Friday, July 29, 2016

OFW group wants list of gov't cash aid beneficiaries expanded

An OFW group has asked the government to expand its financial assistance program to cover more Filipino workers displaced by the oil crisis plaguing construction companies in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement Thursday, Marlon Gatdula of Migrante-KSA Western Region said the government must expand "the limited scope of beneficiaries" to OFWs whose employers felt the effects of the oil crisis but did not make it to the list made by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Gatdula said the cash assistance being offered by OWWA through its P500-million Relief Assistance Program must not be limited only to its members.
"It will be unfair and divisive to the OFWs and their families. Because of their stranded status, majority of them are undocumented (no iqamas) and therefore have been rendered stripped off their active OWWA memberships. If active OWWA membership is a pre-requisite, close to none will be able to avail," he said.
Under OWWA's Memorandum of Instruction, only OFWs formerly employed by the following companies may claim P20,000 and P6,000 for their families in the Philippines at the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah:
  • Saudi bin Laden Grup of Companies
  • Saudi Oger Ltd.
  • Mohammed al-Mojil Group
  • Mohammad Hameed Al-Bargash & Bros. Trading & Construction Co.
  • Alumco LLC
  • Rajeh H. Al Merri Contracting & Trading Co.
  • Fawzi Salah Al Nairani Contracting Co.
  • Arabtec Construction LLC
  • Real Estate Development & Investment Co.
Among the employers Migrante wishes to see on the list are SMASCO, Al-Aman Contracting and Alzeeme in Jeddah, SMACO in Al-Khobar and Fiberglass Factory in Rabigh.
The group also urged OWWA officials in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar to immediately visit OFWs at their jobsites to inform them of the financial aid.
“We also reiterate that while the emergency financial assistance is a welcome development, it is only one of the demands put forth by stranded OFWs and their families,” Gatdula said.
The cash aid came a week after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III checked on the conditions of OFWs at the camps of Saudi Oger and Saudi bin Laden Group of Companies.
Prior to the visit, Bello sacked two labor attach├ęs in Riyadh and Jeddah for their alleged neglect of some 11,000 OFWs affected by the massive retrenchments of construction companies. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Indonesian drug convict facing death row highlights risks to migrant workers —campaigners

JAKARTA - The case of an Indonesian woman expected to be executed this week for drug trafficking highlights the risk to migrant workers of being duped into becoming drug mules, human rights campaigners said.
Merri Utami, who was convicted in 2003 of smuggling 1.1 kgs of heroin into Indonesia, is believed to be among 14 drug convicts due to be executed this weekend.
The Indonesian government has not released the names of the 14 but Utami has been transferred to the execution site and activists said she is among those moved.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein called for Indonesia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty that was suspended in 2013, and not proceed with the reportedly imminent executions.
According to Indonesia's women's rights commission, a government-backed body that functions independently, Utami had gone to Taiwan to work as a maid to escape her abusive husband.
After divorcing him, she got involved with a man who took her to Nepal. Utami says that when the pair returned separately to Indonesia, the man gave her a bag to carry which contained heroin but she had not realised this.
Rights groups have compared Utami's case to that of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia and due to face a firing squad last year.
Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, confessed to police in the Philippines.
Female migrant workers are the perfect targets for drug trafficking rings because they are often poor, with limited education but they hold passports, campaigners say.
"This has become a pattern and the modus operandi is always the same," said Azriana, chair of Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women, which carried out a survey of 16 Indonesian women sentenced to death over drug offences at home and abroad.
Azriana, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, urged Jakarta to investigate such cases.
Migrante International, a migrant workers' group in the Philippines that led the campaign to halt Veloso's execution, said there were many more women like her.
"Governments should consider (migrant workers) as people who are victimized by the drug trade, they are tricked into being mules—but they are the ones being punished for the crime," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general by telephone from Manila.
Catuira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation her organization was handling other cases involving migrant workers convicted of drug trafficking, including a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data showed.
There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.
The Indonesian women's commission has launched a last-ditch attempt to prevent Utami's execution by petitioning Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers. —Thomson Reuters Foundation

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pinoys warned vs. trafficking syndicate promising jobs in China

Immigration agents have launched a manhunt operation for a Chinese woman allegedly working for a human trafficking syndicate operating in the Philippines.
The woman, whose identity was withheld so as not to preempt the operation, was accused of bringing a Filipina to China to work illegally and then abandoning her there.
The Filipina, who was arrested and detained for two months in Beijing, was recently deported. She recalled her ordeal to Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers, which led to the manhunt operation.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said based on the information shared by the victim, she and the suspect left for China on October 15 last year.
However, upon their arrival in China, the suspect left her and returned to Manila without securing a visa extension or working visa for her.
Because of this, she was subsequently arrested and detained by Chinese authorities for being an illegally staying alien.

After her release from detention, the victim sought the help of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, which provided her with a travel document that she used in returning to the Philippines.

Morente said the Chinese woman is suspected to be a courier for a human trafficking syndicate based in Manila. —KBK, GMA News

PHL officials in Jeddah explain cash aid to displaced OFWs

OWWA Welfare Officer Angel Cruz meets with displaced OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the process of releasing the financial assistance promised by the government last week. Ronaldo Concha

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Philippine officials in Jeddah have appealed for patience as they start the process of giving financial assistance to Filipino workers rendered jobless by the oil crisis plaguing Middle East-based construction companies.
Welfare Officer Angel Cruz said they've been meeting with the affected OFWs by batches to explain to them the process of releasing the P26,000 promised to them by the government.
Meeting the third batch of affected OFWs on Tuesday at the Philippine Consulate here, Cruz said they have yet to release the funds as they are still completing the list of beneficiaries, many of whom were retrenched OFWs from Saudi Oger and Saudi Binladen who've been waiting for their back pays for months.
Cruz said the list would serve as their basis in releasing the money.
He also said among their concerns is how to bring the money to the OFWs, who are staying in various accommodations, many of them far from the consulate. He noted the security risk of transporting big money to various locations.
Cruz said they have asked different OFW groups to assign a leader or a representative who will help in the distribution of the cash assistance.
For affected OFWs who are already in the Philippines, Cruz said they can claim their financial assistance from regional offices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) once they start releasing it.
The financial assistance was promised by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during his visit to Riyadh last week to check on the condition of retrenched OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
"Lahat ng mga na-displace at maging ang mga na-repatriate ay bibigyan [ng financial assistance]... kukuha po tayo ng kumpletong imbentaryo," Bello said.
Based on government estimates, there are at least 10,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia who were displaced when big construction companies started downsizing last year as a result of the drastic drop in oil prices.
Meanwhile, affected OFWs who are already in the Philippines but could not go home to their provinces due to budgetary constraints were encouraged to stay at OWWA halfway houses in Manila. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Jobless OFWs troop to consulate in Jeddah for financial assistance

Hundreds of jobless OFWs have trooped to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia since Sunday to claim the financial assistance the Labor department promised them.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III visited the consulate last Friday to see for himself the situation of the more than 10,000 retrenched OFWs in the Kingdom who reportedly have been forced to scavenge for food and sell their blood to survive.
Thousands of foreign workers lost their jobs due to the slump in the prices of petroleum products, forcing several firms of the oil-producing country to cut down on production and to retrench workers.
During his visit, Bello promised that the Philippine government would give each affected OFW P20,000, aside from the P 6,000 for each of their families in the Philippines.
Most of the OFWs who first trooped to the consulate to claim the promised assistance were from the firm Saudi Oger.
One of the OFWs told GMA News that in the last six or seven months their salaries have not been released.
“Ako po si Pacifico Lopez, 23-anyos, nang nagtatrabaho sa Saudi Oger at kami po ay dumaranas ngayon na financial crsis dahil hindi po nagpapasahod ang aming kumpanya ng 6 to 7 months.”
"Pumunta kami dito para i-verify kung paano namin makukuha yung financial assistance para sa amin," Lopez said, adding that many OFWs share the same problem they have at Saudi Oger.
Also, they called on the Philippine government to help in their repatriation.  — LBG, GMA News

Life terms for 9 Pinoys over 2013 Malaysia incursion

A Malaysian court sentenced nine Filipinos to life in prison on Tuesday over an armed incursion in 2013 that left scores dead and paralyzed a remote corner of Borneo for weeks, a defense lawyer said.
Eight others, including three Malaysians, received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years, said the attorney, N. Sivananthan.
The bloody incursion by some 200 Islamic militants from the southern Philippines was inspired by a self-proclaimed Filipino sultanate's claims of historical dominion over the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.
The assault, the most serious security crisis faced by Malaysia in years, led to a siege between the militants and Malaysian armed forces sent to root them out.
At least 70 people were killed, mostly militants, over the six-week ordeal.
Nine of the defendants had faced death for "waging war" against Malaysia's king, but were spared by the court in the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu.
"They could have been sentenced to death but the judge decided on the lower penalty because there was no evidence they pulled the triggers or committed any murders," N. Sivananthan said.
The others had faced various terrorism-related charges.
Earlier, 12 other Filipinos had been acquitted.
Among those sentenced to life was 53-year-old Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, son of self-styled Sulu sultan Esmail Kiram.
Esmail, who died in 2015, was among a series of claimants to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and part of Borneo.
The crisis embarrassed both Manila and Kuala Lumpur, shining a spotlight on weak Malaysian border protections, and lawlessness in the Philippines' predominantly Muslim south.
The episode eventually fizzled out when some of the militants fled the palm oil plantation where they had been holed up and returned to the Philippines. Scores were detained in Malaysia. —Agence France-Presse

Indonesian drug convict facing death row highlights risks to migrant workers —campaigners

JAKARTA - The case of an Indonesian woman expected to be executed this week for drug trafficking highlights the risk to migrant workers of being duped into becoming drug mules, human rights campaigners said.
Merri Utami, who was convicted in 2003 of smuggling 1.1 kgs of heroin into Indonesia, is believed to be among 14 drug convicts due to be executed this weekend.
The Indonesian government has not released the names of the 14 but Utami has been transferred to the execution site and activists said she is among those moved.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein called for Indonesia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty that was suspended in 2013, and not proceed with the reportedly imminent executions.
According to Indonesia's women's rights commission, a government-backed body that functions independently, Utami had gone to Taiwan to work as a maid to escape her abusive husband.
After divorcing him, she got involved with a man who took her to Nepal. Utami says that when the pair returned separately to Indonesia, the man gave her a bag to carry which contained heroin but she had not realised this.
Rights groups have compared Utami's case to that of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia and due to face a firing squad last year.
Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, confessed to police in the Philippines.
Female migrant workers are the perfect targets for drug trafficking rings because they are often poor, with limited education but they hold passports, campaigners say.
"This has become a pattern and the modus operandi is always the same," said Azriana, chair of Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women, which carried out a survey of 16 Indonesian women sentenced to death over drug offences at home and abroad.
Azriana, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, urged Jakarta to investigate such cases.
Migrante International, a migrant workers' group in the Philippines that led the campaign to halt Veloso's execution, said there were many more women like her.
"Governments should consider (migrant workers) as people who are victimized by the drug trade, they are tricked into being mules—but they are the ones being punished for the crime," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general by telephone from Manila.
Catuira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation her organization was handling other cases involving migrant workers convicted of drug trafficking, including a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data showed.
There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.
The Indonesian women's commission has launched a last-ditch attempt to prevent Utami's execution by petitioning Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers. —Thomson Reuters Foundation

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