Tuesday, October 6, 2015

PHL ready to provide legal aid if arrested woman in Saudi was confirmed Pinay

The Philippines is ready to provide legal assistance if ever the woman arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged involvement in a terrorist plot turned out to be a Filipina as reported, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

“Like in any case involving a Filipino, we want to make sure that he or she is given due process, fair trial, access to appeals process and make sure that their rights are not violated,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose told a press briefing. “We will provide legal assistance if legal counsel is needed.”

As of posting time, Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia are seeking access to the reported Filipina, identified in media reports as Lady Gioi Aban Bali Nang, who was arrested in the Kingdom together with a Syrian national.

The reported Filipina was seized along with a Syrian man at a house in Riyadh by Saudi authorities conducting a raid on illegal explosives. She was wearing a suicide vest when she was arrested.

“Our embassy would like to get confirmation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they will be requesting consular access,” Jose said. “They would like to see the reported Filipina and talk to her and verify her identity and nationality.”

A report by the Khaleej Times said the Filipino woman, who went missing from her employer for more than one year, was the Syrian man’s captive.

Saudi Arabia, home to close to a million Filipino workers, is a major destination of Filipinos in the Middle East. They are mostly employed in medical and health, construction and household service sectors. Michaela del Callar/KBK, GMA News 

PHL official says arrest of alleged Filipina will not affect Pinoys' reputation in Saudi

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — A Philippine official here on Monday allayed fears by Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia that the arrest of a supposed Filipina there over her alleged role in making suicide vests will affect their reputations.

According to Consul General Imelda Panolong, Saudi nationals continue to respect and trust Filipino workers despite the arrest of the woman identified as Lady Gioi Aban Bali Nang, who was nabbed with a Syrian identified as Mohamed al-Barazi over the weekend.

"Maganda ang image, maganda ang reputation ng mga Pilipino dito sa Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wala akong nakikitang dahilan para mangamba tayo," Panolong said.

Panolong made the statement after several OFWs in Saudi Arabia said they are worried about the possible effect on them of the arrest of the supposed Filipina.

“Akoy nalulungkot may isang Pilipina na na-involve sa isang gawain ng terorista," said Russel Labios, a CT Scan techonologist in a hospital here. "Sa tingin ko malaking dagok ito sa ating mga kababayan sa Saudi Arabia kasi ang maaaring ang tingin na rin sa atin pag nalalakad tayo sa daan ay terorista sa ganitong pangyayari."

Another OFW said fears of a crackdown on Filipinos in the Kingdom.

"Nakakatakot po lalo na sa amin na bago kaming nagtatrabaho dito sa Saudi. Mahirap po ang magiging sitwasyon namin na baka kami po ay pag-initan din," he said.

Panolong, meanwhile, appealed to Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to be mindful of their host country's culture and laws.

"Ang mahalaga diyan sumunod tayo lagi sa mga alituntunin, sa batas na nilalabas ng Kingdom. As long as wala tayong ginagawang masama, sumusunod tayo sa batas, wala tayong dapat ipangamba," she said.

In Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has yet to confirm if the woman arrested in Saudi Arabia is a Filipina.
DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia was still trying to get a permission to personally talk with the arrested woman.
"Gusto nilang makita ang papeles ng Filipina na ito para matiyak ang detalye. Gusto nilang makita at makausap itong alleged Filipina," he said.
Jose said as soon as the woman's nationality is confirmed, the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia will provide her with appropriate legal assistance. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

DFA still checking if woman held over suicide vests in Saudi is Filipina

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said that it has yet to confirm if the woman arrested in Saudi Arabia for her alleged role in making suicide vests is a Filipina.
DFA spokesperson Charles Jose told radio dzBB in an interview that the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia was still trying to get a permission to personally talk with the "alleged Filipina."
"Gusto nilang (Philippine embassy) makita ang papeles ng Filipina na ito para matiyak ang detalye. Gusto nilang makita at makausap itong alleged Filipina," Jose added.
The DFA spokesperson said that as soon as the woman's nationality is confirmed, the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia will provide her with appropriate legal assistance.
"Our embassy will make sure na dadaan siya sa legal process, may trial, may appeal. Titiyakin ng embassy na hindi maba-violate ang kanyang karapatan," he added.
In an Agence-France Presse report, the woman was identified as Lady Gioi Aban Bali Nang.
Jose said that they were still cross-checking the name with their records.
The report said that the woman has gone missing from her employer 15 months ago.
She was arrested with a Syrian identified as Mohamed al-Barazi.
Reports said that the woman was wearing a suicide vest when arrested by local authorities in Saudi Arabia.
Jose, meanwhile, assured that the DFA will closely monitor the developments in the case, once they confirm that the woman is a Filipina. —ALG/KG, GMA News

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bill limiting lawyers' fees on seafarers' labor claims sent to PNoy

A measure imposing a 10-percent cap on the amount that lawyers or agents could collect from seafarers pursuing legal claims has been sent to President Benigno Aquino III's desk for approval after the House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the bill last week.
ANGKLA Party-list Rep. Jesulito A. Manalo, author of Senate Bill 2835’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, on Sunday expressed confidence that the President will sign the measure into law soon.
Manalo, whose party-list represents workers in the maritime industry, said the bill’s enactment is vital to protect the Filipino seafarers’ labor claims against unconscionable legal fees imposed and collected by unscrupulous individuals.
He said there have been reports of lawyers or their agents who charge seafarers legal fees ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent of their projected claims from their employers in exchange for pursuing the case.
“Seafarers working on-board international fleets are known to be awarded hefty compensation and benefit packages by reason of the risk to their lives while working in the high seas.  This situation then makes a seafarer an easy target for ambulance chasing, with legal practitioners having considerable interest in the monetary benefits that one may claim, and eventually be awarded,” Manalo explained.
Under the measure, the total amount that lawyers or their agents could collect from seafarers or heirs they represent should not exceed 10 percent of the benefit awarded to their clients.
The adopted version of the bill also penalizes “ambulance chasing,” or the act of soliciting, personally or through an agent, from seafarers or their heirs, the pursuit of any claim against their employers for the purpose of recovery of monetary claim or benefit, including legal interest.
Labor claims usually arise from accident, illness or death while a seafarer is working aboard a marine vessel. They are lodged before any of the following quasi-judicial bodies: the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or its regional offices.
If the measure is signed into law, “ambulance chasers” will be penalized with a fine not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000, or by imprisonment of one year but not more than two years, or both, at the discretion of the courts.
Aside from protecting seafarers and their heirs, Manalo said the bill will help ensure the viability of the Philippine maritime sector amid the foreign employers’ growing lukewarmness to employ Filipino seafarers because their lawyers ask them to claim more benefits than they are entitled to.
“[The scheme] leads foreign ship owners to no longer re-employ Filipino seafarers, likewise risking the possible decline, if not loss, of the annual billion-dollar remittances they bring into the country’s economy,” he said. Xianne Arcangel/ALG, GMA News

Filipina held in Saudi over suicide vests

A Filipina has been arrested in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of helping a Syrian to make explosive belts for suicide attacks in the kingdom, the interior ministry said Saturday.

The Syrian, identified as Mohamed al-Barazi, is suspected of turning the house they shared in the Saudi capital into a bomb factory, the ministry spokesman said.

Barazi is also accused of having a second house in Riyadh which he ran as a safe house for militants on the run.

He was detained in a police ambush in the capital on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

Police then raided the suspected bomb factory which they found had been booby-trapped.

The Filipina was named by the official Saudi Press Agency as Lady Gioi Aban Bali Nang and was said to have gone missing from her employer 15 months ago.

She was said to be wearing a suicide vest at the time of her arrest.

Sought for comment by GMA News, the Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh on Saturday refused to comment on the news about the arrest of the Filipina.

Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said the embassy is still gathering more information about the identity of the Filipina.

"I cannot comment [on the report] because I have not received the official information other than what is released in the news," Tago said.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose told GMA News that they are requesting "access" to the arrested Filipina.

"The arrest was announced by the Minister of Interior, but our embassy in Riyadh will request confirmation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ask for consular access to the Filipina," Jose said.

During the raid on Barazi's house, police recovered two explosives belts, 10 containers of bomb-making materials and two firearms, the ministry said.

Asked on state television whether Barazi was suspected of links to the Islamic State, the spokesman said authorities "did not yet have sufficient evidence to make any direct connection with this terrorist group."

A series of attacks claimed by IS in Saudi Arabia this year have killed dozens of people.

In July, authorities announced that they had detained 431 people, most of them Saudis, on suspicion of involvement in an IS cell.

Saudi Arabia has taken part in the US-led air war against IS in Syria since September last year raising fears of revenge attacks. — Agence France-Presse with a report from GMA News Online

BOC database will exempt OFW balikbayan boxes from inspections

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is creating a database of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in order that the balikbayan boxes of these OFW's would be pre-cleared and no longer inspected, GMA News TV's "News TV Live" reported on Saturday.

The database would only list the names of legitimate OFWs. The list will come from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The BOC had earlier planned to manually inspect the balikbayan boxes to curb illegal smuggling.

However, President Benigno Aquino III scrapped the plan as OFWs took to social media to criticize the inspections. — DVM, GMA News

Pinay nurse in Jeddah is latest MERS-CoV case among OFWs

A Filipina nurse in Jeddah is the latest Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case involving overseas Filipino workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Welfare Officer Amelito Adel of the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration in Jeddah told GMA News on Friday that the nurse worked at a hospital in Jeddah taking care MERS-CoV patients.

“Meron tayong bagong kaso ng MERS-CoV, isa po siyang nurse na Pilipina at siya ay naka-confine ngayon sa isang MERS designated hospital dito sa Jeddah,” Adel said.

Also, he said that the doctor taking care of the infected Pinay assured him that the nurse is now in good condition, and that the respiratory tube connected to her has already been removed.

Based on the latest World Health Organization records, six new MERS-CoV cases have been reported by the National IHR Focal Point in Saudi Arabia between September 20 and 26 this year.

Adel reminded OFWs in the kingdom, particularly those working in hospitals and clinics attending to MERS-CoV patients, to be extra cautious against the dreaded disease.

Late in August, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that the government was monitoring at least four cases of MERS-CoV infections involving OFWs.

He then said that two female nurses—aged 29 and 32—were reported to be in the Intensive Care Unit, one male nurse in isolation and another female was under observation, but later on tested negative for the virus.

Moreover, he said that one of the four health workers, a 50-year-old nurse, had been discharged from the hospital.

Also in the August 2015 report, Jose said that since 2013 a total of 10 Filipinos, eight from Saudi and two from the United Arab Emirates, have died from contracting the virus.
Symptoms of MERS-CoV include fever, cough, shortness of breath and even diarrhea.
The Philippines has no travel ban to the Middle East but has called on Filipino workers in the region to practice health precautions for their own protection. — LBG, GMA News 


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