After more than four years in captivity by Somalian pirates, the five Filipino crewmembers will finally be home on Friday, days after they were freed.
Relatives of Arnel Pregillana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit, Akes Tininggal Edwas Jr., and Antonio Auxtero Libres Jr. will be at the airport to meet them, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The five are scheduled to arrive at 4:30 p.m. via Emirates EK 322 and will be welcomed by the officials and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and OWWA.
OWWA officer-in-charge Carmelina Velasquez assured full government assistance to the five seafarers.
?"We imagine the nightmare that our 'kababayans' went through all those times, so much so that we wish that they, together with their families, will be able to adjust and be back to their normal lives," Velasquez said in a statement Thursday.
Among the help that will be extended to the five repatriates are airport assistance and accommodation, as well as transportation fares to allow them to go to their respective hometowns.
Velasquez said the five, who were released over the weekend, will also be recommended to undergo psycho-social counseling as part of their "healing process."
The five Filipinos were among the 29 crewmembers seized by the Somali pirates when their vessel, MV Nahan 3, was seized on March 26, 2012 while passing through the Indian Ocean.
Aside from the Filipinos, other victims of the incident were Cambodian, Chinese, Indonesian,Taiwanese and Viatnamese nationalities. —KBK, GMA News
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) have uncovered a strategy allegedly being used by human traffickers for their victims to evade detection at airports.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on Thursday said a female suspected trafficking victim attempted to slip past the BI departure counter at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on September 10 using a fake departure stamp.
The woman was scheduled to board a flight bound for Dubai when she was spotted by an immigration officer who referred her for secondary inspection to members of the BI's travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).
During an interview with immigration personnel, the woman said she was going to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates not as a tourist but to work as a maid at the house of her niece's Arab employer.
"Afterwards, she brought out of her handbag a departure stamp and a stamp pad which she would use to stamp her passport and boarding pass upon reaching the boarding gate and before boarding her flight," Morente said.
According to the BI, the woman was previously offloaded at the Clark International Airport (CIA) after being suspected to be "tourist worker" or an undocumented overseas worker disguised as tourist.
The woman admitted that she was instructed by her recruiters to make another attempt to leave the country and avoid inspection by immigration officers at the NAIA.
She was given the fake departure stamp before she went to the airport.
"Had she succeeded in evading immigration inspection, the airline personnel would have allowed her to board her flight upon seeing the fake stamps in her passport and boarding pass," said BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Mangrobang.
The victim is now under the custody of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation.
Morente, on the other hand, ordered the fielding of more BI intelligence agents at the NAIA's departure areas to ensure that no passengers could sneak past the BI counters undetected. — VVP, GMA News
A Catholic bishop is offering pastoral support and other assistance to the five Filipino crewmen who were recently freed by Somali pirates after more than four years in captivity.
"We in the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) are greatly gladdened by the news that five Filipinos were among 26 crewmen freed by Somali pirates," said Bishop Ruperto Santos, ECMI chairman, in a statement Thursday.
The five Filipinos were identified as Arnel Pregellana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Antonio Auxtero Libres, Jr., Edwas Akes Tininggal, Jr., and Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit.
ECMI is under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"We offer to them our pastoral and spiritual support and other assistance that are in our commission’s capacity to provide," Santos said.
"We welcome them home. We assure them of our continued prayers, that the loving embrace of their families and friends and the entire country will ease their re-entry into normal lives."
Somali pirates freed over the weekend 26 Asian sailors — from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan — held captive in a small fishing village for more than four years since their ship was hijacked in the Indian Ocean.
The sailors were held in Dabagala near the village of Harardheere some 400 km (250 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, a fishing hamlet that became known as Somalia's main pirate base at the height of the crisis.
Balbero, in a report on BBC, said he and his companions felt "like the walking dead" during their captivity, as food and water were scarce.
"Their ordeal has no doubt been harrowing," Santos said of the Filipino victims. "Away from family, anxious and fearful about their uncertain faith, they must have suffered great pain and anguish."
The Filipinos are expected to arrive to the country on Friday. —KBK, GMA News
With only a liter of water to share every day, the 28 crewmen of Naham 3, among them Filipinos, spent the last four and a half years in torment — hunting rats for food, enduring violence from their Somali captors, and watching fellow captives die.
Libres is one of the 26 sailors who survived the crew's four-year captivity by Somali pirates, who seized their ship in the western Indian Ocean near the Seychelles on March 26, 2012.The sailors were released after the pirates accepted an amount that would cover the costs of holding the captives, a pittance compared to the millions of dollars they initially hoped to get, according to reports.Arnel Balbero, another Filipino sailor, told BBC they were only given a "small amount of water" every day and were forced to eat rat they caught and cooked in the forest near the village where they were held.The sailors were held in Dabagala, a fishing hamlet that became base of operations for Somali pirates at the height of the piracy crisis."[We] just eat anything, anything. You feel hungry, you eat," said Balbero, who said he and his companions were "like walking dead" during the duration of their captivity.Balbero and Libres also witnessed their fellow sailors die from sickness because the pirates had no money to buy medicine for them.Another of their companions was shot dead, while their captain was killed when the pirates boarded their ship in 2012.Despite the anger he feels towards the pirates, Balbero said there was no point in holding a grudge as he and his companions have to adjust to living outside again.“Even if I tell you all the bad words in the world, that is not enough for them,” he told New York Times."I don't know what is... outside of this world when this finish, so it's very hard to start again," Balbero told BBC.Piracy subsided in the region after shipping firms started hiring armed groups to protect their ships and international warships began patrolling Somalia's coastlines. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
“The pirates are worse than animals,” Antonio A. Libres Jr., one of the former hostages, told The New York Times. “You can’t understand these people.”
Government assistance has been assured to OFWs who are living in cramped quarters in Saudi Arabia and performing jobs different from what was promised to them by their recruiter in the Philippines.
An exclusive report by GMA News' JP Soriano on "24 Oras" on Wednesday said Labor attaché Jun Rasul has already met with the affected OFWs and urged them to make a formal written complaint that can be forwarded to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for action.
"Sabihin niyo lahat ng reklamo niyo. Walang sweldo, walang iqama [at] accommodation. Sabihin niyo pangalan ng agency niyo para ma-forward ko sa POEA agad," Rasul told the OFWs during their meeting.
One of the OFWs, Prince Wharen Kian, accused his recruiter of duping him when he got a job in Jeddah different from what was promised to him.
"Hindi po nasunod yung pangako sa 'kin na HVAC/building electrician. Nagtanong ako kung bakit iba nakalagay sa visa ko, ang sabi nila alam na daw 'yun ng company dito sa Jeddah. Kaya daw plumbing tech ang nakalagay sa visa kasi 'yun lang daw madaling paraan para makaalis ako," he said in a text message to GMA News.
Aside from that, Kian and several others were also forced to live in cramped quarters. He said sometimes, they would sleep on the rooftop especially when there was no electricity because they could not stand the heat in the room.
Food was also scarce, and the OFWs have to subsist on donations from outsiders and then find ways on how to cook them, the report said
"Bigyan ng pagkain, salamat din kami kasi wala rin ho. Gusto man namin umuwi, pero dadaan pa po namin sa tamang proseso kasi 'pag na-deport kami, wala rin, lugi din," Daniel Brace, another affected OFW, said.
POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch OIC-Director II Atty. Rosemarie Duquez said these OFWs may also pursue legal charges against their recruiter through POEA.
"We can provide legal assistance kung meron silang reklamo sa agency at sa employer," Duquez said.
Wise Recruitment Agency, the recruiter, has declined to comment on the accusations, the "24 Oras" report said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
A Filipina living in Saitama prefecture int he Greater Tokyo area emerged victorious in the 8th Soy Sauce Recipe & Story Contest held at the Royal Park Hotel on September 30, The Japan Times reported.
Clair Ocampo's dish, pork back ribs adobo and banana with burned brown sugar, outdid 74 other non-Japanese contestants to win the Gold Prize.
"I have loved adobo since my childhood. I used soy sauce and brown sugar to better bring out the pork’s flavor. Also, to give it an interesting taste, I used hakkaku spice and laurel leaves. My dish is unique and original," Ocampo was quoted saying.
Coming in second is Justin de Jesus, another Pinoy living in Saitama. He cooked a "Philippine beef steak with a yuzu citrus and soy sauce flavor."
De Jesus shares the Silver Prize with Canadian Florence Zappia, who made "deep-fried, stewed eggplant with Italian sauce."
The competition was organized by the Japan Soy Sauce Association in commemoration of World Soy Sauce Day on October 1. Judging the dishes were Hattori Nutrition College president Yukio Hattori, cooking critics Remi Hirano and Akiko Watanabe, and Royal Park Hotel head chef Isao Iimura. — Aya Tantiangco/BM, GMA News
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has revived its website where Filipinos living and working overseas can offer prayers for their departed loved ones in the Philippines in time for All Souls' and All Saints' Days.
"For those who cannot make it to your parishes, especially Filipinos in other countries or the seafarers, you may request for Masses to be celebrated for your beloved dead," said Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, CBCP Media Office director, on Wednesday.
Overseas Filipinos who want to offer prayers should visit the website, www.undasonline.com, click "Prayer Request," and then list down the names of their beloved dead for whom they wish to offer Mass.
The CBCP said starting November 1, Masses will be held at the CBCP chapel in Intramuros, Manila.
Aside from prayer request, the website also features donate button for those who would like to make a donation or give Mass stipends that will be given to the priests who will be celebrating the masses.
Donations are not obligatory, Quitorio said.
The Undas Online website, which was established in 2011, also offers prayers and catechesis on the significance and liturgical meaning of the celebration of All Souls' and All Saints' Days. —KBK, GMA News