Filipino Groups in US Feel Betrayed By Duterte’s Statements on Undocumented Pinoys

Some Filipino groups which claimed supporting President Rodrigo Duterte in the last elections have expressed dismay over the latter’s pronouncement that he will not help undocumented Filipinos in the United States as illegal immigrants have become target of US President Donald J Trump’s new policies.

In a report by ABS-CBN News, Pilipino Workers Center, one of the largest Filipino organizations in the US, said it feels betrayed that Duterte was turning his back on Filipino immigrants in the US who have significantly contributed to the Philippine economy over the years.

“Presidente Duterte, marami sa mga undocumented dito sa Amerika sumuporta sayo, mga avid fans mo, nag-kampanya sa Facebook lahat-lahat. Ngayon, undocumented sila, yung iba nga nagpadala pa ng pera doon [sa campaign] eh. Ngayon, in trouble kami, hindi naman namin akalaing mananalo iyang si [Donald] Trump, akala namin si Hillary [Clinton], bakit hindi mo tutulungan?” said PWC Associate Director Lolita Lledo.
Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), another Filipino-American group, also echoed its sentiments over Duterte’s statements on the plight of Filipino immigrants.

“I don’t feel good about that. It’s not just the Filipinos. He is isolating all the ethnic groups, and as a Filipino community, we have to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected,” said Dorothy Gamoning, SIPA’s Executive Director.

Lolita Lledo

While some Filipinos are undocumented, they are not criminals, and they need help from government to legalize their stay, said Gamoning.

“They provide a lot to the workforce. They are one of the most educated among the ethnic Asian groups so when they come here, they provide a strong work ethic. And, of course, there is the large Filipino nursing community and that is important,” Gamoning added.

Filipinos in the United States is the leading source of dollar remittances to the Philippines, reportedly sending around $8 billion through the US banks and remittance centers.

Duterte said in a press briefing on January 29 reminded Filipinos in the US need to follow the law and correct their status.

“If you are not allowed to stay there where you are staying, get out. Because if you are caught and deported, I will not lift a finger. You know that it is a violation of the law,” Duterte said.

Lledo said their members lament that Duterte does not seem to care for what the government calls the country’s modern-day heroes.

“Sabi nga, kami ang mga bagong bayani. We are the modern-day heroes, ganito ba ang trato sa mga bayani? Kapag ikaw ay nagkaroon ng problema, sa halip na tulungan ka, hindi ka tutulungan,” Lledo said.

Lledo explained that while she understands Duterte wants Filipinos to fix their immigration status, her group feels bad that the president did not offer any help to ease the plight of undocumented Filipinos in the United States.

“Utusan mo ang mga Philippine Consulate dito sa Amerika, ang daming paraan. Halimbawa, lahat ng Filipino-American immigration lawyers, pwedeng anuhin ng consulate — i-network, parang rapid response — sakaling merong nahuli, na either libre or mababa lang ang bayad sa mga abogado na tutulong sa kanila,” Lledo suggested.

Lledo also said members compared Duterte with Mexican president Enrique Nieto, who, they said, stood by its citizens which face immigration crackdown in the country.

“Nireremind namin, bakit ang Mexico, bakit ang dami nilang tulong, sabi niya ayaw niya (Duterte) makialam sa policy ng Amerika. Hindi naman nakikialam eh, mga citizen niyo pa rin iyon eh. Mga Pilipino pa rin yun, tinutulungan niyo lang kung paano (mapapaayos) ang kanilang buhay,” she said.