SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
The San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP) is standing firm in their support for the three Overseas Filipino Workers killed in the Black Elk oil rig explosion on November 16, 2012 and welcomes the continual efforts of all of those involved in the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers (J4GIS-Fil-Workers) Campaign.
As part of the J4GIS-Fil-Workers Campaign the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), an alliance of over 25 organizations across the U.S., will be leading a solidarity and fact-finding mission in Louisiana from February 22nd to the 25th. Part of the fact-finding mission will be to gather testimony from the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) workers and their families, part of the over 100 workers who have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against GIS.
“The tragedy of the death of these three workers goes beyond the Black Elk oil rig explosion last November,” said Rupert Estanislao, chair of SF CHRP. “Not only was Black Elk culpable in atrocious safety violations on the oil rig, turning a blind eye to safety in the search for profit, but they, along with GIS and others, are also responsible for essentially setting up a modern day slave plantation within U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Part of the conditions the Filipino workers faced were working from 72 and up to 98 hours a week without proper pay or overtime and working up to four months straight on the offshore oil platform, while American workers would only work up to two weeks offshore. The Filipino workers were also threatened with deportation when they raised concerns or issues, forced to stay inside company compounds while onshore and monitored with security cameras, and forced to do tasks such as taking care of the horses of one of their bosses.
“The actions of GIS were disgusting and the slave-like conditions these workers faced were deplorable,” exclaimed Estanislao. “One example of the utter callousness and moral depravity of GIS was in the case of Saxon Gannod who became temporarily blinded due to being forced to weld for long hours without proper protection. While in the process of getting treated for his condition, his bosses still forced him to continue welding. Another worker was severely burned on the job and given inadequate medical treatment and then pressured to not file a lawsuit due to these unsafe work conditions.”
The Filipino workers’ religious rights were also violated when they were not allowed to attend Catholic Church services and were instead forced to go to the evangelical church of one of their bosses, who would try to convert them away from their Catholic faith. Aside from not being able to leave the company compound, except for Sunday when they were only allowed to go to an evangelical church or to Walmart, they were also not allowed to talk to their American coworkers or apply for state ID cards or a driver’s license. One worker, according to GIS, was deported solely for the fact that he had complained about the condition of the work gloves that were given to him.
“Despite the evidence of some of the worst human rights violations of workers on U.S. soil the Philippine ambassador to the U.S., Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. stated, after the Black Elk oil rig explosion, that he was ‘looking forward’ to bringing more Overseas Filipino Workers to work for GIS,” explained Estanislao. “The Philippine embassy and the Philippine government are just as culpable as GIS is in the deaths of the three Filipino workers. Instead of advocating for the rights and welfare of their own citizens, the Philippine government causes a daily exodus of their own citizens from the Philippines and into the hands of dreadful companies such as GIS in order to prop up their own weakening economy through the remittances sent to the families of these overseas workers.”
SF CHRP is demanding justice for the three Filipino oil rig workers killed in the Black Elk oil rig explosion and stands by the over 100 workers and their families in their class action lawsuit and in their fight for justice against GIS. Companies such as GIS must be held accountable for their actions by the U.S. government, and Philippine embassy staff and personnel must take a more active role in pressuring host country governments to investigate GIS and other companies which are exploiting Filipino citizens. SF CHRP also vows to help in the effort in the upcoming solidarity and fact-finding mission to Louisiana this February and will continue to fight for justice for the GIS Filipino workers.