D.C. Teachers Victims of Human Trafficking Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dec. 18, 2013

References:
Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com
Nicole Cunanan, Vice Chair of Propaganda & Cultural Affairs, GABRIELA Washington, D.C., Nicole@gabrieladc.org

GABRIELA USA Exposes Human Trafficking Scheme at the Nation’s Capital on International Migrants Day

WASHINGTON—On Dec. 18, 2013, International Migrants Day, GABRIELA USA, an alliance of Filipina women’s organizations across the United States, stands with the GABRIELA Washington, D.C. chapter to expose the trafficking of teachers from the Philippines to the U.S.

Since 2003, the Philippine-based labor recruitment agency, Renaissance Staffing Support Center (formerly known as Great Provider Service Exporters, Inc. and World Goal Corporation) represented by its president, Isidro Rodriguez and its U.S. partner Green Life Care International, LLC have been trafficking teachers to the U.S. The agency promised applicants high salaried jobs with benefits in public schools in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. It also promised them housing and transportation. Applicants were required to attend various expensive seminars and pay excessive fees to successfully secure H1B visas. Teachers paid between $18,000 to over $20,000 for the entire process. In many cases, their passports were held until they submitted the entire fee amount and were not returned until their departure for the U.S.

When teachers arrived to the U.S., their promised jobs did not exist, leaving them to fend for themselves.

 Some teachers have even reported that recruitment-agency owner Rodriguez also committed various acts of sexual harassment against female teachers and asked for sexual favors in exchange for papers. If victims voiced concerns or went against the recruiter, they were threatened to be deported or told that their families will be harmed.

“This illegal recruitment and trafficking scheme made us suffer in slave-like conditions and in debt bondage. We sacrificed so much just to try to support our families back home and we are still trying to survive day-to-day,” stated Ma. Fen Ecleo, Co-Chairperson of GABRIELA Washington, D.C. and one of the trafficking victims.

 “This situation with the teachers is not an isolated case, and is an example of a larger systemic problem in the Philippines,” says Tina Shauf, Vice Chair of Campaigns of GABRIELA USA. GABRIELA USA demands that the Philippine government ensure that true justice is delivered to the the teachers as they pursue legal cases against Rodriguez and Renaissance Staffing Support Center. Rodriguez should be jailed for the crimes he has committed and the teachers should get full compensation for debts. GABRIELA USA also demands that the teachers get T visas, as human trafficking victims, so they can continue to work and live in the US without fear of deportation. We call on the Filipino community and our allies to support the teachers’ ongoing legal cases in both the Philippines and the U.S.

 “The Philippine government hails the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as “Modern Heroes” and yet in their time of need, the OFWs are treated with apathy,” said Jo Quiambao, Co-Chairperson of GABRIELA DC. “Workers’ remittances to the country keep the economy afloat but the government fails to address the concerns and well-being of distressed OFWs.”

 On the occasion of International Migrants Day, aside from recognizing the efforts, contributions, and rights of migrants worldwide, GABRIELA USA calls on the Philippine government not only to respond to the problems of migrant workers in the host countries, but to also address the root causes of migration which is poverty and underdevelopment in the Philippines.

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GABRIELA USA is a grassroots-based alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations in the United States seeking to wage a struggle for the liberation of all oppressed Filipino women and the rest of our people.

While we vigorously campaign on women-specific issues such as women’s rights, gender discrimination, violence against women and women’s health and reproductive rights, GABRIELA USA also addresses national and international economic and political issues that affects Filipino women.
GABRIELA USA is an overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, and is a member organization of BAYAN USA and the International Women’s Alliance.
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Stories from the Global 99%: Fil-am Women Share Stories from Mass Movement & Recent Exposure Trip in the Philippines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2011

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), fire.nyc@gmail.com

 

Stories from the Global 99%: Fil-am Women Share Stories from Mass Movement & Recent Exposure Trip in the Philippines

 

In 2011, six women from the NY-based GABRIELA USA organization, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE NYC), traveled to the Philippines on an exposure and integration program with Gabriela Philippines. The women, Hanalei Ramos, Candice Sering, Jennine Ventura, Zarah Vinola, Julie Jamora, and Krystle Cheirs, had one major goal in mind: to experience first-hand what the MASS MOVEMENT is like in the Philippines, and bring back what they learned to their community in the United States. On Monday, November 21, 2011, FiRE will host a special report-back from 7:00pm-9:00pm at the International Action Center’s Solidarity Center (55 W. 17th Street, Suite 5 C).

 

“We want people in New York to feel the dynamism of the National Democratic Movement in the Philippines,” stated Candice Sering, FiRE’s Cultural Director. “It was also important that we pay tribute to the organizers and communities that we met in a creative way.” The event will include interactive elements (guerilla theater, sound installation, and visual arts), traditional Filipino street foods, and stories. FiRE has also made it possible to view the event live via UStream.tv, a live-streaming Internet site, for those who are abroad (both nationally and internationally) but wish to support the event. “Our friends and fellow organizers in the Philippines can’t physically be here, but we wanted them to be able to share in the telling of their stories, so we’ll set up a live-stream,” stated Hanalei Ramos, who served as team leader for the summer trip.

 

In the wake of a global economic crisis and the worldwide Occupy people-led movement (including Occupy Philippines), FiRE is drawing connections to the people-powered National Democratic Movement in the Philippines. “By sending our members to the Philippines for an extended period of time, they witness and experience first-hand the concrete conditions that the basic masses, the real 99% of the Philippines, are living under every day,” said Jackie Mariano, Vice Chairperson of FiRE. “Most importantly, they learn how the masses have organized themselves to take action to build a brighter future.” The report-back will shed light on the daily injustices committed in the Philippines and the ways in which Filipinos are responding, challenging and changing the system.

 

For more information on Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment and the Exposure & Integration Program, visit http://firenyc.org.

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EDUCATE. ORGANIZE. MOBILIZE.

A Reportback brought to you by FiRE

 

MONDAY NOV 21, 2011

International Action Center Solidarity Center

55 West 17th Street, Suite 5C

NY, NY

8PM-10PM, doors open at 7:30PM. (Please note the time change!!)

For live-streaming: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/fire-nyc

One Year Later, Filipinos Still in Crisis Under Aquino– BAYAN-USA

Press Statement
July 25, 2011

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN-USA, email: chair@bayanusa.org

One Year Later, Filipinos Still in Crisis Under Aquino– BAYAN-USA

Filipino-Americans, under the banner of BAYAN-USA, are taking part in actions across the US and in Manila during the scheduled State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the Philippines to register strong condemnation and disappointment over the failure of the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “P-Noy” Aquino III to facilitate significant changes to improve the lives of the burdened Filipino people after one year in office.

Citing continuing subservience to foreign dictates and a worsened economic situation as measures of the Aquino’s failure to deliver upon promises made during the election and during last year’s SONA, BAYAN-USA and its allies in the US remain adamantly unconvinced that the administration is genuinely for change.

Shameless US Puppetry

At the heart of Aquino’s failure is unrelenting loyalty and puppetry to US foreign policy.

Within his first year, Aquino has willingly allowed the US to use the Philippines as its puppet state to take advantage of the regional territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands and provoke profit-making military aggression in Asia, and particularly against China.

As war and arms production has become the most profitable industry for the US ruling elite, the US government has in turn been able to rely strongly on the compliant Aquino administration to continue with a sugar-coated version of Arroyo’s deadly Operation Plan Bantay Laya by implementing Operation Plan Bayanihan, per the US State Department’s Counter-Insurgency Guide (US COIN). The objective of this counterinsurgency program is the same as it was for Arroyo’s administration and as utilized by repressive regimes worldwide: to suppress dissent and eliminate opposition using a combination of deceptive and increasingly violent tactics. The end result is the protection of imperialist economic and political interests at the expense of human lives.

The Poor Get Poorer Under Aquino

Under the thumb of US foreign dictates, Aquino has further pushed a neoliberal economic framework that has made life more miserable for the majority of the Filipino people. Landlord families, such as Aquino’s, remain in control of the country’s natural resources and push for privatization. Liberalization continues to hike up the prices of basic commodities such as food, gas, and water out of the reach of Filipino families. Contractualization hurts workers by decreasing wages, sowing job insecurity, and busting unions. Under Aquino, there are over 11 million unemployed Filipinos in the country with virtually zero job growth.

Privatization schemes such as the so-called Public-Private Partnership (PPP) not only serve to bulk up the pockets of wealthy and powerful multi-national corporate investors at the expense of ordinary Filipino citizens and workers. They also widen the gap between the few Filipino families that control the majority of the country’s wealth and political power and the burdened majority who must pay from their own pockets for the risks of private investors. It is the impoverished majority who suffer the most from the Philippine state’s abandonment of its public responsibilities.

Filipinos are left with no choice but to seek opportunities abroad, like in the United States. But in these desperate economic times, many Filipino workers fall prey to human trafficking schemes to the US.

Philippine Government: #1 Human Trafficker

The cases of the Sentosa 27 healthworkers, the Florida 15 hotel workers, and hundreds more similar cases of Filipinos duped into coming to the US under the auspices that they would have contract work waiting for them only to have their money taken, passports confiscated, and be left by their recruiters to fend for themselves as undocumented migrants are another clear measure of the Philippine government’s failure to address the country’s economic woes.

In addition, the Aquino government continues Arroyo’s non-accountability to overseas Filipino workers in distress by not providing adequate social services and protection from abuse, maltreatment, and exploitation abroad.

Last Names Do Not a Great Leader Make

Though he was able to capitalize on his last name and the dirty record of his predecessor to win the election, it is clear that none of these things actually translated into making Aquino a great leader or any improvement to the state of the Philippine nation.

Like Obama, Aquino has proven that he is not much different than his predecessor, particularly with his human rights record. In one year of the Aquino presidency, 45 activists have been slain in politically-motivated killings, 5 have been victims of forced disappearance and over 300 political prisoners remain behind bars. The perpetrators of the 1,206 extra-judicial killings, more than 300 forced disappearances, and over 1,000 cases of torture committed under the previous administration of President Gloria Arroyo remain at-large, including those guilty of abducting and torturing renowned Filipina American poet, artist, and BAYAN USA member Melissa Roxas.

As Aquino delivers his formal State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the Philippine Congress today, Filipino-Americans will be amongst those who refused to be deceived and who understand that real change can only come from ordinary people in collective struggle, not from individual politicians with famous last names. ###

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org

Filipinas Join Thousands in New York Protesting Wars Around the World

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Filipinas Join Thousands in New York Protesting Wars Around the World
Reference: Irma Salvatierra Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
Email: fire.nyc@gmail.com

New York City – On Saturday, April 9, thousands of anti-war protesters flooded the streets of New York City to demand an end to the wars all over the world at the United National Anti-war Committee rally at Union Square. Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), as an anti-imperialist organization, demanded an end to covert wars of U.S. military aggression in the Philippines under the pretext of the Balikatan Exercises, Oplan Bayanihan, and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

FiRE was part of the 75 person Asian Pacific Islander contingent which included BAYAN USA, AnakBAYAN NY, AnakBAYAN NJ, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Action 21, and Jersey City Peace Movement. “We need to show solidarity in international issues, especially due to the bombings and military presence in Korea, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. Our struggles are connected and rooted in the military presence of the U.S. in this nations,” said Christina Hilo, Secretary General of FiRE.

April marks the beginning of the annual the Balikatan Exercises or, war games between the Philippines and the United States military. During this, three thousand U.S. troops endanger the lives of thousands of Filipinos by detonating explosives and conducting manhunts in local communities. Usually, the victims of enforced disappearances and murders, the armed forces are given impunity for furthering President Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan agenda.

FiRE, which defends the rights of women across the globe, “represent[s] the women who are exploited through forced prostitution, trafficking, rape – which all increase when there is a base embedded in the community, “ said Krystle Cheirs, Finance Director of FiRE.
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GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones in Building Filipino Women’s Power

For Immediate Release

March 29, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, chair@gabusa.org

GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones

in Building Filipino Women’s Power

Launch of iVOW Campaign, International Women’s Alliance, and

Freedom for Morong 43 Amongst their Successes in 2010

Seattle– On March 26, 2011, five member organizations of Gabriela USA, Samahan ng  Kababaihan (SAMAKA) and BABAE San Francisco, Pinay sa Seattle, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) New York and Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGAw) Los Angeles came together to hold their second National Chapter Council meeting to assess their accomplishments in 2010 and plan their advancement for the next year.

National Chapter Council members represented their organizations of Filipino women who consist of mothers, working women, professionals, and students. The National Council reviewed their organizational growth in 2010 and their main campaign IVOW v. VAW (Violence Against Women), which reached and moved hundreds of women in their homes, schools, and communities–  to pledge to raise their voices against the the different forms of violence inflicted on women.

On March 29, 2011, GABRIELA-USA across the U.S. celebrates their 2 year anniversary and the successes of the last year which include:

  • Successful Launch of IVOW vs. VAW (Violence Against Women) in 4 Major Cities in the U.S.
  • 33% growth in membership and formation of SAMAKA- an association of Filipina mothers, elders, and working women
  • Mobilizing over 50 members and allies to the Montreal International Women’s Conference held in August 2010

Forwarding a truly internationalist perspective in building sisterhood and solidarity across the globe, GABRIELA USA was instrumental in organizing the Montreal International Women’s Conference (MIWC) and the formation of the International Women’s Alliance in Canada and also participated in the International Alliance of Migrants and Refugees activities in Mexico.  GABRIELA members throughout the U.S. also joined with other community organizations and alliances in protesting the wrongful detention of the Morong 43 in the Philippines, half of which were women.

In 2011, GABRIELA USA will be launching a national research project on the situation and issues of Filipino women in the US, continuing their IVOW campaign, and focusing on the growth and expansion of their alliance.  This summer, GABRIELA-USA will be sending delegates to the First General Assembly of the International Women’s Alliance which will be held in Manila, Philippines.  GABRIELA’s next General Assembly will be in March 2012.

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