An Open letter to His Holiness Pope Francis! -Filipino Migrants Austria

An Open letter to His Holiness Pope Francis!
Greetings of peace and love from Filipino migrants in Austria on the occasion
of your coming visit to the Philippines from the 15th to the 19th of
January 2015.

We rejoice in your leadership marked by humble service to God and His creation
and by a boldness that is ready to challenge power and tradition whenever it is
called for.

An Open letter to His Holiness Pope Francis!
Greetings of peace and love from Filipino migrants in Austria on the occasion
of your coming visit to the Philippines from the 15th to the 19th of
January 2015.

We rejoice in your leadership marked by humble service to God and His creation
and by a boldness that is ready to challenge power and tradition whenever it is
called for.

May God bless you as come to us to experience the realities of our everyday
lives, hear our cries, share our hopes and joys. May He bless you as you reach
out your hand in solidarity with us, lovingly aware that we, and every human
being in this world, are part of God’s flock.

We know no peace, Holy Father. We are ridden with anxiety no matter how we try
to face our day to day challenges with humor. We come before you and lay bare
the pleas and struggles of the following sectors:

A) Farmers. Millions of farmers affected by “corporate and state land grabbing”
highlight their call for genuine agrarian reform.

A case in point is the Hacienda Luisita. More than two years after the Supreme
Court ordered the distribution of the vast estate controlled by President
Benigno Aquino III’s clan for more than five decades, farm worker-
beneficiaries said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the
Cojuangco-Aquinos have been colluding to frustrate land distribution.

Your Holiness, we ask you to unite with the farmers in their fight against
“landlessness, injustice and impunity.”

B) Workers. The plight of Filipino workers steadily deteriorate. The government
recognizes more than 1,000 wage levels across the The meager minimum wage
levels set by the law, to which only 50% of  workers are legally 
“entitled” and which accounts for only 42 per cent of the minimum amount needed
daily by a family to live decently, are being openly violated,

The exploitation of workers has been made worse in recent decades by
contractual employment, Unsurprisingly, biggest foreign and local capitalists
in the country employ the most number of contractual workers. The government,.
Contractual workers now comprise the majority of Filipino workers. The
government, the single biggest employer in the Philippines, is supposed to
protect workers’ rights but has also contractualized the majority of its work
force. Contractual workers are in the far end of the spectrum. They often get
wages less than those given to regulars and less than the legally-mandated
minimum wage. They are often denied benefits. They can be easily removed from
work, and are hindered from exercising their rights to form unions and assert
their rights.

Your Holiness, bless the workers and their unity and the solidarity they
receive from across the globe as they assert themselves against violations of
their rights to living wage, security of tenure and democratic rights. 

More so, help us understand that only through nationalized industrialization
will the government be able to provide the appropriate and necessary jobs
needed by the Filipino working class.

C) The urban poor. The urban poor in the Philippines, like its counterparts
elsewhere in the world, does not enjoy adequate and decent living and
livelihood. Demolitions and forced evictions are are carried out to give way to
projects under the Public-Private Partnership implemented in different
countries to promote the interests of the big local and foreign capitalists.

Your Holiness, affirm that God does not want the urban poor sacrificed on the
altar of development. Join us in pressing the government to ensure, and not to
violate, the economic, social and cultural rights of its people. International
human rights laws and domestic laws especially the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and the Philippine Constitution are in place to this

D) Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples bear the brunt of unhampered plunder
of lands and resources by large-scale and destructive mining and
agro-plantations by foreign and local big business.

More than 500,000 hectares of ancestral lands have been awarded to mining
corporations. On top of this, 165 energy projects are in the pipelines,
according to KAMP (Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas) and environmental groups.

Resisting indigenous communities suffer under the counter-insurgency program
Oplan Bayanihan “Oplan Bayanihan resulted to bombings, encampment within
indigenous communities, harassments, filing of trump-up charges, at least 17
cases of forced evacuation and 46 victims of extra-judicial killings since Aquino
took power in July 2010.”

Your Holiness, be with us in protecting God’s flock and God’s creation against
this “development aggression.”

E ) Political prisoners. The political prisoners are pushing for the resumption
of the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
(NDFP) and the Government of Republic of the Philippines (GRP), hoping that
this will oblige the GRP/GPH to release from prison, not only the
still-detained NDFP peace consultants, but also all other political prisoners
in the country.

It will be noted that political prisoners have been arrested and swamped with
multiple trumped-up criminal charges just to keep them in jail, as much as
possible indefinitely.  There are presently some 500 political prisoners
in the country.

Citizens who question the system and those who defend the rights of others are
subjected to arbitrary and illegal arrests; deprived of freedom, justice,
political and human rights; swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges; made
to undergo the most rotten and slowest crawl of justice in the world; and
cruelly left to rot and suffer gross repressions, restrictions and deprivations
for years, and even up to more than a decade already, in various jails
throughout the country.

Your Holiness, help us in pressing for the return of the lost freedom and other
rights of political prisoners, as well as those who disappear(ed), referred to
as  desaparacidos, and thus fully correcting such grave social and
political ills that have long been reigning in our country.

F) Migrants or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). There are an estimated 15
million overseas Filipinos in over 239 countries around the world and
currently 125 Filipinos on death row abroad – the most number of whom
have been executed under the present Aquino administration.

At least 7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad without legal
assistance and at least 25,000 are stranded and awaiting repatriation in the
Middle East alone. Millions are undocumented and in danger of being criminalized
abroad as host countries continue to impose more strict immigration and border
policies. At least half a million Filipinos, mostly women and children, are
victims of trafficking. Millions more suffer labor abuses and violations and
endure modern-day slavery for the sake of their families back home.

The Aquino government has highly praised itself for its supposed efforts to
work with migrant-receiving governments to ensure the rights and welfare of
OFWs. But the truth is OFWs are plagued with an assortment of issues and
problems throughout the entire migration cycle yet the Aquino government has
barely done any decisive action to support and protect OFWs and their families.
The Aquino government’s ability to uphold Filipinos migrants’ rights and
promote their welfare has lagged behind its apparent success in implementing
its so called “labor export policy (LEP)”

We agree with Your Holiness that human trafficking is indeed ‘a crime against
humanity’ and that forced migration is ‘an anomaly’ and a matter of grave
concern for our migrant workers and their families.”

Your Holiness, continue hearing our stories and stand with us against
trafficking and modern-day slavery of Filipino migrants! Struggle with us
against Aquino’s labor export policy!

G) The middle class. The Philippine middle class perennially struggles with
food and job security.  Families under this category do not have savings
to speak of; a medical event, a school expense, or a temporary job loss can
exert a large shock.

Your Holiness, in behalf of the middle class, pray with us, among other things,
that the the minds of the nation’s leaders be enlightened to prioritize
education and that they be chastised to “have a heart for the poor who are

Holy Father, truly, there is no peace and no justice in the Philippines under
the Aquino government. But we will not leave it at that. United, and with you
on our side, we will press on to assert and defend our human, political,
economic and socio-cultural rights – as Filipinos, and as part of your flock.

We fervently hope for your valued support!
Long live Pope Francis!

Elmo Carreon
Chairperson, Migrante Austria

copy furnished:

H.E. Mr. Benigno Simeon Aquino III 
President of the Republic

H.E. Ms. Lourdes O. Yparraguirre 
Ambassador of the Philippines to the Republic of Austria 

Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines

Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform

International Committee of the Red Cross

National Democratic Front of the Philippines Peace Panel