20 years later: OFWs, activists remember Flor Contemplacion

FOR FLOR. Militant groups with actress Nora Aunor (center) call for the resignation of President Aquino for his alleged failure to curb labor migration and protect OFWs. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

FOR FLOR. Militant groups with actress Nora Aunor (center) call for the resignation of President Aquino for his alleged failure to curb labor migration and protect OFWs.

Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

The case sparked outrage across the Philippines over the government’s alleged “inaction” over the execution. Philippine diplomatic relations with Singapore temporarily soured because the latter proceeded with the execution despite an appeal from former President Fidel V. Ramos. (READ: In Numbers: PH-Singapore relations

Many Filipinos believed that Contemplacion was innocent, and were furious that the government didn’t do enough to save her.
 

"Twenty years after her death, we continue to bear witness to the lives and struggles of thousands and thousands of Flor Contemplacions," Migrant workers' rights group Migrante said in a statement issued during a protest on Tuesday, March 17. 

Migrante and Gabriela marched to commemorate Contemplacion’s death anniversary. They accused Aquino of continuing the tradition of "forced migration and modern day slavery."

Philippine labor export policies have been institutionalized since the 1960s and both groups believe that nothing has changed since then.

“Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, our OFWs and their families are now collectively confronting the struggles and challenges of their plight, and together we shall hold accountable the Aquino administration that has been placed under threat and danger,” Gabriela and Migrante said in a joint statement.

The number of OFWs leaving the country continue to rise as unemployment rates continue to remain around 7% on average. 

They echo the calls of other miltant groups and citizens for President Benigno S. Aquino III to step down.

“Noynoy has continued Cory’s policy of promoting overseas employment for Filipinos and continued previous presidents’ economic policies which fail to create decent jobs in the country. As a result, more Filipinos have been forced to work abroad and have been subjected to various forms of abuse and injustice,” said Elmer Labog of militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Labog condemned the “chronic joblessness” that has continued under the current president.

The Palace, however, refuted the accusations and asserts that the government is doing its best to assist and protect OFWs. “The Philippine government, through our embassies and consulates, provides all the necessary and appropriate consular and legal assistance to Filipinos on death row,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said. 

At the time of Contemplacion’s execution, there were 3 million Filipinos working overseas. Now, according to the Center for Filipinos Overseas, there are at least 10.5 million Filipinos working in other countries. 

Philippine movie star Nora Aunor – who played Flor Contemplacion in the 1995 film – joined calls for Aquino’s resignation. She wore a t-shirt that read, “Proud to be Filipino, ashamed of my government.” (READ: Nora Aunor calls for Aquino resignation

Dozens of Filipinos continue to face execution in countries where capital punishment is imposed like China, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.  – Rappler.com