Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hong Kong leader plays waiting game, protesters demand he resigns


October 2, 2014 8:32am
(Updated 11:01 a.m.) HONG KONG - Hong Kong's leader is willing to let pro-democracy demonstrations blocking large areas of the city go on for weeks if necessary, a source close to him said, while defiant protesters vowed they would not budge.
 
The city's streets were calm early on Thursday while police largely kept their distance from the thousands of mostly young people keeping up protests, now nearly a week old, in several areas of the global financial hub.
 
The protesters want Hong Kong's leader, Leung Chun-ying, to step down by the end of Thursday and have demanded China introduce full democracy so the city can freely choose its own leader. Leung, appointed by Beijing, has refused to stand down, leaving the two sides far apart in a dispute over how much political control China should have over to Hong Kong.
 
The popular "Occupy Central" movement presents one of the biggest political challenges for Beijing since it violently crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
 
Leung, Hong Kong's chief executive, is prepared to allow the protests to subside and will only intervene if there is looting or violence, said a government source with ties to Leung.
 
"Unless there's some chaotic situation, we won't send in riot police ... We hope this doesn't happen," the source said. "We have to deal with it peacefully, even if it lasts weeks or months." Leung could not be reached for comment.
 
Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges last weekend to quell unrest, the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule of the former British colony in 1997.
 
The protests have calmed considerably since then, and the numbers on the streets have fallen sharply from the tens of thousands seen at the weekend, although an air of tension remains and the demonstrations appear far from over.
 
However, a crowd of about 100 protesters had blocked the main road leading to Leung's office in the Central business district, some chanting, "Leung Chun-ying, Step Down!"
 
US President Barack Obama told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who earlier met Secretary of State John Kerry, that Washington was watching the protests closely and urged a peaceful solution.
 
"The United States has consistently supported the open system that is essential to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity, universal suffrage, and the aspiration of the Hong Kong people," the White House said in a statement about the meeting, also attended by 
national
 security adviser Susan Rice.
 
Universal suffrage is an eventual goal under the "one country, two systems" formula by which China rules Hong Kong. Under that formula, China accords Hong Kong some autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.
 
However, protesters calling for free elections reacted angrily when Beijing decreed on Aug. 31 that it would vet candidates wishing to run in Hong Kong's 2017 election.
 
Wang said before an earlier meeting with Kerry that countries should not meddle in China's internal affairs.
 
"The Chinese government has very formally and clearly stated its position. Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs. All countries should respect China's sovereignty," Wang said.

‘What else can we do?’
 
National Day, a public holiday marking the Communist Party's foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, passed on Wednesday without the police crackdown many in Hong Kong had feared, although some people booed while the national anthem was played at a ceremony.
 
Protesters across the city have dug in, setting up supply stations with water bottles, fruit, disposable raincoats, towels, goggles, face masks and tents. Even so, some in the crowds wondered how long the status quo could last.
 
"I don't think we can stay like this for more than two weeks," said Moses Ng, a 26-year-old who works in sales and marketing, gesturing towards young people milling around barricaded streets in Causeway Bay, a major shopping district.
 
"(If so) this action would have totally failed, so we are thinking about what else we can do."
 
Others, like 17-year-old secondary school pupil Wong Chi Min, were more defiant.
 
"People will keep coming back every day," he said. "We will wait for CY (Leung) to step down so we can choose our own leader. If he doesn't, we will continue to wait here."
 
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the protest organisers, urged people to surround more government buildings from Friday unless the authorities accepted their demands.
 
But Leung has said Beijing would not back down and that Hong Kong police would be able to maintain security without help from People's Liberation Army troops from the mainland.

Beijing’s dilemma
 
China has dismissed the protests as illegal, but in a worrying sign for the Communist Party leadership in Beijing, the demonstrations have spread to neighbouring Macau and Taiwan.
 
China now faces a dilemma.
 
Cracking down too hard on the movement could shake confidence in market-driven Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from the rest of China. Not reacting firmly enough, however, could embolden dissidents on the mainland.
 
An editorial in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official organ, said the "Occupy Central" protests were confrontational and that some protesters wanted to make trouble.
 
"(They) will eventually suffer the consequences of their actions," it said on Wednesday.
 
Rights groups said a number of China-based activists supporting the Hong Kong protests had been detained or intimidated by police on the mainland.
 
Around 5,000 people crowded into Taipei's Liberty Square on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with Hong Kong. Events are being watched closely in Taiwan, which has full democracy but is considered by Beijing as a renegade province that must one day be reunited with the mainland.
 
In the world's largest gambling hub of Macau, a former Portuguese colony and like Hong Kong a Chinese "special administrative region," organizers said around 1,200 people gathered in Friendship Square to show their support.
 
In London, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Chinese embassy, some carrying umbrellas that have become the symbol of the Hong Kong demonstrations. About 100 people also gathered in New York's Times Square in support of the protest, many holding aloft open umbrellas.
 
Turmoil in Hong Kong has begun to affect the economy.
 
Hong Kong radio RTHK quoted Joseph Tung, executive director of the city's Travel Industry Council, as saying China's tourism authorities had suspended approval of tourist groups from the mainland to Hong Kong, citing safety issues.
 
Some banks and other financial firms have begun moving staff to back-up premises on the outskirts of Hong Kong to prevent growing unrest in the financial hub from disrupting trading and other critical functions. Reuters

Good evening Usec Seguis!



Reaction:

Chairman Brilliantes is re-echoing the same sentiments by the Senators as early as 2003 when OAV was still being deliberated at the Lower House and Senate when the issue of security was raised by Sen. Chiz Escudero using manual registration and voting at that time. The OFW’s have proven him incorrect.

Technology may not be perfect but the American expats and other WCN’s living and working in Saudi Arabia and other regions of the Middle East positively used internet registration and voting without a fuss or glitch because they are responsible voters using a reliable system.

Generally, the OFW's are the most responsible, sophisticated and critical thinking voters (being the cream of the crop)  which cannot be bought in terms of color of money, bribe, intimidation or anything that grossly violates the Omnibus Election Code>  we have proven that during 2004, 2007 and 2010 elections.

If there were glitches in the past these were plain procedural lapses which were reduced or eliminated in subsequent national elections since 2004 as a living witness I was deputized by COMELEC as Member of the Special Board of Canvassers (SBOC) for KSA.

A unique passport number and a voters ID for each OFW voter is entitled to only one vote> any duplicated ID number could be nullified by the system at once. PCOS machines were used by COMELEC in selected countries
in the past and it went well from the voting day to canvassing of results.
 

Wala pong OFW ang may gusto na  dayain ang kanilang boto at ipaglalaban at maninindigan po kami dito mula sa presinto ng mga embassies and consulates hanggang sa final canvassing sa Kongreso.

Why reincarnate the issue of security of our overseas votes when the same question we should be asking COMELEC how will it safeguard the sanctity of our votes comes national canvassing? Hindi po ba nilulumot na sa SC ang issue against the reliability of PCOS machines which until now the voting public is still awaiting for its ruling?

In the age of 4G technology there is no space for error and COMELEC should better consult experts like Ike Seneres of PCSO who previously worked with NCR and other well meaning NGOs/CSOs who worked hard to protect the interest of the voters.

We have a pool of IT experts around should COMELEC decides to equipped themselves with "political resolve and will" to pilot test INTERNET VOTING especially for KSA being a rich vote country.

We feel sad today as we struggle hard to win over global issues for the OFWs like..

a. MC 08 of MIAA IPSC integration of terminal fee with airline tickets comes Nov. 1, 2014 - the only concession the #NOTO550# Coalition got so far with DOTC Sec. Abaya and after engaging with POEA,OWWA, Congress and with DOLE/POEA key officials this afternoon.

We think that DFA should be on board on this issue since
at this early some consulates and embassies are already
circulating MC 08 of MIAA while more than 200,000 of our
compatriots in the social media are angrily complaining of this "additional burden and exaction" especially the coming
peak season for our balik manggagawa's coming home beginning Nov. to March.

b. DBM Sec. Abad taking out the 90M OAV fund from the GAA which may  paralyze our embassies and consulates OAV preparations  for 2016 national elections.

c. and now COMELEC's  apprehension of INTERNET voting throwing back the issue with Congress whereby the amended OAV law already gave COMELEC the mandate to do it as we have been expecting.
 

We thank you for your support for all these years of "politically empowering the Overseas Filipinos".

regards

ka rashid
Co-convenor
Intl. Coalition on Overseas Filipinos
Voting Rights (ICOOFVR)

Calamity relief package readied for SSS members, pensioners in 'Mario'-hit areas



The Social Security System (SSS) has readied its calamity relief package for SSS members and pensioners affected by Tropical Storm Mario.
SSS Vice President May Catherine Ciriaco, Offcer-in-Charge of the SSS Lending and Asset Management Division, said SSS members and pensioners residing in "declared and may be declared" calamity areas identified by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) due to Tropical Storm Mario can avail themselves of the agency's calamity relief package starting yesterday, October 01.
“We understand how essential it is for them to have immediate access to any form of assistance right now, that's why we are giving them another way, by which they can renew their loans or advance their pension even before they are due for renewal or payment. Ciriaco said. “The SSS' concern right now is to help them get out of harm's way as much as we can, as soon as possible.”
The SSS calamity relief package for members consists of the Salary Loan Early Renewal Program (SLERP), which allows members to renew their loans earlier than the prescribed date; SSS Direct House Repair and Impovement Loan Program, which offers a lower interest rate of only six percent per annum; and three-month advance payment for members receiving pensions under SSS and Employees' Compensation Program.
Ciriaco said affected members who have already availed of the similar relief package that was offered after the onslaught of Typhoon Glenda in July 2014 may apply.
“Granting of salary loans under SLERP will be subject to the same eligibility guidelines that we follow for regular salary loans, Ciriaco explained. “To further help them in their recovery, we will waive the one-percent service fee charged on proceeds of both new and renewed loans.” she added.
For the advanced pension payments, Ciriaco said pensioners, whose present address is different from the address in the SSS database will have to submit a barangay certification to prove that they reside in a declared calamity area.
“To our members whose houses need repair after the typhoon, they may avail of cash assistance through our Direct House Repair and Improvement loan window, which now only carries an interest of six percent per annum,” Ciriaco said.
Ciriaco said qualified SSS members pensioners have until December 31, 2014 to apply for loans and pensions while deadline of application for the Direct House Repair and Improvement Loan, is up to one year from issuance of its corresponding circular.
As of date, the NDRRMC list of areas in a state of calamity due to the effects of Tropical Storm Mario are Marikina City, Cebu City, Cainta in Rizal, and the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
Based on the latest NDRRMC Situational Report, Mario has so far affected 419,939 families in 27 provinces and left damages in infrastructure and agriculture worth more than P2 billion.



SSS Media Affairs Department
7th floor, SSS Building, East Ave., Diliman, Quezon City
9206401 loc. 5052-5055, 5058 

DOLE chief joins appeal for OFWs to steer clear of HK protests

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has joined calls for Filipinos in Hong Kong to stay away and avoid participating in the ongoing pro-democracy rallies there.

“The reason you are in Hong Kong is to work, not to engage in any political activity,” Baldoz said in a statement Wednesday following reports thatsome Filipinos have joined the protests.

Baldoz said they are in regular contact with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, which are constantly monitoring the situation.

She advised OFWs to be careful and to always take the necessary precaution in their daily activities.

“Be alert and go on with your regular routine, but avoid places where marches and protests are happening,” Baldoz said, adding Filipinos in Hong Kong should “stay indoors as much as possible, and keep in touch with our POLO.”

Assistant Labor Attaché  Ma. Nena German, POLO officer-in-charge, reported that the Admirality District, a hotspot of the ongoing political activity and location of POLO and the Philippine Consulate, remains safe and calm.

But due to the movement paralyzing public transportation, some Filipinos expressed irritation at their lack of access to the Consulate and the Admirality District.

The leader of the OFW group that joined the protest yesterday told GMA News' stringer Azon Cañete that they were not inviting others to join. However, they added that Filipinos with time to spare were welcome.

No penalties have so far been announced for foreigners who joined the protest. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

PNoy awards peacekeepers in Golan escape

 Some may call them cowards, but at home, they are undoubtedly heroes.
 
On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III awarded the Filipino peacekeepers who escaped after a standoff with Syrian rebels in Golan Heights in late August.
 
Aquino, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, handed the Distinguished Service Medal, the third-highest military award, to Col. Ezra James Enriquez and Lt. Col. Ted Damusmog. 
 
Enriquez, the head of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Golan Heights, earlier offered to resign in the wake of the controversy triggered by the Filipino peacekeepers' escape, but this was rejected by his superiors.
 
Damusmog, meanwhile, was tasked to head the military battalion which will help secure Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in January.
 
After handing the awards, Aquino thanked the 344 peacekeepers repatriated from Golan Heights for showing courage in the face of adversity.
 
"Humahanga ang buong sambayanan na talagang ito ang uri, kalidad, saka galing, tapang, husay, talino ng ating Sandatahang Lakas," the President said
 
"Talagang nakadagdag kayo sa puri at sa dangal ng ating Inang Bayan, kaya naman dapat kayong talagang pasalamatan," he added.
 
Aside from the Distinguished Service Medal, Gold Cross Medals were also awarded to: Captain Nilo Ramones, 2Lt. Larry Endozo, MSgt. Wilson Lagmay, Sgt. Alwin Cuyos, SSg. Leonardo Aboy, SSg. Andy Mejos, SSg. Ramil Bobiles and Corporal Joneve Acolicol.

Separate ceremony

Other awards were given out to members of the contingent in a separate ceremony at the AFP General Headquarters after the event at Malacañang.

Bronze Cross Medals were awarded to Cpt. Ricardo Nolasco, SSg. Arnold Liwanag, and Cpl. Jober Babaran "for their meritorious and valuable service rendered" as part of the Rapid Reaction Group, 2nd Company, 7th PCGH during the crisis.

Meanwhile, 174 officers and enlisted personnel of the 7th PCGH received Military Merit Medals "in different degrees."

The contingent also got their UN Service Medals for completing their tour of duty in Golan Heights.
 
Golan escape
 
In late August, 75 Filipino peacekeepers figured in a standoff with Syrian militants, which ended with them escaping after a seven-hour clash.
 
The AFP and United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) officials gave conflicting takes of the Filipino peacekeepers' escape. The Philippine military said the Filipino troops defied the order for them to lay down their firearms as there was no guarantee that the rebels would release the Fijian hostages. 
 
Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, UNDOF commander, for his part, described the Filipino troops' action asan act of cowardice
 
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.
 
UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running 70 km from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan. There are 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers from six countries. — with Rose-An Jessica

Security still a thorny issue in proposed online voting for OFWs, Brillantes admits

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday pushed anew for the approval of Internet voting for overseas Filipinos in time for the 2016 elections, although he admitted that security remains to be a thorny issue that they are still addressing.

“Hindi mo malaman kung sino ba ang bumoboto. Sigurado ba kayo na yung voter ang bumoboto dun sa internet? Yun ang sino-solve namin, supposedly addressed by the technical people,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the opening of the Overseas Voter Registration Center at the Blas Ople-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Development Center in Intramuros, Manila..

The Overseas Voter Registration Center aims to double the number of registered Filipino voters abroad to 2 million. OFWs who were having a training at the OWWA center can have themselves registered there.

Brillantes said they do not have any problem with the registration of OFWs, but with the turnout of voters. He said in 2013 polls, of the 975,263 registered overseas voters, only 118,752 or 16 percent actually voted.

He noted that with Internet voting, voters' turnout is expected to significantly increase.

“Pag may Internet voting, lalaki nang husto ang turnout,” Brillantes said.

“Ang problema lumalaki ang registration, lumiliit ang turnout dahil sa hindi makaboto. Under the current law, kailangang pumunta ka sa consulate at embassy para ka makaboto. Sa Saudi Arabia there are so many, millions of voters, hindi naman  sila makabyahe papuntang consulate o embassy. Ganun din yung seafarers na nasa laot. Kung may Internet voting, makakaboto na sila,” he added.

He said most of those who were able to vote were from Hong Kong and Singapore because the consulate in those countries were accessible to Filipino workers.

“Sa Saudi Arabia, 67 million ang registered voters pero dadalawa lang ang consulate natin dun and they would not travel to this consulates just to vote. Unang una, mahigpit sa Saudi Arabia,” Brillantes said.

He said whether or not there will be Internet voting in the 2016 elections is entirely in the hands of Congress.

Game-changer

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis stressed that the vote of OFWs could be a game-changer.

“Imagine if they all vote and the multiplier effect, two million overseas voters and four of their family members, eight million na ang panalo ng senators,” he said in a separate interview.

Brillantes, for his part, believed the overseas votes could reach up to 10 million. He even joked that that could be the reason Vice Presidet Jejomar Binay, who was present in the event, is pushing for the OFWs to vote.

“Kaya nilalakad ni VP Binay yan, sabi niya dyan siya makakakuha. Sabi ko hindi naman sigurado. Kung malaki ang registered voter tapos kokonti ang boboto e di wala ring epekto. Kagaya nung 2013 hindi masyadong nakagalaw dahil 900,000 nga ang botante  pero 130,000 lang ang bumoto,” he said.

Binay, the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, did not grant any interview with the media during and even after the event.

He immediately went out of the building after inspecting the registration center to board his vehicle, only stopping for a while to have a selfie with the residents and some employees waiting for him. —KBK, GMA News

HK raises minimum wage for foreign domestic workers

Good news for Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong — the minimum wage for foreign domestic helpers there has been raised to HK$4,110 (P23,799).

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said late Tuesday the Hong Kong government also announced an increase in food allowance for foreign domestic helpers there.

In a post on its Facebook page, the consulate general said the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) will go up by HK$100 from HK$4,010 to HK$4,110 a month—a 2.5-percent increase.

Food allowance—for employers who choose to provide their workers with an allowance instead of free food—will increase by HK$44 to HK$964 from HK$920 a month.

This is an increase of 4.8 percent, the Consulate General said.

However, it also said these new rates will apply to all contracts signed on or after October 1, 2014.

"Employment contracts signed on or after 1 October 2014 shall have a MAW of HK$4,110 indicated in Item 5 (a) of the Employment Contract. Should employers grant a food allowance in lieu of free food, Item 5 (b) of the Employment Contract must reflect the amount of HK$964," it said.

Contracts signed on or before September 30, 2014 with the previous MAW of HK$4,010 per month and food allowance of not less than HK$920 per month will be processed by the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

But it said the applications should reach the HK Immigration Department on or before October 28, so employers can send the signed contracts to ImmD for completion of the application procedures. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

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