U.S. Filipinos Amplify Call for Real Change Under President Duterte

By Aurora Victoria David, Fr. Esteban DeLeon, Janet Basilan Gardose, Wayne Jopanda


Filipinos in the U.S. urge President Duterte to follow through on his positive pronouncements that will protect the welfare of the Filipino people and promote genuine development and lasting peace in the Philippines.

With his no-nonsense style and salt of the earth demeanor, Rodrigo Duterte captured the hearts, minds, and votes of 39% of the 55 million Filipino people —including 72% of around 432,000 overseas Filipinos voters — who participated in the May 2016 election. Duterte represented a fresh break in the tired, elitist, and corrupt politics of past governments. He built his campaign around the progressive social ordinances and crackdown on drugs he implemented as Mayor of Davao City and promised “Change” on the national scale.

The Filipino people have not pinned their hopes for change on President Duterte alone.  A budding movement seeks to unite Filipinos in the homeland and in the global diaspora to act to eradicate poverty, create genuine economic opportunities and development, and achieve the lasting change that we desire.

The Philippine Migrant Worker Community

Filipinos overseas, including those in the United States are no strangers to the toxic effects of the fundamental problems that plague the Philippines. Crushing poverty and a lack of viable opportunities in the Philippines forces Filipino workers to migrate and be separated from their families. The development of the Philippine economy remains sluggish and tied to the dictates of First World countries through lopsided and unfair “Free Trade Agreements.”  Job lay-offs, outsourcing, decreased security, and contractualization are experienced by the majority while a wealthy few become richer.  The Labor Export Policy (LEP), designed during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, systematically exports Filipinos to foreign countries for low-paying jobs with little to no benefits or socio-economic security.  After four decades of the LEP, more than 10.2 million Filipinos reside overseas and an estimated 6,000 leave the Philippines every day in search of better work opportunities (POEA/Migrante).

Duterte’s First 100 Days

The first 100 days of a new president’s administration is crucial.  It can set the tone and pace for the rest of the term. For Duterte, it should be no different.

In the weeks after his electoral victory and leading up to his inauguration, President Duterte made a pronouncement that working abroad should become “optional and not a necessity”.  Trafficked Filipino workers, many of whom are now living in the shadows as undocumented immigrants in the United State, know all too well the significance of making Duterte’s pronouncement a tangible reality.

#Kababayan4Change Movement

#Kababayan4Change was launched in the US with Filipino migrants presenting their aspirations for change, embodied in the People’s Agenda, to representatives of the Philippine Embassy in DC.  #Kababayan4Change is overseas Filipinos rising for increased involvement, voice and representation in the politics and policies of the homeland.

#Kababayan4Change is a wide-reaching platform that seeks concrete, decisive actions towards comprehensive reforms during the first 100 days of the Duterte Government.  Initiated by Migrante International, the platform calls for implementation of a national industrialization program and genuine land reform to end the current and unsustainable import-dependent and export-oriented economy of the Philippines. Having homegrown business owned and operated in the Philippines creates more job opportunity and reverses the trend of Filipinos having to leave the comfort and safety of the homeland for better economic prospects.

Through #Kababayan4Change, overseas Filipinos are joining with progressive organizations, sectoral groups, indigenous peoples and the struggling majority in demanding an economic transformation that makes it unnecessary for Filipinos to seek work abroad to survive.  The movement calls on us to collectively and completely address the socio-economic roots of armed conflicts, social injustices and forced migrations for a just and lasting peace in the homeland.

Filipinos in Washington D.C. meet with Philippine Embassy officials to discuss the concerns of Filipino migrants such as human trafficking and lack of opportunities in the Philippines.

Priorities for Change: The People’s Agenda

#Kababayan4Change supports and promotes “The People’s Agenda,” an actionable plan for change that was the outcome of a series of multi-sectoral consultations, primary data gathering, and regional conferences. The People’s Agenda 15-point Program for Nationalist and Progressive Change contains recommendations in five key areas: economics, social policy, national sovereignty and foreign policy, peace and human rights, government and corruption. The People’s Agenda was personally delivered by leaders from progressive organizations to the Presidential Palace, and received by President Duterte himself hours after his inauguration into office.

The Agenda implores President Duterte to uphold and prioritize the following policy recommendations:

1. Uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity

2.  Respect human rights and give full play to democracy

3. Reassert the economic sovereignty and conserve the national patrimony.

4.  Carry out national industrialization as the lead factor of economic development and as the key to solving unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.

5.  Implement land reform as a matter democratic right and social justice, as the foundation of economic development and as a method of liberating the landless tillers, releasing capital, promoting rural development and creating a domestic market.

6.  Improve the wage and living conditions of the workers, protect and promote all possible means of livelihood and raise the people’s standard of living.

7.  Expand social services, especially in education, health and housing, and   improve the public utilities.

8.  Stop plunder and all forms of graft and corruption and punish the perpetrators; end the pork barrel  system and channel  government funds to economic development, infrastructure development and expansion of social services.

9.  Reduce military expenditures and channel the savings to economic development and social services.

10.  Promote a patriotic, democratic, scientific and progressive system of education and culture.

11. Uphold gender equality in all fields of social activity and combat gender/sexual discrimination.

12.  Ensure wise utilization of natural resources and protection of the environment.

13.  Respect the rights of national minorities to self-determination and development.

14.  Resume GPH peace negotiations with the NDFP and complete those with the MILF.

15.  Pursue an independent policy and develop closest cooperation with all neighboring countries for the purpose of international solidarity, peace and development.


Join the Kababayan4Change Movement!

Join the Movement for Change!

For genuine and lasting change to occur, the Filipino people in the Philippines, United States and the world must demand that the People’s Agenda becomes a reality. Genuine change for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), migrant workers and their families will only be achieved if the Duterte administration ends the Labor Export Policy and radically changes the socioeconomic context of the Filipino People. Our goal is to keep families intact and not break them apart. Together, we can collectively advocate to make migration from the Philippines a true choice and not the only choice for a better life.

Together, we can build this growing movement for true justice and lasting change.

We invite you to join the #Kababayan4Change movement!


Aurora Victoria David is the Secretary General of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.  Fr. Esteban DeLeon is the Pastor of Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Virginia Beach. Janet Basilan Gardose is the Vice-Chairperson of GABRIELA USA. Wayne Jopanda is the Chairperson of Migrante Washington D.C. As leaders in the Filipino American community, the Co-Authors have tirelessly worked to address poverty and injustice in the Philippines and called for Filipinos in the U.S. to advocate for genuine change in the Philippines.

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