in a stereotypical sense.”

He said he knew his mom is an activist growing up, but she never actually raised him to follow in her footsteps.

“He came to it on his own. I mean, that’s really the only way you can do that,” Carol said.

“It’s a personal journey. It can’t be anything less than a personal journey kasi otherwise it’s not gonna stick,” Atom added.

Both mother and son attended UP at a time of political turmoil in the country — Carol came of age during martial law; Atom during the protests against President Joseph Estrada.

Carol’s path to activism started at the Diliman Commune of 1971. As a young student, she initially did not discriminate between the violence inflicted by the police and protesters. She condemned both, but witnessing the shooting of Pastor Mesina as students barricaded the University Avenue became a turning point for her.

“That was my baptism of fire ‘ika nga. That radicalized me. I realized that it is the State, the government, that has a monopoly on sanctioned violence,” she said.

From then on, she continued attending demonstrations without telling her parents. They found out eventually, but she knew how to take care of herself and did not get hurt in the protests. It was only when martial law was declared that they became really worried for her safety.

Carol went underground before the Marcos dictatorship was established. Several days later, she met up with her parents at an uncle’s house, where they tried to dissuade her from her decision.

“They asked me to go home and for the first time, my dad cried,” she said. “He said, ‘You know, if you don’t… if you leave the house and you don’t agree to come back, you’re on your own.’ And then I said, ‘Well, I guess that’s how it has to be because kung hindi ako kikilos, laban sa martial law, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon kelan, pa?’”

Atom, meanwhile, had a “parallel experience” as a freshman in UP at the height of the ouster campaign against Estrada.

While on his way to the campus one day, he chanced upon a demonstration on Commonwealth Avenue during the State of the Nation Address. The situation descended into violence — there was bludgeoning and hurling of rocks — and he became curious about what was happening.

“I wouldn’t say I was radicalized at that moment, pero parang if I learned anything from my family is not to be afraid of those kinds of incidences, mga protests,” he said.

“I can imagine that you can react to it two ways,” he said. “One is you become fascinated about it, [you] want to learn about it and another is matakot ka and just say na ‘Ay, ayokong ma-involve diyan, basta ako mag-aaral lang ako.’  I went the other way ‘no, kasi hindi ako takot sa aktibismo kasi alam ko nanay ko aktibista e.”

Atom eventually became an activist in his college days. He would not confer that label to himself now out of respect to the many sacrifices of full-time activists, but he said that activism did change him as a person. He believes it even saved him from himself.

“I would have been insufferable kung hindi ako naging aktibista. I would’ve been too self-involved, feeling ko masyado akong na-in love sa sarili ko to an extent,” he said.

Atom admitted that activism first appealed to him as an intellectual exercise; what interested him at the beginning was the social analysis and thinking about the big picture.

Eventually, he realized that for all his smarts, he did not know anything after all and learned to listen to the farmers, the urban poor, and other disadvantaged groups.

While both mother and son became activists while they were in UP, the two said activism is not at all the dominant culture in the university.

“Being a UP student ha, tingin ko dominant na kaisipan sa UP is still being one of conversative ha. It’s a misnomer na ang mga lahat ng taga-UP ay aktibista,” Atom said.

Atom said he knows many people from other schools who show more civic-mindedness than some UP alumni, expressing their concern about social issues and asking what they can do to help.

“Magugulat ka. ‘Yung ibang mga taga-UP na dating mga miyembro ng student council halimbawa, sila pa ‘yung mas, ‘Hay naku bahala kayo sa buhay n’yo basta sa ‘kin eto na ‘yung gagawin ko.’ Cynical, oo,” he said.

Carol said it was the same even during her time in UP.

“Ang UP, siguro ang dominant stream diyan is liberalism. Hindi radicalism e. ‘Yung student activism, radical student activism is actually a counterculture,” she said.

She said, however, that because the counterculture has existed for a long time, even those who did not like activism during their student days have imbibed the tradition as they grew older.

“Pinagmamalaki na rin nila ‘yon kasi parang ‘yung pagiging nationalist, ‘yung pagiging activist, ‘yung pagiging proactive, etc, parang inangkin din na nila,” she said. “But that is far from saying that the minute you step into UP you become radical. No way.”

Carol said some students become activists precisely because they are still young and free from duties and responsibilities unlike adults.

“Talagang mas natural e na ‘dun ka maging aktibista kasi ‘yung idealism is at a high point,” she said. “Walang kang iniisip pa na hanapbuhay, mga pinapalaking anak, etc. So mas libre kang mag-isip at tsaka gumawa ng desisyon na hindi makasarili.”

She also said it’s the social, political, and economic conditions which breed activists, but people respond to situations differently.

“Kung anak ka ng mahirap, minsan mas madali, nararamdaman mo, kinagisnan mo,” she said. “Pero minsan dahil sa pagnanais mong makaalpas dun sa ganong klaseng sitwasyon, one-tracked mind ka ‘no, you want to get ahead. You want to be able to lead a life where you can support your parents so ayaw mong makialam sa ibang mga bagay.”

Carol said sometimes students whose families are well-off have more leisure to engage in activism, but it all boils down to their value system.

“Kung ‘yung anak mo ay nag-iisip at lumaki na may empathy at tsaka may sense of justice, ‘yung ganon, ‘yung hindi makatiis sa situation of injustice, activism will find them wherever they are,” she said.

Atom agreed. More than his mother’s background, he said the value system he formed from both of his parents was the key to finding his way as an active student leader in UP. He credits his father especially for passing onto him empathy, sensitivity, and hard work.

“Hindi naman naituturo ‘yon, you just live by example, you just observe it in the people that surround you, in my case, my parents,” he said. “That is the foundation where everything was built up and you know by the time I became a college student, formed na ‘yon.”

While some parents do not want to send their children to UP in order to avoid activism, Carol and Atom said activism is really just about becoming passionate about issues close to your heart — be it climate change, environmentalism, human rights, national sovereignty, democracy, and others.

“You have a cause. You are not a rebel without a cause. You have a cause,” Carol said. “And usually, it’s to change things, it’s for change.” — LA, GMA News